Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach and the world’s foremost authority on beaches, considers Don Pedro Island State Park one of Florida’s most tranquil beaches. There’s good reason this beach is worthy of the designation. Located on the barrier island of Don Pedro Island in Southwest Florida’s Charlotte County, it’s only accessible by boat.
If you’re not a boat owner or one who likes to paddle a kayak, Captiva Cruises offers regularly scheduled trips departing from Cape Haze Marina in Englewood to the state park. Pack along provisions for the trip, such as water, snacks and sunscreen. Other than the pavilion, outdoor showers, restrooms and grills, you won’t find other modern amenities.
Twice a month, Captive Cruises partners with the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center to offer guided walks on the park’s trails. During a recent trip, I learned about marshmallow trees (back in the day, sweet marshmallows were made from the root) and Hercules club, also known as the toothache tree (because chewing on the leaves or bark will numb your teeth, tongue and mouth. Native Americans and early settlers used it for medical purposes.) The walking tour leads to the beach where various shells such as fighting conchs and pen shells were identified.
While walking with the guide, birds were identified and gopher tortoise burrows were pointed out. The unexpected hit of the trip seemed to be the identification of bobcat scat (as in poop) along the trail. A staff member from the environmental center picked it up and pulled it apart, confirming the small bones and fur were that of a mouse digested by a bobcat. [Sidebar: if you’re into scat, the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center’s visitor center at Cedar Point in Englewood has a detailed scat collection on display. Don’t worry, it’s dry and doesn’t stink.]
It’s a scenic, leisurely trip aboard a 45-passenger catamaran where dolphins have been known to make an appearance, either in the distance or running with the boat’s wake. In addition to Don Pedro Island State Park, Captiva Cruises offers excursions to Cayo Costa State Park, Boca Grande, and dolphin and wildlife sunset cruises either departing from Cape Haze Marina or the Pink Elephant Dock in Boca Grande. Visit CaptivaCruises.com or call (239) 472-5100 to book your trip to paradise.