We departed Fort Myers Beach late Sunday morning and had a “rough” trip 30+ miles through Pine Island Sound to this wonderful spot, anchored in Pelican Bay off Cayo Costa Island. The water wasn’t the “rough” part, though we took quite a lot of saltwater spray off our port bow and quarter at times. Mainly, it was the wind. The forecast was for SW wind, going W 15 knots, gusting to 18 knots. Then in the afternoon, the forecast was amended to wind gusting to 23 knots. In reality, we had sustained winds the entire afternoon of 25 knots, gusting as high as 34 knots. It wasn’t a pleasant trip and we arrived tired and covered in salt. However, our surroundings are making up for it.
Cayo Costa Island is a beautiful, narrow (3/4 of a mile wide) barrier island. The entire island is a state park and is the largest undeveloped barrier island on the western shore. This island was once inhabited by the Caloosa Indians; now the only folks living here are the (mostly) friendly and informative park rangers. The island is covered with slash pine, palms, palmettos, prickly pear cactus (currently blooming) and coral bean, one of the most amazing color blooms I’ve seen.
Cayo Costa Island is accessible only by boat. A ferry brings folks in with hiking and camping gear each morning. There are hiking trails throughout the island, campground and cabins near the beach on the Gulf side, restrooms, access to potable water, and an amazing small lagoon accessible through a narrow mangrove channel where you can observe manatees in a natural habitat.
We are regularly entertained by the osprey and pelicans fishing (though pelicans diving right next to our boat can be a bit disconcerting when we’re sitting below–they make quite an impact!), and the dolphins swimming through the anchorage who come to “visit” (dolphins really do come over to the boat when you knock on your hull). This isn’t an isolated anchorage like we often find in the Great Lakes waters we cruise; we’ve been one of 20+ boats anchored here each night. However, it’s a large anchorage and boats aren’t anchored on top of one another. Good thing for that: we’ve dragged anchor two of the three nights we’ve been here, so far!