With the blazing heat of summer starting to settle in, it is a great time to get out and explore some of Miami’s cooler outdoor activities.
On one lazy afternoon, Ken Russell went out on a paddling trip down the Coral Gables Waterway via stand up paddleboard.
“Doing the waterway on a paddleboard lets you get a better perspective because you are up higher than you would be while on a canoe or kayak,” Russell said.
Russell, one of the organizers of the Orange Bowl Paddle Championship, went on to say that there is a lack of ramps of vessels like a paddleboard, canoe or kayak.
Since it was the closest place to drop in — and despite there being an actual ramp — he boarded the paddle along the northwest bank of Cocoplum Circle.
The waterway, which runs for about 2 1/2 miles, was part of George Merrick’s vision to transform Coral Gables into a modern day Venice.
In Merrick’s era he had Gondoliers from Venice ferrying passengers down the canal for romantic rides and picnics.
The canals might not be packed with gondolas, but traveling them on a standup paddleboard gives you a very similar perspective to the gondoliers of yesteryear.
Mansions and coral seawalls line most of the canals, and there are ample opportunities to see wildlife, such as crocodiles, manatees and a variety of birds.
However, on this trip Russell only spotted several ibis, a great white heron and a goose.
Russell led the way down the coral-lined canal and went along until he spotted several iguanas lounging in a nearby tree. There were plenty of oversized lizards, but not one gator was spotted.
The trip continued on for several more miles.
Along the way Russell passed through several arched bridges and a a bounty of beautiful landscaping and architecture.
Once he passed under the bridge at Bird Road, the rolling slopes and white sand traps of the Biltmore Hotel’s golf course appeared.
As he paddled deeper into the waterway, he was greeted by the sound of honking geese and some ducks playing by another arched bridge.
There the towering Biltmore Hotel stood proudly against a bright sky.
Russell paddled on between holes six and seven when a golfer came out and told a tale of a 12-foot crocodile that liked to sun itself along the banks of the course.
Watching out for miss-hit golf balls, Russell made his way back towards the bay, where we ran into stand-up paddleboard instructor Mike Hirooka, who was giving a demo of one of the Jimmy Lewis boards that he sells.
“I typically like to come out here on the days when it is windy,” Hirooka said.
Back in the canals you might run into a head wind that can slow you down, but you don’t get the rough water that you see out on the bay. If you want to stay dry you should stay out of that rough water.
Russell continued paddling along being mindful of that 12-foot croc, which never appeared, but he did find an iguana that was over four feet long.
If you are interested in taking a trip down the Coral Gables Waterway, you can have a guided tour through Miami-Dade’s Ecoadventures or rent your own vessel.