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Boat Trips from Sanibel & Captiva Island - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Activities

You can take a boat trip from Captiva to Cabbage Key Island, looking out for manatees in the marina at Captiva, and enjoy a glorious trip where the dolphins race the boat, and you really feel you are far away from the world. When you come into the tiny marina at Cabbage Key you get a real taste of the sleepy 100-acre, isolated island. If you are lucky like us and visit in the summer (in between the downpours) you bake in the sun, watch sea otters fighting over crabs and pelicans and a variety of other birds swooping in for fish. And you might get some dolphins racing the boat!

We decide to explore the Nature Trail before lunch – and take up the offer of the crew to use insect spray, and we even take one with us. Despite this, we come back eaten alive by mosquitoes round the sleeve, shorts and sock edges, literally dozens of bites. My husband who is a heavy smoker does not get bitten at all!

However as well as the swarms of mozzies we see massive frogs, armadillos, beautiful coloured birds, hear things rustling in the undergrowth, it is certainly a far more rustic Florida than you encounter in the more urban areas.

We had lunch in the Cabbage Key Inn where you can have your very own Cheeseburger in Paradise! The inviting lodge features an outdoor patio for dining – although as we visited in August we headed straight inside. You immediately feel as if you are entering a time warp, with long trestle tables and walls, ceiling and windowsills covered with money! Everyone signs and puts up either US currency or a note from their own country.

The main house was built in the 1930s as a vacation hideaway for playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart, and is currently frequented by Florida novelist and tarpon fishing guide Randy Wayne White.

You won't see a single car here, only golf carts. Not even any paved roads. Instead of immaculately manicured lawns and exotic flowerbeds, you see lush, green vegetation, as wild and unspoiled as it was when the Calusa Indians made their home here. If you explore a little, you'll find a mound of shells discarded by the Calusas.

If you climb to the top of the water tower, you can see the lumps of islands all around that buffer the mainland from the Gulf of Mexico. Breathe in and smell the bougainvillaea, the mud and the tide.

But just as we head back to the dock the clouds are thick and dark and the dock staff cautions that the weather will get worse.

We take shelter as best we can and look at our boat coming in. Fat ants crawl near our feet, the sky starts rumbling there are massive claps of thunder and streaks of lightening across the sky, the raindrops pelt us and the temperature drops a good 30 degrees. We tale some brilliant pictures of the storm coming in, and have one of them enlarged and put up in our conservatory at home. Finally the rain eases off a little and the staff allows us to get onto the boat, as they were worried there might be accidents with people slipping on the gangway. We go into the air-conditioning of the lower deck and find it freezing, and decide to stay outside getting wet as it is much warmer! Gradually the storm passes and within minutes the temperature is soaring again, and the wildlife is chattering away. The boat sets sail for Captiva and again we have a group of dolphins racing the boat, they are lovely to see in the wild.

Next time we visited Sanibel we do the boat trip to Useppa which is another west Florida delight, tucked like a pearl in an oyster shell between the mainland and its barrier beach islands. The 100-acre isle is surrounded by mangroves and by Pine Island Sound, the body of water that separates the mainland from North Captiva and Cayo Costa islands.

Useppa has about 100 homes, most of them classic, white-frame seaside dwellings with porches and widow's walks. Only a few live here year-round. Everyone else settle into this old-fashioned, slow-lane place from Christmas to Easter.

The Useppa Garden Club has devised a walking tour of the island's botanical treasures, including orchids and gumbo-limbo trees. There's a history museum where the displays are devoted to tarpon fishing, the region's native Calusa people and the island's role in the Cuban missile crisis, when the CIA rented Useppa to prepare volunteers for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

High-jumping tarpon, which stream through Boca Grande Pass just west of Useppa, helped turn the island into America's premier sport fishing resort. In 1912, advertising and real estate tycoon Barron Collier founded the island's Izaak Walton Club, named for the co-author of the 17th century fishing classic "The Compleat Angler." Funnily enough back in England we work in Marlow which has a luxury hotel called … The Compleat Angler – what a small world it is!

Collier welcomed tarpon hunters to the white, three-story, neo-classical hotel, now called the Collier Inn where we had lunch; usual island fare of salad or burger.

Again we see no sign of cars, only golf buggies as transportation, otherwise everyone comes by boat.

Both our day trips to the islands were with Captiva Cruises at South Seas Resort.

You can also take Sunset Boat trips, Eco Boat Trips or hire a boat to go fishing.

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