This has been a couple of the best days of our trip. It probably has something to do with the fact that we lived in this area for three years from 1990-1993 when our kids were 6-9 and 9-12, and we have been reminded of some wonderful memories. We lived in Ft. Myers and made trips here in our 220 SeaRay Sundancer. Adam and Scott, we hope you enjoy this post also as reminders of a time your Mom and I cherish.
We made a "lengthy" 18-mile run from Cape Haze to get here. It was a beautiful morning for the trip.
It was interesting to see a ferry in this day of high technology and bridges of all sorts, moving a few cars only a few hundred feet across the waterway at a time.
But the real gem in this area is Cayo Costa - the unspoiled Florida. Well, there is a ranger station and a few facilities like restrooms, some very small cabins, etc. to accommodate a limited number of tourists, including a few campers. It's pretty expensive to spend a day on the island - $2.00! It's accessible only by boat and lies about 30 miles north of Ft. Myers in the string of islands that include Sanibel and Captiva. Here's the setting for boaters, anchored in Pelican Bay. We counted 20 that night.
Once we got anchored we took the dinghy over to the island and began a 1-mile walk across the island to the beach. We encountered 2 feral pigs on the way. Left side of the road. Twenty years ago, Rhonda and the boys saw the great-great-great-grandparents of these pigs as they crossed this same area.
There's a trolley available at certain times of the day and the park ranger just happened by, saving us some walking time.
The island is 6 miles long, all beach on the west side. Rhonda got into her shelling routine quickly.
They also have some neat little areas for the guests like a campfire ring.
When we got back to the boat, Leia was ready to get outside a while. She's gotten where she is pretty brave about walking the deck around the boat.
I got up early the next morning to get the batteries charging with the generator and caught a nice sunrise - never get tired of seeing these.
The batteries were charging very slowly for some reason and I didn't want to run the generator all day, so we decided to relocate to Cabbage Key about 4 miles away where they have a few docks and shorepower. We would still be able to access the beach at Cayo Costa by dinghy. Plus, Cabbage Key is a really neat place also so we took off on the hiking trail. The first thing you find is a 60-foot tall, 6,000 gallon WOODEN water tower. These were common in the 1930s when it was built, and it's the last remaining standing tower of its kind - the rest have been taken out by hurricanes.
Some of the vegetation is interesting. Lots of spanish moss.
And this was really strange - looked like a tangled mess of really long string beans!
Here's a strangling fig tree.
And then there's the Cabbage Key Restaurant which is the big attraction on the island. Yes, that's a super tall palm tree in the middle of the picture.
The really unique thing about the restaurant is the dollar bills that cover the walls and ceiling, most with names and occasions noted on them. Last tally we could find is about 50K worth of dollar bills. Yes, $50,000. The tradition was started many years ago when local fishermen would post a dollar bill on the wall with their name on it to insure they had money for a cold beer when they returned from fishing.
Here's a view of the marina from the restaurant. (And that tall palm again.)
And several guests in the area. First, a gopher tortoise with kid in trail.
A great egret a few feet away from the guests having lunch on the patio.
AND, OUR FAVORITE OF THE DAY, THE GEICO GECKO HAS NOTHING ON THIS LITTLE GUY.
Then it was time to head to the beach again. We asked the dockmaster for a good access point by dinghy. He recommended a spot from the east side of the island but we never found it the first time across the bay. So, we came back and he clarified a couple of points for us. We were looking for a tiny spot in the mangrove. Well folks, we found it, here it is from the water. (It really is in there).
And from inside the mangrove. No wonder we had a little trouble finding it.
It was a pretty good hike across the island to the beach but we owned it when we got there. No one else around. Looking north and south.
Rhonda says this little tree in the sand reminded her of when the boys dragged a big limb up on the beach once, hung some towels on there and made themselves a shelter. I'm telling you, serious memory lane.
You want shells, you got shells.
I tried cooling off in the water but couldn't quite make the total plunge. Not bad for mid-December though! Have any of you gone swimming with pelicans lately?
We had been careful to mark an X for our access point through the woods and mangrove to get back to the dinghy. It all looked the same from the beach.
Hated to leave but sunset was approaching. Found some cactus on the way back.
Here's the trail leading us back into the mangrove. Yes, there's more trail once you're in there.
After we got back to the dinghy and headed back to Cabbage Key, we spotted 2 white pelicans close by.
After we got back to the boat, I grilled some chicken and we had a nice sunset to enjoy. Sorry about the boat antenna from the left.
After dinner we sorted through our shell collection for the day. Here are some of the favorites. This is one of the beauties of Cayo Costa - a shelling paradise.
We hope you have gotten a sense of this unique little area of south Florida. We hate to leave, but it's time to move on. We'll pass Captiva and Sanibel tomorrow, then run up the Caloosahatchee River to downtown Ft. Myers. From that point we have a big decision to make - the route afterward to get to the Atlantic coast. Three choices. 1. Continue up the Caloosahatchee River and across Lake Okeechobee to Stuart, FL.
2. Around the southern tip of FL and intercept the Keys around Marathon. 3. Jump across to the Dry Tortugas or Key West and run the full length of the Keys. The weather will play a role in that decision. See you in Ft. Myers and we'll close with our Christmas tree for the day from the Cabbage Key restaurant with more dollar bills to the right side.