The Cocoa Beach area has some of the best places to go kayaking. Ramp Road, the Thousand Islands, the Mangrove Tunnels and Manatee Park to name a few places. We have been there a few times and loved the experience, we are definitely hooked on kayaking! If you love to kayak, then these areas in Cocoa Beach should all be on your list of places to explore. We wanted to see some other places that would be near Cocoa Beach, not take all day to get to and to hopefully see some manatee and other wildlife.
My recon expert (AKA my wife Susan) has been looking at places in the Orlando area to kayak (Wekiva Springs, Little Econlockhatchee and Little Wekiva River for example) but they are at least an hour away and I am sure we will get to them BUT we wanted to explore something a little closer to home that would not include 2 ½ hour round trip in just driving. Susan did find something practically in our own backyard. The Crane Creek Promenade has a place to launch that seemed very promising to see manatee, pelicans, cranes, herons, and maybe an alligator. This is a short drive from Cocoa Beach too! Simply head south on A1A, turn west on 192 over the Melbourne Causeway and into historic downtown Melbourne to the Crane Creek Promenade. (here is a link to google maps) https://goo.gl/maps/7AXz5TEJwxt
If you are not a kayaker and just want to see the wildlife; the Promenade has a manatee watching area too.
There seemed to be good parking in the area, even with an event going on (it was Easter Sunday and there was an Art Fair in historic downtown Melbourne). We pulled up under the trestle bridge to unload the kayaks. There is a nice grassy shoreline for loading & unloading. We pulled up just as another couple was coming to shore. The score was they had one of the close parking spots that I ended up getting after they left.
As we were starting out, seagulls were flying about and pelicans were circling the water and doing their accelerated dives into the water grabbing their lunch, we came across our first of many manatee sightings. The pair of manatee were near the shoreline just hanging out and were probably watching us watch them as we paddled by. 10 minutes later, I had a larger manatee appear about 30 feet in front of me. He did dive under shortly after I saw him smacking his tail on the water as he went under.
The west end of Crane Creek is pretty wide compared to the rest of the waterway. Large lots are on the north banks, some home beautifully cared for while others are showing some need of repair. The south bank seemed to be in a natural state without the homes or development on the water. We passed through stretches of the creek where we were surrounded by the large oaks air moss, mangroves, brush, Florida pines and a variety of palm trees. As we were getting further north and running parallel to Babcock, the passage was getting very narrow and the tree canopies were touching and getting pretty close to the water.
If you were on a SUP, you would be kneeling in some of the sections since we were having to duck to get through. It did open up again as we approached the Babcock bridge and the terrain changed as we went under the bridge and into the FIT campus area. The south bank stayed low and in a natural state, I can see paths through the trees and scrub, while the north bank was much higher and appeared developed. We passed under the FIT footbridge almost unnoticed by the students walking by. One stopped to let us know we were the first kayakers he had seen coming up the Crane Creek on kayaks. He asked where we launched the boats as he headed on with his day.
This section onward was pretty shallow. We had to keep an eye out for rocks and fallen tree branches in the water. We were going against the current and wanted to see if we can make it to the golf course and up to 192. We made it as far north as the Country Club bridge. Passing under the bridge was pretty tough because of the water levels. It was more like a tunnel going through to the other side. We had the choice of 3 passages & chose the middle presuming the water was a little deeper. We definitely were scraping the bottom in places going through. An unexpected bonus was the walls of the tunnels and the “street-artwork” that was on them (AKA graffiti) There was some talent on these walls.
We made it about 200 yards north of the bridge before the water became too shallow to continue. We stopped on a little island in the middle, got out to stretch the legs and have a bite to eat before heading back down the Crane Creek to the promenade.
The return trip was almost uneventful. As we were meandering back towards our launch site, Susan’s kayak hit something in one of the narrow passages and caused her kayak to flip. It happened quickly (even though it seemed to go in slow motion as I watched her boat turn over) Fortunately, she was not hurt, the water was shallow enough for her to stand and we were near the shore. It was the first time either of us flipped unintentionally and was a good reminder to be aware of our surroundings, have a life jacket, and to keep anything in the kayak strapped down or you will lose it in the water.
One other heart-pounding event happened shortly after the Crane Creek started getting wider. We were coming around a bend, about 40’ from the shore, and there was a lot of noise coming from the brush on the north side bank. A good size alligator came crashing out, dove right into the water parallel from me and disappeared into the dark water. Talk about an adrenaline rush!
If you like to kayak and have been looking for another launch site near Cocoa Beach, I highly recommend you put the Crane Creek on your “Need To Yak” list. It was easy to get to, easy to launch from, and the wildlife seemed to be everywhere. The trip we had was just over 2 miles one way/4+ mile round trip. I hear that in the rainy season and the water level is high enough that you can kayak all the way up to the Melbourne Golf course on 192. I am sure we will be back to see if this is true. Since Susan & I are looking to try new areas, any recommendations you have would be appreciated.