After reading about Sanibel Island, Captiva Island and Gasparilla Island, there is one more island in that vicinity that must be mentioned: Cayo Costa State Park. It is located west of North Fort Myers near Boca Grande Pass and Gasparilla Island in Pine Island Sound It is accessible only by private boat or passenger ferry. What makes Cayo Costa different from the other islands is that it is a state park.
There are nine miles of beautiful, sandy beaches adorned with a variety of sea shells. There are acres of pine forests, palms, and mangrove swamps with a spectacular array of birds. There are nature trails for hiking and off trail roads for biking. It is beautiful, clean, and fragrant from the abundance of flowering trees and bushes. The nine and one half miles of pristine beaches offer fine shelling, fishing, snorkeling, and just plain sunbathing. To me it is akin to camping out whether you come by boat and stay on your own vessel or come by ferryboat and stay in one of the cabins available to rent.
The island is a photographer’s dream whether you are a pro, just a camper, or sailor. There is a dock with 14 boat slips. Boaters can stay aboard. There are restrooms with showers conveniently located for your use. Also there are outdoor grills provided for visitors. The slips do not have water or electricity available for boats. Pets are permitted in the park as long as they are leashed. Picnic tables are available as well as showers and toilets. Scuba diving and snorkeling are permitted is this pristine blue water. You must have your own equipment.
Pelican Bay better known as Pelican Pass has 4 to 41/2 feet at mean low water. Farther out you will find depths of 5 to 6 feet. Most larger boats should anchor out in the deeper water. Also be mindful of your timing getting into Cayo Costa. Enter at a high tide or rising tide. Our boat draws 5’6” to 6ft when loaded. This pastseason, we went hard aground trying to enter the harbor and had to be pulled off by another boat. With that said, we have entered Cayo Costa at other times and even though it is a bit shallow for us, we made it in and stayed the night. Timing is everything. For those who can get in and out easily without too much concern for water depths, it makes a great foul weather anchorage.
Just as the other islands in this area it too was once inhabited by the Calusa Indians. Archeologists have discovered many shell mounds on the island. Of course, we often hear stories about “buried treasure” among the Islands located here. I personally have not read or heard about any here, but we may never know.
Cayo Costa is owned totally by the state of Florida. It is the longest undeveloped barrier island along the western shores of the state.
Frances is a Commodore of the Seven Seas Cruising Association and a member of Sailing Association of Marco Island and AP United States Power Squadron.