Great Calusa Blueway
Top Stops Along the Trail
Your Great Calusa Blueway maps are not just charts for setting your course; they’re loaded with more than 80 highlights and access points along the 190-mile trail. Here are eight great spots you’ll want to put on your to-do list as you visit the trail again and again.
Phase 2 / Pine Island Sound
- Tarpon Bay: This protected body of water within the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has a long-established outfitter and a gentle canoe/kayak launch site. It’s a great place to paddle on a windy day. Try the Commodore Creek Trail, which snakes into the refuge’s mangroves. Tiny crabs scurry along mangrove roots while wading birds stalk them. Branches create tunnels overhead. The 21st century seems miles away.
- Picnic Island: This San Carlos Bay island started as a place to dump dredged-up material when they dug the Intracoastal Waterway. Today, it’s a place to tent camp, picnic, swim and boat-watch. It’s accessible from both Tropical Point, a quiet Pine Island park, and Punta Rassa, a bustling south Fort Myers boat ramp. It’s a location well worth the open-water paddle. Watch for dancing reddish egrets in the moon-shaped lagoon.
Phase 3 / Caloosahatchee River
- Hickey's Creek: More than 1,200 acres of preserve surround this slender creek’s canoe and kayak landing. The photo on the cover of the Phase 3/Caloosahatchee map was shot here. The creek is loaded with intricate details from Mother Nature – brightly striped turtles, six-foot-tall lush leather ferns and tiny fish. If you paddle here from the Caloosahatchee, watch for the camel – yes, a camel – in the large yard at the entrance to the creek.
- Orange River: Welcome to Old Florida. Moss-draped oaks lean over the river, and people sit on porches and docks overlooking the calm water. In the wintertime, don’t be surprised to see a lumbering sea cow playing near the power plant and Lee County’s Manatee Park.