Welcome to Cayo Costa State Park!!
With more than 170 Florida state parks, there is absolutely no shortness of recreational opportunities here on the land and Island on the East side of Florida, which could be called the gulf coast paradise.
With more than half of them being associated with non-profit groups, the charges here are nominal, encourage honor box donations, and offer a variety of amenities to the residents and tourists. These parks are a natural beauty to the eyes and work heavily on natural resources.
The parks here are open in the winter months and offer many activities to engage in like fishing, boat slips, tent camping, overnight stays, day trip, and cabin stay. Some of them have mangrove swamps, while others offer boats and rent kayaks.
They are mostly supported by tax dollars, fees paid by the people, and some charitable donations. Well-known state parks are Pine Island, Barrier Island park, Charlotte Harbor, Boca Grande pass, Oak Palm hammocks, and Cayo Costa State Park.
Cayo Costa State Park is a pretty unique island located near the gulf side of Florida with miles of untouched Beach, natural and visiting wildlife. This park is only accessible by water through ferry service (tropic star ferry), cruises (Captiva Cruises) and has quite a history of its own.
It is even accessible through the boat services through Punta Gorda or Barrier Islands. The Beaches located there are nearly nine miles with day trips, a camp store, a cabin for overnight visitors, and tent camping.
Here are 5 facts about this place that anyone needs to know before going there:
1. It has a History of Fishers and its community
When Pappy Padilla came here and settled down, the fishing community was born and well-established. Various settlers had been coming ever since the 1700s. Still, he left enough of an impact, even during the war, that he was buried here along with his family among the 20 other fishers’ families who were killed by a hurricane.
After the war, this place became a military camp with a couple of fishing villages, but ever since then, people have moved out of the Cayo Costa State Park.
Now the land has its historical sites sill available for people to see and read about the history of this place. The State park still offers fishing as one of the activities here, but one might require a fishing license and might have to bring their equipment.
Most of the gear and luggage can be brought in by the tram service available, which is used as a primary mode of transport to the Island State Park.
They have many types of fish that people could catch and have specific areas for those interested. Though the history here a Cayo Costa State Park isn’t as exciting as a historical site, the place is recognized for its native history, and archeologists are looking to find more. Pappy Padilla is still a recognized hero in the Cayo Costa state park.
2. One of the Best Known Shelling Beaches
This State Park is very well known for its shelling, and hundreds of people flock here every year to collect shells of their choice.
The Cayo Costa State Park offers a stretch of nine miles and offers plenty of space for the shells to wash ashore. Passionate shellers even have advice on what to look for and where the shells come in varieties.
People who visit here to collect shells specifically plan to come when the crowd is not as dense and look to come on the weekdays to avoid tourists and people looking to enjoy the beach themselves.
They often wait for the tides to subside and accurately look for the shells immediately after to have a diverse collection of shells.
Shelling is even encouraged by the Cayo Costa State Park‘s website, but they also advise the people that the shells might still have living beings inside them.
Hence, they ask shellers to b careful f the shells they collect and handle the creatures as delicately as possible. People who do come here to regularly shell have plenty of advice for those looking to start into this hobby.
They encouraged shellers to bring their digging equipment and storage items to look for the shells and take them home in an organized manner.
They also advised them to look out for any weather forecast and the tides o not waste time if timed inaccurately.
3. The State Park is a Nesting Space for Animals
The Cayo Costa State Park may have a lot of beach space, but it also has numerous pine trees spread over the Island with their flora and wildlife. The Beach here also functions as a nesting space for sea turtles that come here in nesting season.
Sea turtle nesting season not only brings along lots of tourists who want to see them but also environmentalists and volunteers who participate in documenting and safeguarding these nests.
They make sure that none of the nests are disturbed intentionally or unintentionally and keep them in check to track the spaces they do cover and keep track of the sea turtles’ numbers.
Even the staff working at the Cayo Costa State Park and the regular volunteers make sure to steer the tourists away from these nesting places not to disturb them.
There are mainly four species of sea turtles that can be found on this Island, two of the popular ones being loggerhead and green turtle. The eggs themselves have a hard time surviving with the raccoons and other animals trying to have them as food.
These untouched beaches are not just the homes for sea turtles. The endangered species of the West Indian manatee can also be found here, though their dwindling numbers are slowly building up.
A few other animals found here are the Southern bald eagle, Snowy egrets, Raccoons, and Bottlenose dolphins.
4. Cayo Costa State Park offers Cabins and Camping Spaces
The State park by itself has more than a handful of amenities with their historical exhibits and a range of activities to engage in during a visit for half-day or a day, but some wish to camp here for the night.
The Cayo Costa state park offers camps with picnic tables and bunk beds for reasonable prices to enjoy the beautiful scenery among the pine forests. With the pandemic subsiding, some of the camping choices are not yet available, but they still offer 30 tent campsites and 12 primitive cabins.
The niceties include a campfire, hammock camping, picnic tables, a fire grill, a gift shop near the ranger station, and a park map for people who wish to camp.
Restrooms and food stores are available, with a restaurant and flush toilets. The showers here at Cayo Costa are a little basic with only cold water, and there is no electricity or extra features available for camping on the Island.
They look to give the visitors an authentic camping experience and even forbid bringing any generators through the boat and encourage them to clean up after any food they have brought to the beaches from Florida.
The cabins and camping places at Cayo Costa are private enough to enjoy the natural beauty of the Beach by yourself. Still, they also are open to swimming and accessible to socialize with the other visitors there.
The previous visitors here have warned about the rats there and mentioned that they don’t usually bother the people as long as the place is clean and food-free.
The cayo costa state park also has small convenience shops with necessities and gift shops with little takeaways.
5. The Cayo Costa Island Does Have Arrangements for Special Gatherings and Events
The Cayo Costa State Park is a remote place that isn’t heavily crowded and provides a day of beach time that almost feels private.
The website they maintain also mentioned that the staff and authorities there can be approached to hold special events there. They mentioned that state authorities would have to provide permission for these activities to be allowed.
The special events they promised to cover range from engagements, weddings, and birthday celebrations to family gatherings, reunion parties, and more. The staff would also arrange all the arrangements, food, hospitality, and more.
With the primary transportation being ferry service, the crowd would be limited.
Cayo Costa state park is a place that remains undiscovered for its beauty, experience, and history. With growing exposure, the place also opens up more to new crowds and new people. But it is still one of the sensational places. The place also has hiking trails, nature trails, paddling, scuba diving, and swimming available along the the beautiful beaches.
The State Park is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m every day, including the holidays, and offers tram services from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. The Island is accessible only through the sea with a ferry service and private boat.
Fort Myers is the closest place to travel before taking a ferry to the Cayo Costa State Park. It is a part of the Barrier Islands Park community near the Pine Islands.
Make a safe trip, and enjoy your time!