The Florida State Park of Cayo Costa is located right across Boca Grande Pass to the South and is accessible only by boat or ferry. It had been almost 15 years since I’d visited and I suggested it for a 3 night family getaway right before Thanksgiving. Cayo Costa has both camping cabins and a tent area, but even in cabins, it is rustic, primitive camping experience. There is no electricity on Cayo Costa. No water at your cabin or campsite. There are bathrooms and water is available there.
We decided we’d take the parents 17 foot Scout to the island, traveling from their home in Englewood. Loading the truck was a chore with a huge cooler, giant tent, a load of firewood, fishing stuff, clothes for three, cooking gear and “W” the nickname we applied to wine. This was one vacation where everything was lugged. We lugged the stuff outa the truck to the dock at Jim and Faye’s, staging it for loading the boat in the morning. In the morning, we lugged everything to the boat and loaded it carefully so that it wouldn’t sink. Finally, we were set to run to CayoCosta, about an hour away by boat..
When we arrived, we had to unload everything, stack it and wait for the shuttle to arrive to take us to the camping area a mile away. The sh uttle was then loaded with all the gear. We groaned when we were dropped off a good city block from our campsite. Multiple trips back and forth to lug gear to the campsite was next. UGH! With arms popping out of sockets, we collapsed for a few then started the amusing tent set up. This event is peppered with family bickering about what pole goes where. Finally, its up! We comforted ourselves with the knowledge that most food would be consumed, the firewood would be gone and loading that tram up at the end would be soooooo much easier..
Cayo Costa had changed a lot since my last visit. It used to be a shady place with Australian pines scattered everywhere shading the landscape and keeping native Florida Vegetation at bay. No longer! Australian Pines are an invasive species and the State of Florida eliminated them years ago leaving a desert beach thriving with the ecologially proper native plants like sea grapes,sea oats, sedges, beach morning glories, oaks and pines.
Although our campsite was “beachfront” we could not walk to the beach from our campsite as this environmentally protected area is sensitive. But the beach access was close by.
Having the boat with us was great. We could escape the daytime heat and head out fishing and exploring. We spent one whole day fishing with great success, landing plenty of bluefish and mackeral, trolling with spoons along the beach. We circumnavigated the entire island that day, stopping at the south end for some excellent shelling. Cayo Costa is just north of Captiva Ialand, considered to be one of the best shelling areas in Florida. It was fun finding shells that we don’t usually see on St Petersburg beaches like turkey wings, olives, and angel wings. There were plenty of perfect scallop and clam shells too.
We were fished out on day two and decided to head to the famous Cabbage Key Inn for lunch. It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed our run over. The Dock there is crowded with boats but the dockhands are fantastic. They direct you, help you dock, answer all your questions, and know how to get everyone docked efficiently. Once you climb the stairs to the Inn, you are on top of a 38 foot indian mound from Pine Island Sound’s earliest inhabitants, the Caloosa Indians.
The burgers are legendary and we all jumped on that bandwagon and were not disappointed. Kalle and I both highly recommend the Chambourd Margarita.. yummmmmmy. The turtle pie was to die for and one piece was enough for the three of us.
The walls of Cabbage Key Inn are covered in dollar bills, 70,000 of them. Someone started the trend years ago and its now a necessity to leave one of your own. About 10,000 fall off each year and this money is donated to charity. Cabbage Key was a great excursion so if you visit Cayo Costa with your own boat, be sure to take the trip over. Shuttles are available too.
Watching the many boats come and go at Cabbage Key is your entertainment while enjoying your meal. Boat Handling comes in all forms from the ultra pro rockstar captains, to the complete novice. There is always a little of both going on at the same time.
Heading back to Cayo Costa to catch the last shuttle at 4 pm was hard with so much going on at Cabbage Key, but we made it, barely. Our last night on the beach we were treated to a fantastic sunset. It was definitely a great trip. Sure there were a few bugs when the breeze died down, It was hot during the day but running for the boat was a great way to cool off. The water situation was solved Tom Sawyer style: heading to the spigot and filling a bucket of camp water to use for cooking, cleaning up etc. Jake was our main water fetcher. It was a pretty good trip overall.
I did manage to get us VERY lost on the way back to Englewood. Lost with an empty Gas tank. I somehow missed the turn into the Intercoastal Waterway Channel, by deciding to “take a shortcut” across the bay. We ended up in the middle of Charlotte Harbor and I was composing my radio call to Tow Boat US to say we were out of fuel. But we somehow made it to Burnt Store Marina and filled up. Hey, it was only an hour out of our way.. ugh! I was so embarrassed and of course Kalle had told me I was doing something wrong and I just refused to believe I was wrong.. Lessons learned!
Hey all.. have an interesting day!