Sunset Beach & Ocean Isle Beach Kayak Tours

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Have kayak, will travel!

Posted on: March 19th, 2015 by Charles (Rip) Vanwinkle

Cari and I decided to take a bit of an extended vacation late this fall. To merely say we had a good time would be an understatement. After about a week of packing and preparations we departed Sunset Beach heading south. Our first stop was Cocoa Beach to meet an old friend and relax on the beach a bit. Living at one of the best beaches in the world makes it a bit of a let down when you go to other beaches. We had a great time, saw the sights, enjoyed the much warmer water and it was very nice to catch up with an old friend. We were ready the next morning to head further south to find the warm turquoise water of Bahia Honda. We didn’t even unpack our gear at the campsite before we splashed in the kayaks. The kiddos were eager to get in front of our deuce coupes and off we went. Conditions were far from ideal but we didn’t care and we happily explored our new surroundings. We saw a single little island off in the distance and made it our mission to make it there the next day. We set up camp, got our annual fishing license just in time to get back in time for a lovely sunset. After a camp pancake breakfast in the morning we were off to our little island in the sun. It was perfect, calm warm water and picturesque scenery. This is why we headed to the keys. If anyone that knows me you know that I cannot be on the water without a fishing rod. Fished most of the day a caught my weight in mangrove snappers. After spending a small fortune on live shrimp the prize fish of the day was caught on Nicks little Ugly Stick with a “fish bite” on a standard drop rig, hog nosed snapper. Go figure. The rest of the week we did pretty much the same thing each day. We’re convinced that if our 6 year old Nick were stranded on a deserted island he’d be just fine. We did make it into Key West. While in the middle of Duval Street we wished a helicopter would come and pick us up to take us out of there. We never got out of our car.
Next stop, Everglades City. I could seriously live in this town. Again, before we checked into our room we had the kayaks in the water. First cast I caught a snook, not kidding, my kinda town. Cari had her reservations about my map reading skills and took the lead and brought us back to the landing, after about three hours. You can seriously get lost in the maze of the mangroves. We hired a guide the next day to take us fishing and we had a blast. Caught our limit of reds with five of us on the boat, and a few trout and lady fish to boot. Out in the gulf working our way through the 10,000 islands is an amazing experience. Back by lunch we cleaned our fish and we were ready for something else. This was not a very hard decision to make, we of course had to get on a fan boat. Buzzing through the everglades is awesome. If you get a chance to do it, go. After the fan boat, stone crabs and cold beer were on the menu, ice cream for the kids. We enjoyed the towns festivities that evening and were ready for our next stop.
Cayo Costa isn’t a place many people have heard of. It’s a state park only accessible by boat. They offer tent camping along with a couple rustic cabins. We drove to Bokeelia to catch our ferry. When we arrived we had about two hours unpack and then repack for our stay on the island. The winds were not good, blowing near 45mph, the boat was iffy whether or not it was going to be going. The boat finally got us over to the island and surprisingly enough we still had a few things that were still dry. We made our way to ocean cabin #8 an hour before dark. The low for the night was 55 and the wind was still howling. The cabin consisted of four walls, three shutter style plywood windows, two bunk beds, a picnic table and a door. The “windows” we’re down but it did little to keep the wind and cold out. This was the longest night of our vacation. Cayo Costa is a beachcombers paradise. We hit the beach at the crack of dawn and were excited to see what we might find. A whole wagon, a five gallon bucket along with a bait bucket and all pockets were full in no time. We unloaded our bounty and went for more. After our second load we felt we had our share and decided to explore other areas. On this island there is a saltwater lagoon. It is very pretty and very full of fish. Again, first cast, snook. Although fishing in this lagoon is a bit tricky because of the plentiful alligator population. Over the next few days we walked all over this wonderful island and met some amazing people while we were here. Being literally stuck on a deserted island makes what little community there is a little closer. The kids were such good troopers, our fancy new phones told us that we were logging in ten miles a day.
Our next leg of our journey was to Blue Springs State Park. It’s about 45 minutes north east of Orlando. Highway 4 from Tampa to Orlando might be the worst road in America. Seriously, I will not ever travel on this road again. We arrived at our cabin in the dark to find an armadillo, the first armadillo I’ve ever seen. A very weird looking creature that seemed a bit stupid. Blue Springs in late fall is known for its manatees. The next morning again we were on the water as the sun was coming up to explore the area. The spring this day had over a hundred manatees in it and it was just amazing spending time with these creatures. Some had boat scars, some were bigger than a kayak and some were inquisitive little calfs. We did our best to keep our distance but they were just very curious animals. We paddle though snake creek, didn’t see any snakes but plenty of alligators. Again the kids were troopers but had their fill of being in a kayak and wanted to swim. The alligator infested water didn’t seem too appealing so we went to Ponce De Leon spring. Otherwise known as the fountain of youth, at least I have that going for me. The water was great, clear 74 degrees and the kids had a blast. This was a pretty cool part of Florida but we were ready for the next stop.
Fort Clinch State Park is the most northern beach in Florida. It is directly on the Cumberland River. The park is very cool, the fort itself is awesome. The park also has a half mile fishing pier that is very underused. We tent camped here. Online I chose a beach site which was a HUGE mistake. The beach sites were a exposed, no privacy and were completely full of cactus and sand spurs. The rest of the park made up for the crappy campsite. We took in all the sites, saw a nuclear sub, collected more shells and caught redfish. We did everything this park had to offer and off we went.
Our last stop was supposed to be in Beaufort SC. However a stop in Savannah to the animal shelter to rescue a puppy hindered that plan. Now we had Jed the dog we couldn’t find anywhere that would allow pets. So we headed home. Dinner in Mt. Pleasant at Melvin’s first though.
Cari and I wouldn’t have changed anything about or trip, except maybe Key West. We were gone for 21 days and spent the most amazing time with our kids. No TVs, tablets, computers, just time with each other. You can’t teach what our kids learned in a classroom. I think next year we’re heading further south.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’m sorry for the grammatical errors but I’m doing this on my phone and I like run on sentences.
Rip