Hops and Skips

When Spring Break hits each year, you can find us in Naples, Florida. We have visited Colin’s parents for eight of our nine years working on a school calendar, and it’s one of our most anticipated parts of each year. Naples is so far south that the weather is guaranteed to be like summer – a contrast to the more northern beaches of Florida’s panhandle that, due to their ease of access, are usually more popular among Tennesseans. After months of winter chill, it’s the BEST feeling to break out the shorts and feel the 24-hour weight of warm air.

While our annual trip is mostly one of family and relaxation, I do try and find something new to discover while we’re there. Over the years, we’ve road-tripped to Miami, wandered Sanibel Island, and kayaked on Rookery Bay. This year, we explored by boat, taking a trip to Keewaydin Island for a late-afternoon shelling adventure.

Keewaydin Island is frequently listed as one of the “hidden gems” or “secret beaches” of Southwest Florida. It’s an eight mile long barrier island that can only be accessed by boat and is protected by the Rookery Bay Reserve. You’ll find quiet, white-sand beaches that are completely free of development – a total contrast to the busy shores of Naples and Fort Myers.

Our guide was Captain Stephen with Naples Waterway and Wildlife Tours. We left Naples City Dock when the mid-afternoon sun was high and hot; the shade of our pontoon boat was welcome shelter during our leisurely cruise to the island. We spotted wildlife as we traveled through the mangroves and, as we approached our stopping point, discovered that Keewaydin Island is definitely not so “secret;” with a long line of boats already laid ashore, it became clear that this spot is party central to those in the know. A short walk across the coastal strand, though, leads to the island’s quieter, secluded western shore. Here, we dug through shells and ran through waves until the lowering sun – and the wafting aroma of the island’s infamous “burger barge” – called us home.

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