Thursday, January 27, 2022

An airboat with an answer

Hell’s Gate entrance. Photo by Natalie Strom

Hell’s Gate entrance. Photo by Natalie Strom

The simplest of questions, “Where do you live?” can turn into a twenty-minute explanation if you happen to live in Goodland. Even the rare soul who was actually born in Florida often has no idea where Goodland is or that it even exists. Over time, I have come up with many different answers to this question. Goodland is south of Naples, east of Marco Island, just outside Everglades National Park, etc. Yet, people are still left with a bewildered look on their face. After a recent and first time adventure on an airboat, I do believe I can now truly answer just where in the heck is Goodland.

American Airboat Tours runs Monday through Saturday out of Goodland. They are located right next to Stan’s. However, if you are one of the many that don’t know where Goodland is,



this means nothing. Nonetheless, I had my first airboat ride with them. The company runs two boats: The Eagle and The Osprey. They are painted red, white, and blue and are in pristine condition. I knew that the ride would offer me a chance to see much of our local wildlife, but I was surprised by all the information Captain Jerome Brownlee had to offer. He explained why the water in the mangroves is tea colored, how the rosette spoonbill bird turns pink over time, and how the mangroves filter the salt out of the water to survive. He also mentioned that the area was used for smuggling in the past, due to its close vicinity to Cuba.

The trip included plenty of cruising across the perfectly still water, along with 360- degree spins, and a number of stops to discuss our surroundings. Captain Jerome explained how Goodland is

Adventure aboard The Eagle in Downtown Goodland. Photo by Natalie Strom

Adventure aboard The Eagle in Downtown Goodland. Photo by Natalie Strom

located at the beginning of the 10,000 islands chain. These islands run southeast along the bottom tip of Florida. The last island in the chain, Flamingo, is very close to Homestead and the beginning of the Florida Keys. About five minutes into our trip we passed through “Hell’s Gate.” This mangrove-lined passageway is basically the entrance to the large island chain. It is given its name due to the difficulty involved in finding one’s way out of these waterways.

Throughout the tour, we saw brown pelicans, rosette spoonbills, white ibis, osprey, oyster beds, and more. First Mate, Johnny Cyr, pointed out a manatee we all would have missed as we were busy watching a pod of dolphins swim by.

As we came back out of the mangroves, we passed along the east side of Goodland where we were able to see the quaint cottages that line the shore. We could



also see the condos near Key Marco overlooking the island. Key Marco, also known as Horr’s Island, is just to the west of the entrance to Goodland.

As the tour came to an end I was full of new information regarding the area surrounding Goodland. I now have the perfect answer to describe our little island’s location. Goodland is south of Naples, east of Marco Island, at the top of the 10,000 islands chain, eighty-nine miles from Flamingo, 144 miles north of Cuba, and sandwiched just between Horr’s Island and “Hell’s Gate.”

American Airboat Tours can be reached at 239-970-2335.

Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland.

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