Just two islands north of Captiva in the chain of barrier islands that includes Sanibel is Cayo Costa. This undeveloped stretch of sand, scrub and woods is accessible only by boat.
The entire island of Cayo Costa is a State Park that includes 9 miles of stunning beaches and over 2,500 acres of wilderness. You can camp, hike, bike the trails, fish or just hang out at the beach as many boaters do.
Unchanged Florida Nature
I have fond memories of camping on Cayo Costa as a child. Exploring the remote beach, I collected all manner of seashore life in my bucket while wading on shallow sandbars. I ventured alone down wooded trails and was scared breathless after disturbing a huge flock of roosting shore birds as they suddenly launched into the sky with a great cacophony of honks.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the beaches, trails, birds and stars virtually unchanged from my childhood memory when I brought my son, Andrew, to the island for an overnight camping trip hen he was still young.
A Weekend Unplugged
From the Sanibel Marina, it was a pleasant hour cruising along the bay side of our barrier islands Sanibel, Captiva, Upper Captiva, then arriving at Cayo Costa. After securing our boat, a ranger driven tram shuttled us and our gear from the bay side docks directly to our primitive cabin we reserved for the night.
The kids immediately ran for the beach. The undeveloped shoreline stretched in both directions as far as you could see. Aside from a few fellow campers, I imagine this was the scene Ponce de Leon encountered upon arriving to these same shores 500 years ago.
The kids enjoyed the freedom of the place, playing on the beach, hunting ghost crabs in the dark, and eating s’mores next to the campfire. On the way home, we motored down the gulf side of the islands, enjoying perfect weather and experiencing a spectacular sunset.
If you’re looking to escape for an unplugged weekend of “Old Florida” natural beauty, I highly recommend a Cayo Costa camping trip!… Just, maybe choose a cooler month to visit instead of the dead heat of the Summer.