This wild island on the Gulf coast is never crowded — it’s too hard to get there. For those who drive to Pineland on Pine Island and then take the hour-long ferry to the state park, the rewards are many: Nine miles of perfect beaches, shaded jungle-like trails and wildlife that includes osprey nests, dolphins, stringrays and all sorts of bird and sea life.
While neighboring Myakka River State Park lets you experience the natural beauty of this prairie country, the Crowley introduces you to the people who lived and settled here. Farm animals and historic houses help visitors picture the pioneer lifestyle.
Just 45 minute from Tampa/St. Pete, the beautiful river, state park and region is a natural haven that can keep you busy exploring for days. There’s an outfitter to make trip-planning easy, plus it offers cabins and camping.
Telegraph Creek, a tributary of the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers, is all the things I love about kayaking destinations – out-of-the-way, uncrowded, scenic, full of wildlife. It’s located within a half hour of Fort Myers and is ideal for a shaded two- or three-hour kayak outing.
Florida winters were meant for this: Discovering wild and scenic places by kayak. To help you plan fun Florida kayak trips, I’ve selected three of my favorite kayak destinations in Southwest Florida. These aren’t well-known but deserve to be.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park — the biggest state park in Florida — is a vast, wild place near Everglades City. Year after year, we drove right past, but there are three great reasons to spend time here. We’re glad we did.
This Punta Gorda creek should be better known. Its tree canopy and unspoiled Old Florida feel offer kayakers natural beauty and wildlife, all in an easy, accessible day paddle.
Smallwood Store is an exceptional slice of Florida history at an end-of-the-road site overlooking Chokoloskee Bay near Everglades City.
Sanibel and Captive are kayak paradise, with waters full of fish, dolphins, manatees, ospreys, pelicans, herons — even otters. Here’s a guide to where and how to explore by kayak.
This cypress-lined Alafia river has an unusual feature for Florida: Rocky shoals that create fun rapids to kayak. It’s near hiking trails, springs and a very nice paddling trail at Little Manatee River State Park.
A scenic road through Everglades National Park also brings you past a cute little roadside stop: the smallest post office in the US. In an era where post offices are being closed to save money, this little outpost dating to 1953 is a survivor.
A bike ride along the Gulf of Mexico lets you ogle the garden-like estates of Naples mansion-owners and stop at pocket parks that give you access to their perfect beaches.
You can explore the wilderness of the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s Gulf Coast with this short kayak trail to an uninhabited island full of history. It’s the perfect “starter” kayak trail for an area full of paddling possibilities.
This authentic Florida fishing village near Bradenton is the perfect place to find classic seafood shacks — open air, casual with the freshest fish.
Pine Island never was a big tourist destination. And that’s why it is such a refreshing place to explore today. It’s full of groves and plant nurseries with a few stops that make it worth exploring.
Peace River Seafood in Punta Gorda is a true Florida crab shack; they don’t come more authentic than this. From its 1927 Cracker cabin to the buckets of fresh blue crabs, it’s a little piece of old Florida.
In the wild and watery world of southwest Florida, Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples draws people who love the natural Florida for camping, hiking and paddling. It’s also home to the 1924 Bay City Walking Dredge, and how often do you get to visit a “National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark”?
An open-air Thai brunch and market draws throngs every Sunday morning to this beautiful waterfront temple in Tampa. The food is very good and moderately priced. The exotic gold-trimmed temple is worth visiting just because it’s beautiful, set among shady live oak trees decorated with orchids.
The folks in Sanibel got it right — they preserved a place of rare beauty. Here are nine ways to make the most of what makes Sanibel so special — from the most isolated beaches to famous whole wheat granola pancakes.
Selby Gardens contains the most diverse collection of orchids and bromeliads in the world. Thousands of species are represented.
There are dozens of nice RV campgrounds near Fort Myers. Here are six that stand out above the rest.
If you’re visiting the western entrance to Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands, there is a lodge that caters specifically to kayakers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts – the Ivey House in Everglades City.
Explore the old world charm of this Mediterranean-influenced city on the Gulf Coast.
Camp Venice is a tree-shaded, privately owned campground nestled in oak hammocks on the banks of the Myakka River.
The rare and endangered Florida panther makes its home in the wilds of the western Everglades and the Big Cypress Swamp, much of the area preserved in protected state and federal lands accessible to hikers.
EVERGLADES CITY — Whitewater paddling in the Everglades? Well, almost. The tides move in and out of the Ten Thousand Islands so quickly, the water rushes and ripples through the passes, so you need to catch the current going in the right direction if you want to make headway.
EVERGLADES CITY — One of my favorite Florida getaways is to boat out to the outer islands and camp for a weekend on a remote, pristine beach fronting the Gulf of Mexico.
Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest state parks with three main campgrounds, backcountry campsites, endless hiking and biking trails, kayaking and canoeing, and, oh, the wildlife.