The physical roughness (canopies) formed by organisms within aquatic ecosystems (e.g., seagrass, kelp, and mangroves) modifies the local wave‐driven hydrodynamics within coastal and estuarine regions. In wave‐dominated environments, an understanding of the mean wave‐driven flows generated within and above canopies is important, as it governs material transport (e.g., of nutrients, sediment, and biota). However, until recently the effect ofsubmerged canopies on wave‐current interactions and the resulting mean (wave‐averaged) flow dynamics has received relatively little attention. In this study, a combination of wave flume experiments and numerical modeling is used to investigate the wave‐induced mean flow profiles in the presence of a submerged canopy. The measured velocities and vegetation forces were used to derive bulk drag and inertia coefficients, and to validate a nonhydrostatic 2DV wave‐flow model. The numerical model results were used to conduct an in‐depth analysis of the mean horizontal momentum terms responsible for driving the mean (horizontal) flow within and above the submerged canopies. We show that the mean canopy hydrodynamics are driven by vertical gradients in wave and turbulent Reynolds stresses, balanced by the mean canopy drag forces. The wave Reynolds stress gradient is the dominant force driving the in‐canopy mean flow and is directly related to the vorticity that is generated when the wave orbital motions become rotational near the canopy interface. This study provides new insight in the mechanisms responsible for wave‐driven mean flows within submerged canopies and guidance for how these hydrodynamics can be predicted in coastal wave‐circulation models.