Kayaking the St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park in Stuart

Gerald Lombardo
Posted by Gerald Lombardo
Updated on
Published in Things To Do

Kayaking and canoeing are great outdoor activities that you and your family can do while safely social distancing this Summer. The St. Lucie Inlet Preserve offers a scenic route for you to paddle down while experiencing interesting South Florida plants and wildlife.

There’s a scenic kayak trail through mangroves teeming with fish and birds. The kayak trail is on the undeveloped, wild northern end of Jupiter Island. And from the kayak trail, you can find a narrow path to a spectacular beach where we walked for miles on a sunny Saturday and saw only two other people. This is my definition of a hidden paradise.

St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park is located about a half-hour north of West Palm Beach. It’s the northern tip of a barrier island, ending where the St. Lucie River enters the ocean. As one of the few undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s east coast, it’s a rare and special place.

There are no roads on this part of the island and no bridges to reach it. The park adjoins Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, so it is well-insulated from people and development. Access is only by boat.

On the island, there are restrooms, picnic shelters and a 3,300-foot boardwalk connecting the dock and beach. A free tram whisks visitor from Intracoastal to ocean from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays. We walked; the better to admire the thick coastal hammock of live oak, cabbage palms and ferns.

Kayak trail at St. Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park

You need to carefully plan this kayak outing for high tide, because the trail is impassable at low tide. The best time to leave is two hours before high tide, because that gives you four hours to paddle and explore.

A sandy beach-like launch site is located directly across the park in a small Martin County park at the end of Cove Road. (Exit I-95 at SR 76 and take a right on Cove Road in about two blocks. Go to the end of the road). This attractive little park is a magnet for kayakers – four people were launching at the same time we were.

From the launch site, you face the worst part of this kayak trail: Crossing the choppy Intracoastal, about a third of a mile wide here, with its cruising yachts and zipping personal watercraft. This open water can get windy too; we paddled mightily against the wind at one point to make progress. But even on a sunny March Saturday, boat traffic was light and we considered the island worth the challenging crossing.


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