John Pennekamp State Park. Until last weekend that is. Snorkeling is not really my thing so it seems silly to go to a coral reef park. I've known so many people who have gone and enjoyed it, I finally decided to check it out for myself.
I am not kidding when I say I walked 20 feet down the path of the first nature trail and I was covered in mosquitoes. Even as a long time Florida resident I have never seen bugs that thick. No problem. Just walked over to the car and soaked myself in OFF. Good thing I brought it with me but I noticed they had plenty at the concession stand later in the day. I actually had to spray the brim of my hat to keep them out of my eyes and ears. The mosquitoes followed inches away like paparazzi following Lady GaGa but at least stopped biting. After about an hour the weather cleared and I decided to do what I came for. Kayaking.
Pennekamp has several snorkel and swimming beaches and hundreds of kayaks and canoes to rent but if you bring your own, there is a tiny little launch site over a wooden bridge at the end of the park. There is not much parking but there were only two other cars and a nice little sandy beach to launch from. There were plenty of people launching at the rental area and most looked like they have never kayaked before. I paddled right past them and into the mangroves.
The trails were very different from what I'm used to. They were wide, deep, crystal clear, and have quite a current as the tide heads either in or out. The fun part is the current runs through the mangroves and unlike a river, might pull you right into the trees. The paths are wide enough that you don't need any real skill but you do need to pay attention if you stop and try and take a picture. I spent about an hour in the mangroves and never saw another kayak until I was approaching the beginning of the trail. Looked like everyone else just wanted to bunch up on the beach.
To get the full enjoyment out of Pennekamp, you should really take the snorkel or glass bottom boat tours. Now that I've gotten my feet wet so to speak, I will look forward to doing that my next visit.