A Bicycle and Kayak Weekend in Sanibel Island



The last weekend in 2007 saw us loading our car up with both the 2 seating Kayak and our 2 seating bicycle. The plan was for us to drive across South Florida to Sanibel Island and do some bike riding and kayaking there.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

We leave early in the morning around 7:30am. We are heading across South Florida on Hwy 80 from Palm Beach to Fort Myers. This time I have the TrackStick with me which is recording our every move (almost).

After about 3 hrs of driving we cross the toll bridge to Sanibel Island around 10:30am.

First we stop for brunch at a place called “Blue Giraffe” – somewhat disappointing meal value but not unexpected in this place with so many tourists. Anyway, we needed to eat something prior to our first planned outing, a half-day paddle in the Jn Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on the Northern side of Sanibel Island. There are lots of canoes for rent near the Inlet at Tarpon Bay. We are happy to have brought our own kayak and with it some independence to pursue our own route away from the crowds...

We paddle out over Tarpon Bay and soon we can leave the hustle & bustle of the busy tourist places behind...

We have to negotiate some areas of shallow waters, but we are lucky with the tide coming in and high tide being only a 1-2 hours ahead of us.

The weather is near perfect, comfortable temperature and not too many moscitos – you wouldn’t want to come here in July (at least not without bug-spray)! We meander through the mangroves, at times trying to forge a path off the beaten path…

One such excursion leads us into a dead-end; we are close to the open water, but it turns out to be impossible to penetrate the last few meters with all our gear. So we need to backtrack, which makes for some interesting wading through the shallow mangrove areas.

After about 3.5 hrs we are back at the boat ramp and load our kayak back on the car.

Time to find our hotel accomodations and shower off the salt water and sweat. Jill had made reservations at a nice sea-side lodge with a pretty nice view looking South out the balcony window:

The days are short here in winter, so with the setting evening sun we drive up towards the end of Sanibel Island to eat at the very nice “Mad Hatter” restaurant with sunset view.

A nice way to end a nice day on a high (culinary) note!


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Today we plan on two trips: First a bicycle ride around Sanibel Island in the morning, followed by a kayak trip around the neighboring Captive Island in the afternoon. Here is the Google Earth tracklog (recorded with the TrackStick) of the bike ride:

We start around 8:00am from our hotel. At first we ride to the lighthouse near the East end of the Island.

The style of the homes here reminds me a bit of Key West, it’s all quite laid back and the proximity of the water and palm trees defines the locale.

Our morning ride takes us back West towards the middle part of the Island. Here we enter the Jn Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge again. The one-way toll road snaking through the mangroves is a bird lovers and photographers dream come true. We see more ultra-high-end photo camera equipment and tele-zoom lenses on the next 5 miles than in the last 1000 miles on our bike. In the middle of the refuge there is a small observation tower which offers nice views:

Once we reach the end of the wildlife refuge we’re back out on the main road to the end of Sanibel Island. I am reminded of previous trips here many years ago.

The road dead-ends into a small village and vacation resort. Life here seems to follow a slower rhtyhm here than in the big cities – always part of the allure to come here and unwind for a weekend.

The road ends literally on a parking lot in the sand from the beach. We don’t linger long, as we want to get back to our hotel before noon. We backtrack the one and only main road on the Island, with the occasional caveat of a “low ceiling” on the bike path:

Once back at the hotel we have completed an Island circum-navigation at nearly 40 miles. We’re already a bit late for check-out at 11:00am, but the receptionist lady is very friendly and gives us some extra time.

We would have liked to just stay a bit longer here in our room after the quick shower, but we also want to keep moving for the second part of our plan. After another brunch at a popular café we drive to the end of Sanibel Island one more time. Now we are planning the circum-navigation of the adjacent Captiva Island by kayak.

Here is the tracklog of that part of our trip (North is to the left, turned counter-clockwise for better fit on the page):

We are lucky with the parking, as there are very limited spots and we just get there when a car is leaving. I take the kayak off the roof again and we load our gear as well as apply plenty of sunscreen.

We start paddling up North with a slight tailwind along the Gulf coast shore. We are moving along the shore past many interesting vacation homes and some palatial mansions. Then there is the occasional flock of pelicans in the water or diving from above to catch some fish.

So we paddle about 4 miles up to the Northern tip of Captiva Island. There we round the Northern tip and are lucky to have the tidal current pick us up and move us along quickly.

From here we turn back around to the East side and start heading South. We pass the various resorts and homes located at the very tip of Captiva Island on our right.

The next leg of our trip is quite different, as we begin heading directly into the wind and Jill sitting in the front gets a lot of spray water. Good thing it is warm weather, as we don’t have a spray skirt on the sit-a-top kayak. Paddling into the wind is relentless, as wind and current will pick us up and drive us right back if we stop. We need to get to the next key called Buck Key in order to find a break from the wind. After some 45 mins of pretty hard work – interrupted only by a brief encounter with some folks from Washington here for the New Year vacation cruising the other direction in some really nice Ocean Kayaks – we finally get to the calm waters around Buck Key.

We rest for a few minutes before continuing further South towards our starting point. We glide along close to the mangroves to avoid any further headwind.

Finally we reach the juncture of Captiva and Sanibel Island with the narrow bridge road.

We are both happy to have completed this loop. After 4 hrs of paddling we are also pretty tired, especially after the head-wind section.

When we started, the parking lot was full, now it’s almost completely empty. The sun will set shortly, and we still have a long drive ahead of us. Good thing that tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and we don’t have to work. We are also extremely hungry and weigh our options. We decide on an Indian restaurant in Fort Myers – unfortunately we don’t know of any good Indian restaurant in the Palm Beach area. This means we need to first drive about 45 mins and find the place.

Luckily we do find the India Palace and what follows is one of the best tasting meals in a long time – both because we’re so hungry and because we love Indian food J We talk into the late evening hours and enjoy some strong coffee (and lots of chewing gum) not to fall asleep on the long drive back.

It is past 11:00pm when we arrive back home and rinse the salty and sandy equipment. What a long day, what a great weekend, what a way to bid farewell to the year 2007!