Paddling into the dusky night through the last rays of the sun offers two great advantages: watching the sunset over the water and participating in the vast darkness with only the moon’s reflection to guide you. The night offers new perspectives on familiar waterways, with the sounds of animals and birds filling the air, different from those heard during the day. Dolphins play during the last light of the day, while owls and night herons are just getting started. Moonlight paddles are the perfect fall adventure on the First Coast.
You can take one of the moonlight tours offered by several area outfitters, or jump onboard a local Meetup group outing if you have your own kayak or canoe. Trips are scheduled at various locations, but the best spots are those located the farthest from the lights of roads, neighborhoods, and retail centers, such as nature preserves and parks. Check out the list of outfitters, tours, and suggested parks.
The Kayak Jax Meetup Group or the First Coast Outfitters Meetup both offer regular group paddles into the moonlight from Dutton Island Preserve or Oak Harbor Boat Launch in Atlantic Beach.firstcoastoutfitters.com/tag/meetup-group and meetup.com/kayakjaxKayak Amelia, monthly sunset/full moon paddle guided tours from Talbot Island State Park in the Timucuan Preserve or Guana ReserveGuana Reserve (GTMNERR). kayakamelia.com
Adventures in Florida offers a tour for every full moon throughout unique central Florida rivers and lakes. Listen to ghost stories as you watch the moon and stars through the Chain of Lakes in Winter Haven, Florida. adventuresinflorida.com/day/fullmoon
What to expect
Before sunset as the marsh calms down from the day, paddlers will assemble and hit the water. After darkness falls, look to the water for the bioluminescence that sparkles with each paddle stroke. The reflection of the full moon on the water is a magnificent view from a kayak. When the sky is completely dark and the stars are bright, experience discovering and naming some of the constellations that can be seen with the naked eye.
Schedule your trip a few days before the full moon for optimal light. Study up on your celestial bodies, including the North Star and Little Dipper. Full moon paddles are extremely weather-dependent and can be disturbed by the slightest forecast. Cloudy skies and precipitation distract from the light created by the full moon, and therefore trips are often cancelled because conditions are less than optimal. When paddling in the evening, wear a headlamp with flashing lights to remain visible to oncoming boat traffic and stay to the edges of the marsh or waterway instead of paddling in the navigable channel. Safety in numbers; large groups are safer because they can more easily be seen by boaters moving at high speed on the water. Lights and reflective coverings are still important.
This fall, escape to the water during our next big full moon and learn about an entirely different side of our waterways you have likely never experienced. The First Coast is waiting. The Full Moon will grant us its presence on November and December 6th, so find a location to meet up nearest you.