The waters in and around Anna Maria Island are perfect for kayaking, and there are more and more people enjoying it. Inside Bimini Bay, the conditions are particularly peaceful. Beginners or those who don’t know how to swim can feel very safe there. Surrounded by land, except for the channel out to Tampa Bay, the water is usually flat and it’s very shallow. In fact, it’s so shallow at low tides that even kayakers should pay close attention to water depth, in order not to damage the fragile sea grass floor of this environmentally important location. Just north of Holmes Beach City Hall is a park with a boat ramp, from which it is easy to kayak into Bimini Bay, under the bridge to Key Royal.
Among the wildlife usually seen by kayakers in Bimini Bay are dolphins, with the occasional manatee. Birdlife is plentiful. Ospreys, pelicans and terns dive for fish. Gulls hang around hoping for scraps. Great blue herons can be seen nesting high in the Australian pines, or wading in the waters at low tide.
Sit-on-top kayaks require almost no instruction or technique, but it helps to keep a few things in mind. A stable way to get into these kayaks is by putting one’s bottom into the seat before trying to bring one’s legs on board. Paddling is quite straightforward, and it’s good to aim for rhythm. In addition to pulling back on the paddle with one hand, one pushes the other side of the paddle forward.
It’s possible to do a surprising number of things from a kayak. Many people fish, with good results. One islander even goes shark fishing in his kayak. Picnicking is also an ideal kayak activity, since there are so many shallow and protected areas in which to stop. For years a group of local women have kayaked together weekly from the north part of Bimini Bay, out the channel then north to the pier restaurant for something to eat.
There is a kayak nature trail among the mangroves south of Manatee Avenue. There are plenty of easy launching locations at the south part of the island, too. And on gentle days it’s fun to paddle in Gulf.
Rental kayaks and guides are available who can provide all your equipment and instruction if you need it. Be sure to have a life vest onboard and to wear it if you are not a strong swimmer. And check the weather forecast before venturing out far. Then enjoy a quiet sport that can be used either as a great full body workout or as a way to completely relax and drift with the breeze and current. Either way you’ll be sure to enjoy kayaking on Anna Maria Island.