This 18-mile out-and-back takes you through the sparkling seas and numerous islands of Florida Bay to an idyllic island just off the southern tip of the state. Spend one night or five—North Nest Key has siesta-inducing campsites and a fine swimming beach. (Note: Landing is prohibited on islands that lack designated sites.) The most interesting (and sheltered) route passes through Dusenbury Creek, Tarpon Basin, and Little Buttonwood Sound, all backyard waters to Key Largo. The route is exposed to wind, so a sea kayak is best.
As you enter Dusenbury Creek, watch for manatees feeding near navigation marker 41. At marker 42, bear right and paddle away from the busy Inland Waterway through a gorgeous, secluded mangrove tunnel. This deposits you in Tarpon Basin near marker 48. Cut west across Tarpon Basin and enter Little Buttonwood Sound at marker 52. From there, follow the sound’s wind-sheltered southwest shore, then head out to open water via the sound’s westernmost gap for a 4.5-mile crossing WNW to North Nest Key and the campsite dock on its western shore. North Nest and a handful of other camps in Florida Bay are the only Everglades backcountry sites that can be reserved by phone; call (239) 695-2945 up to 24 hours in advance (winter season only).
-Mapped by Steve Howe
- Distance: 29.0
Location: 25.144879, -80.397382
Paddle west from the dock.
Location: 25.143371, -80.42387
Turn southwest into mangrove tunnel near marker 42.
Location: 25.129403, -80.455774
Last wind-sheltered point before open ocean.
Location: 25.14957, -80.514618
Dock marks campsite on west shore of North Nest Key