A Favorite Anchorage SW Florida

… sometimes.  As long as it’s not stuffed with over 100 boats, even though the anchorage is large, during the “season”, boats on top of boats isn’t fun, at least for us.  We prefer quiet anchorages with not much to do other than enjoy nature.

Some boaters say they don’t understand why people go there, there’s nothing to do … The definition of “nothing to do” must depend entirely on the person!   No there are no shops, no restaurants, no bars with happy hour and live music.

CayoCosta

So why is this anchorage one of our all time favorites anywhere?   It’s a barrier island state park, one of the last undeveloped beaches in South Florida, accessible only by boat.  For the most part, other than a few houses at the south end, it’s being restored as “old Florida” – and invasive species, most notably Australian Pines and Brazilian Peppers, that didn’t belong on the island are all gradually being eradicated.   It’s a nesting spots for all sorts of sea turtles and other wildlife that thrive in the barrier island ecosystem.

Pictures say it better than words …

A great protected anchorage, a bit shallow and challenging for us deeper draft boats, but worth it.

A great protected anchorage, a bit shallow and challenging for us deeper draft boats, but worth it.

Dolphin accompanied the boat and frolicked alongside after anchoring.

Dolphin accompanied the boat and frolicked alongside after anchoring.

State park docks at one end of the anchorage make it easy to tie up the dinghy and explore.

State park docks at one end of the anchorage make it easy to tie up the dinghy and explore.

A mile long sandy path leads to the beach on the Gulf side.

A mile long sandy path leads to the beach on the Gulf side.

The beach stretches for miles, but is

The beach stretches for miles, but is “ungroomed”, in a natural state. So if there’s seaweed washed up from a storm, it stays. When red tide is in the area, dead fish wash up. But the next storm generally cleans the beach and it’s perfect again.

Sanderlings dart up and down the edges of the waves, poking their bills in the sand to eat tiny, crustaceans, mollosks and other marine life.

Sanderlings dart up and down the edges of the waves, poking their bills in the sand to eat tiny, crustaceans, mollosks and other marine life.

Willets roam the beach, taking to flight with their distinctive black and white underwing stripe and noisy kip-kip-kip alarm whenever we get too close.

Willets roam the beach, taking to flight with their distinctive black and white underwing stripe and noisy kip-kip-kip alarm whenever we get too close.

Try roaming beyond where the

Try roaming beyond where the “crowds” gather at the end of the sand road across the island and you’ll be rewarded with long wind swept beaches complete with shells and just a few of David’s favorite, fossil shark’s teeth.

Driftwood on the north end of the beach ... walk far enough and you can gaze across Boca Grande Pass to the historic Boca Grande Lighthouse.

Driftwood on the north end of the beach … walk far enough and you can gaze across Boca Grande Pass to the historic Boca Grande Lighthouse.

The white ibis also frequent the beach, along with all the seagulls.

White Ibis frequent the beach, along with all the seagulls.

After our long walk on the beach, we hop in the dinghy and head back to the boat, stopping along the way at Manatee Lagoon, another one of our favorite spots on Cayo Costa.  Be considerate if you take your dinghy in, the water is shallow and we don’t want the prop hitting any of the manatees that favor this small lagoon.  We turn the outboard off and drift, using our paddles to keep us in the middle of the lagoon for the best all around views.

Returning to the boat we're treated to the pelican's kamikaze splashing, head first, how do they keep from breaking their necks?

Returning to the boat we’re treated to the pelican’s kamikaze splashing, head first, how do they keep from breaking their necks?

A lone anhinga guards the entrance to Manatee Lagoon.

A lone anhinga guards the entrance to Manatee Lagoon.

There were literally a dozen manatees in the lagoon this time, but they're extremely difficult to get photos of when they're just sunning themselves and snorting air every few minutes.  Definitely not photogenic this time!

There were literally a dozen manatees in the lagoon this time, but they’re extremely difficult to get photos of when they’re just sunning themselves and snorting air every few minutes. Definitely not photogenic this time!

The resident alligator who hangs out in the Manatee Lagoon always looks menacing enough to keep our inflatable a good distance away.

The resident alligator who hangs out in the Manatee Lagoon always looks menacing enough to keep our inflatable a good distance away.

All in all, a wonderful place to hang out a few days.  We had hoped for a longer weather window, there are more places to dinghy to and enjoy different beaches and different islands, but with only one day, we made the most of it.  Great shakedown cruise.

Another Cayo Costa Sunset.

Another Cayo Costa Sunset.

Do you have a favorite anchorage in Southwest Florida?  We’re looking for spots to explore since we’re staying close to the marina this year with my 92 year old Dad just north of us in Lakeland.  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan

Comments

  1. Martin Henry says:

    No, no. no…….

    Jan this is a terrible anchorage, bugs. Gators, snakes and as you mentioned sea monster manatees! We certainly wouldn’t want to recommended this area to just anyone…

    Hope you get out again soon!

    -Martin

    • It seems to be a love/hate relationship. We met a guy yesterday who said he wouldn’t anchor there in a zillion years, it’s overrun. The only reason he goes there once a year in June is to dive the bottom and pick up all the abandoned anchors that people have left – said he gets several each year. Some with 100′ of chain still on them. Weird! Surprised us!

      David wouldn’t get in the water, he’s afraid that gator we saw was just waiting to snatch him up! 🙂

  2. We have always wanted to explore the park, but with our 6′ 9″ draft it wasn’t in the cards. But! in march we are delivering a friends cat to the Keys, they only draw 3′. We are definitely taking the opportunity to spend a couple of days exploring!

    • Julie — nope 6’9″ would never make it. We squeak by on a rising tide with our 5 1/2+’ draft – and then have to be careful where we anchor because most of the area isn’t deep enough.
      Enjoy the park! If you have a good dinghy, ask the rangers how to get to the “love canal” and “stick” tie-up/path beyond it. The “love canal” itself was dredged by the Calusa Indians way back when to connect the bayside of the island with the gulf side. It’s since filled in and is generally too shallow to get through with a dinghy these days, except maybe at high tide with your outboard tilted up and using oars. But the path across just south of that area is nice. Be aware of your surroundings, several years ago, we were chased by the wild pigs on the beach in that area. 🙂 Haven’t seen them for a few years.

  3. Hi Jan, after reading some of your other posts on this area, I was encouraged to some day check this place out for myself. Being a lifelong Floridian, I had never visited Cayo Costa SP. I finally got to take my family out there one day this summer on our vacation to Boca Grande. What a beautiful place to visit, very peaceful. We got on the trolley by the docks which are run by the park rangers and headed for the beach side to explore. Kids had a great time, we got lucky that we had no bugs that day. We didn’t get to stay overnight since we went on our little skiff. We also have a trailer sailor that would be nice to take there next time and spend a night or two. Thanks for your pictures and post, I felt like I was reliving my own trip. Glad you and David got to enjoy your shakedown cruise at CCSP.

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