The Great Calusa Blueway holds days’ worth of on-the-water exploration for paddlers. Should you decide to make your adventure last longer than a day trip, nearby campgrounds, inns and hotels offer a place to lay your head – often waterside – before you pick up the trail – and your paddle – again the next day. Whether you like roughing it or “plushing” it, you can find accommodations to suit your style of paddle vacationing.
Public parks along the 190 miles of Blueway trails provide woodsy spots where you can set up a tent for the night without venturing far from the water. At the trail’s north end, Cayo Costa State Park has cabins and tent sites beachside on the Gulf of Mexico. A tram service transports guests and gear from the landing on the trail side of the island in Pine Island Sound. The cabins are popular, so reserve well in advance. To the park’s south in the sound, Picnic Island allows camping on its wave-lapped shores, but has no facilities. Primitive campers are asked to abide by Leave No Trace guidelines (www.lnt.org).
On the Caloosahatchee River branch of the trail, Caloosahatchee Regional Park provides a convenient dock and launch site with oak-shaded campsites a short hike away. Call ahead to 239-533-7440 for reservations and to request a cart to transport your vessel to the campground. From Estero Bay on the trail’s southern end, the Estero River leads to the banks of Koreshan State Historic Site. The park has two launch ramps, one within walking distance of its forested campground. To make camping reservations at Cayo Costa and Koreshan, visit www.reserveamerica.com or call 800-326-3521.
If you’re one who looks forward to a soft bed and creature comforts after a day of paddling, your options are broad in the vicinity of the Great Calusa Blueway. Some, such as the Dockside Inn in Cape Coral, the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Spa and Lovers Key Resort in Fort Myers Beach and Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island line the shores of the Blueway or have canal access to the trail. Moonlight Bay Cottages and The Sun and The Moon Inn in Matlacha have their own launch ramps, and Moonlight offers kayakers a 15 percent discount year-round. Others welcome paddlers and their vessels with storage space and transportation from the trail. The majority of the region’s resorts are less than a 15-minute drive to the Blueway and make for convenient headquarters for a drive-and-paddle vacation.
Also check out: Calusa Blueway Kayak Fishing Tournament each November in Matacha. and/or Battle on the Blueway SUP & Kayak race each June on Fort Myers Beach.