It looks as if our January thaw is over and we’re headed back into the deep freeze. Time to think about heading someplace warm for a week or two. There are almost an unlimited number of places that you could go if money is no object, but I have a suggestion for those of you who want to spend your vacation doing some paddling and need to keep the cost reasonable. Try the Ft. Myers area of southwest Florida. It will take a couple of days, but you have the option of driving instead of flying which may not save a ton on the transportation, but it will allow you to take your own boat and paddling equipment with you, saving on rental costs. It also makes it easier to take camping equipment if you want to reduce the costs of lodging. By the way, I am not being paid by the Ft. Myers tourist board or chamber of commerce, I just happened to visit the area twice in last year and had a great time paddling on both occasions! Within a 2-hour drive of Ft. Myers you have a tremendous choice of rivers, protected and open ocean paddling. The water is always warm (if you are comparing it to Lake Michigan) and you will get to sea all kinds of bird and sea life around you. We paddled with dolphins on trips in January and September and saw more birds than I can count. And the recent cold snap notwithstanding, the air temperatures are usually very nice, as well.
If you want to do a self-supported kayak camping trip, you can go a little farther south to the Everglades/10,000 Islands region. However, it is entirely possible to do a day trip in this area while still staying in the Ft. Myers area. On both trips last year, my husband and I chose to stay in a hotel in Ft. Myers and do day trips. We flew down to Florida and rented our paddling equipment. There are plenty of outfitters in the region. Last January we paddled at Captiva Island, in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, and took a day-long guided trip through the mangroves near Everglades City. In September, we paddled with alligators on the Myakka River, got drenched by rain in a canoe on the Estero River, and basked in the sunshine while sea kayaking the Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve at Little Pine Island. I will admit that much of the rental gear left something to be desired which is why the thought of driving and taking my own boats and equipment is so appealing. But if, like me, you would just be happy to have 3 warm days on the water regardless of the condition of the kayaks, this could be the place for you. We did get nice boats at Captiva Island and the Everglades, but I would recommend taking as many of your own accessories as you can fit in your luggage, such as your own paddle, PFD, and paddle float.
As I sit here freezing in front of my computer looking through my vacation photos to choose some for this blog, it is taking all my willpower not to go down to the garage, load up the car, and point it south. Here’s hoping you’ll be lucky enough to get away for awhile this winter!