It’s officially winter here in my home base of Beachburg, Ontario, Canada. Last week our temperatures dipped down to minus 34 Celsius (-29 F), and yesterday we got over a foot of snow in one big dump! During these winter months, I often find myself daydreaming about warm water destinations where the paddling doesn’t involve ice and snow. Sea kayaking or stand-up paddling in warm water is such a treat during Canadian winters, and one of my favourite Facing Waves episodes that comes to mind for warm water paddling is Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
I have been to Florida numerous times for both vacation and work, and hands down Fort Myers and Sanibel Island has some of the best beaches out there. I love their beaches particularly for family trips! Family friendly paddling and shell-collecting are always bit hits with kids of all ages – and I count myself in that group.
The marine life in Fort Myers takes my breath away. There are 190 miles of paddling on the Great Calusa Blueway. From the Estero Bay to the Caloosahatchee River, the paddling is unique and inspiring.
The Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve is a protected channel with mangrove islands, and it’s not uncommon to see dolphins, manatee, and a variety of birds on just one paddle through the area. The mangroves are important fish habitats and so recreational fishing in the mangroves is truly amazing. Snook, tarpon, snapper, red drum, jack, and more, rely on the habitat for nurseries and shelter. If you don’t know the area, but are keen to explore the mangroves here, be sure to do your research ahead, or better yet, hire a guide!
A bit further south down the coast you’ll find the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. The Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve is a paddlers’ paradise! On a short 10-mile paddle you could see a manatee, an alligator, a bald eagle, and a sand shark, not to mention the tropical birds for the birder in your life. There are also some world-class sandy beaches to relax on in the bay around the preserve, and it’s well worth it to pack a snack. You will need a single-use day pass for driving into the park, so be sure to get it online before you go: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/estero-bay-preserve-state-park .
No doubt about it, Fort Myers and Sanibel Island is a Top Paddling Destination. Plan your family trip: https://www.visitfortmyers.com/ . We were recently in Fort Myers and the Islands filming a new TV show, check out the trip report.