Each tour is customized according to the weather and the skills of the group. If the group has individuals with vastly different skills and ambitions, we will do our best to accommodate. Sometimes that means splitting the groups accordingly. Every tour in the Gulf Islands departs from and returns to Back Bay near Bokeelia at the northern tip of Pine Island.
Day 1. We will move Mirage as soon as the last guest arrives in Bokeelia. If it is late in the day and other guests have arrived ealier, we will paddle to one of the many places near Back Bay. The nearest anchorage to Back Bay is only about half an hour away. However, if the weather permits, we will travel across Charlotte Harbor to the Cape Haze area and anchor in Bull Bay near Cayo Pelau. Travel time is about 2 hours. If time permits, we will explore Cayo Pelau and nearby keys.
Day 2. From our anchorage in Bull Bay, we can paddle north and explore the many creeks and inlets along the coast. One of our favorite spots in this area is Boggess Hole, a remote lagoon at the end of a winding mangrove creek. Other creeks along the southern shore of Cape Haze are fun to explore. An ambitious day would take us east to Turtle Bay and back to Mirage either through the maze of mangrove keys or along the edge of Charlotte Harbor.
Day 3. If we didn’t move Mirage to Pelican Bay near Cayo Costa late on day 2, then we will move early in the morning. The routes at Cayo Costa include a circumnavigation if the weather is calm, north to Boca Grande Pass on the north end with the possibility of shelling on the active spit outside the pass or south to Murdoc Bay where we can portage over to the Gulf of Mexico. Cabbage Key is another excellent destination with it’s historic water tower and restaurant. Cayo Costa is a state park accessible only by boat. Hiking the extensive trail system in the park is yet another activity for this area.
Day 4. There is so much to see and do at Cayo Costa that we often stay more than one day. However, we don’t have to. We could move south to Foster Bay near North Captiva Island. Travel time is about one and a half hours. North Captiva makes a good circumnavigation route in calm weather. Otherwise, there is a portage to the outside at Foster Bay. The large mud flat near Foster Bay provides a spectacular feeding ground for shore birds at low tide.
Day 5. If the weather allows us to anchor in the open our next anchorage would be near Part Island between Darling Key and the Broken Islands. Travel time from Foster Bay is about one and a half hours. Darling Key and the Broken Islands are both rookeries and frequently home to hundreds of birds. Big Jim Creek offers protected paddling in the mangroves. Pineland, the home of the Randell Research Center is nearby. We sometimes land at the visitors center and tour the Calusa shell mounds.
Day 6. If there are guests departing early on day 6, we may already be in Back Bay. Otherwise, it’s about forty five minutes travel time to Back Bay. If time allows, we can choose to paddle one of the many routes near Back Bay before guests need to depart.
This itinerary is merely a sample of what we may do and where we may go. There are other anchorages near the ones in this itinerary that we may choose to use instead for any number of reasons. We also may travel further south on some days; as far south as Tarpon Bay on Sanibel Island, home to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The only thing for certain is that we can’t do or see everything in the Gulf Islands in 6 days and 5 nights.