Perdido Key Intracoastal Waterway - Coastal Paddling

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The Intracoastal Waterway runs 16 miles between the key and the mainland. Stay close to the shore along this narrow waterway to see birds such as pelicans or herons.

Written by

Abbie Mood


16.0 miles

The entire Gulf Intracoastal Waterway runs 1,100 miles, but the Perdido Key section is 16 miles.

Destination Distance From Downtown

97.9 miles


2 of 5 diamonds

The Intracoastal Waterway is fairly narrow and somewhat shallow in the gulf, but if you stay close to shore, it's not too difficult.

Time To Complete

2 hours

The Intracoastal Waterway runs 16 miles between the key and the mainland, but you can choose how long you want to be out there.


All Seasons

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Most of Perdido Key, found in the panhandle of Florida, is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which means there are a ton of fish and wildlife in the area. The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) runs 16 miles between the key and the mainland, and is a great way to see some of that wildlife or get a workout in during your vacation. The Perdido Key section of the waterway is somewhat narrow and shallow, so stay close to the shore to avoid any boats or barges that may be traveling through the area.

What Makes It Great

Around 1933, Perdido Key became an island, and it is said that Perdido Bay once had 300 natural springs coming up from the sandy bottom. Before it became an island, Perdido Key was a peninsula that had a ditch that was small enough to jump across. The ditch was widened in 1933 to become part of the ICW.

While the the Perdido Key section of the Intracoastal Waterway is just 16 miles long, the whole thing actually covers 1,100 miles, so it's completely possible to go for a longer paddle. There are several places for a quieter paddle along the route, such as the Big Lagoon (which also has a launch area), where you will find seagrass, salt marshes, dunes, freshwater ponds, and of course, wildlife.

Some companies in the area, such as Littleheads Kayaks, offers eco-friendly rentals and tours. You can explore no-wake zones and uninhabited islands as well as fish and birdwatch from the kayak. 

There is also snorkeling and diving in many areas along the ICW, as well as hiking and camping.

Who is Going to Love It

The Perdido Key section of the Intracoastal Waterway can be maneuvered by novice or more experienced kayakers, though make sure you stay close to the shore, in case a boat or barge comes through. The waterway is narrow, but connects to marshes and other spots that are much calmer and are great for spotting wildlife.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

There are several businesses in the area that rent kayaks and/or give kayak tours of the waterway. Littleheads Kayak Rentals offers tours in no wake zones that go to uninhabited islands.


Perdido Key

30.3035, -87.4273

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