The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is a 190-mile marked canoe and kayak trail that meanders through the coastal waters and inland tributaries of Lee County, Florida. It attracts everyone from first-time kayakers to advanced paddlers and is home to abundant marine life, shore birds and crustaceans.
There are 3 “phases” to the Calusa Blueway for kayakers to explore….
PHASE 2 / Pine Island Sound
PHASE 3 / Caloosahatchee River
There are charts for each phase with more then 80 highlighted places to see and access points to visit. Wildlife is abundant with birds, dolphins, sea turtles, manatees and all sort of fish and paddling is a great way to interact with all.
Pine Island is included in “Phase 2” of the 190 miles of Calusa Blueway trails, and will give you similar experiences of paddling in the Everglades or Ten Thousand Islands. There are thick and tangled mangrove tunnels, uninhabited barrier islands, and quiet canals to investigate. Something for everyone from easy paddles to crossing Pine Island Sound to visit uninhabited islands.
The Pine Island portion of the Calusa Blueway includes San Carlos Bay at the southern end, Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Matlacha Pass in the middle and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park on the northern end.
While paddling in and around Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve and through Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve you will be in and out of towering mangroves that are home to fish, birds, crabs, raccoons and lots of other critters. If you happen upon an opening in the mangroves, paddle in and check it out. It’s a world of it’s own.
Almost smack dab in the middle of Pine Island on the western coast is the Randell Research Center. Paddle on up to the Historical marker at Pineland and just across the street is a self guided tour. Learn about the Calusa indians, their shell mounds and the rich history of Pine Island.
From Pineland your next stop should be the island of Cayo Costa. For the young and brave you can paddle across the sound, or you can take a ferry. The Tropic Star runs out of the state park and you (and your kayak) can hitch a ride. Cayo Costa has empty beaches, several camping sites and rustic cabins for overnight stays. Reservations are recommended.
South of Cayo Costa is Picnic Island another uninhabited wild island. Picnic Island has a nice beach, a lagoon to swim in and a great view of the Sanibel Bridge. You can camp overnight on the island without a reservation, but in the summer months it may be crowded.
From Picnic, paddle on up to Matlacha Pass and visit the funky little artist town of Matlacha (Mat-La-Shay). Have a grouper sandwich at one of the many waterfront restaurants , paddle up and down some of the canals, and see the shrimp fleet in the harbor. While in the Pass keep your eyes open for Dolphin and Manatees…
Even if you have never kayaked before, there are many outfitters on Pine Island that can help you get started. There are guided tours as well and that might be just the thing to show you the way around.
Kayaking up and down the canals in St. James City, Bokeelia and Matlacha will give you an entirely different view of Pine Island. This is really the way to see Pine Island, from the water.
It is, after all, why we live here!