When the wind picked up and the waves started to whitecap across the Boca Grande Pass, we decided to cut short our visit to Boca Grande and head back across the channel in our 9′ dinghy. On the way back to the boat we stopped to explore another beach on Cayo Costa and the Manatee Lagoon.
After a wild ride surfing down waves coming across Boca Grande Pass, we were happy to stop and walk Cayo Costa’s NorthEast Beach (just south of the old Quarantine Dock). Other beaches in the vicinity are popular with daytrippers out in their small power boats. Often the boats are pulled up on the beach, or anchored just off and it’s full of umbrellas, boom boxes and people having fun. This little beach, however, is usually quiet and deserted and this day was no exception.
The water is usually hazy with the boats and wakes from the ICW going by, but it was crystal clear … at least for Southwest Florida. And we enjoyed walking the beach, waves lapping at our toes and looking into to see what we could see. We saw lots of Florida Fighting Conchs – some just shells, some with “people” at home. But no hermit crabs as I had hoped. We did see lots of starfish in about four inches of water. No shark’s teeth or shells. There are only small shells since it’s on the harbor side of the island.
Almost every day on Cayo Costa, we end with a trip to Manatee Lagoon to see if anyone’s home. This time the water was stirred up with mud, so much so that we both wondered what happened. After watching the manatees for a bit, I think it was muddier than usual because there were more manatees than we’d seen for awhile in the little lagoon. The water’s been too cold for them. A couple even swam right up to the dinghy, but the murky water didn’t let me get a very good photo. They were clearly grinning for the camera. Too bad you can’t see it, but the images are imprinted on our brains. Made us grin too!
We hear cruisers complain that there’s never any manatees when they head into Manatee Lagoon … keep in mind, it’s very shallow, so the probability of being hit by a propeller is very high, especially if boats are going faster than a dead crawl. We usually crawl up to the windward side, turn off the outboard, sometimes even tilt it up and let the wind propel us. When we reach the other side, we use the oars and do it again. Most days, the manatees aren’t in evidence until we’ve sat there for a bit with the outboard off, then their noses start appearing. Unfortunately they aren’t very photogenic and often all we’ll see is noses spouting water spray, their backs sunning themselves and an occasional tail flip. But it’s still fun to be so close to them.
Do you have a favorite Southwest Florida barrier island beach? Maybe we’ve missed one! Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan