As we headed south from Venice on the ICW on a Saturday we were rocked, rolled and waked by all of the boat traffic. We try not to travel on weekends but after waiting so long we had to go when the weather was good. Our poor little dinghy went airborne a few times with the huge wakes.
We got settled anchored between Useppa Island and Cabbage Key in the same place we anchored a couple of years ago. Our draft is too deep to get into Pelican Bay so we went where we knew we’d be just fine. There were quite a few boats there already but plenty of space. We took the dinghy over to Cabbage Key to explore. Last time we were here we just ate quickly and got back out to the boat. We wanted to walk around the island a bit this time. We got docked and immediately made friends with the gopher tortoises. There were five of them, named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The girls had no clue who that was.
Then we took a quick hike to the top of the old water tower and took in the view of the islands around. I’m terrified of heights and even this not very high water tower was enough for me. Next up we took one of the trails around the island to find the shell tree. We spotted a couple more tortoises on the way and stopped to watch them for a bit. After finding the shell tree on our second lap around we headed back to the main lawn and got some drinks and cooled off for a minute!
We headed back to the boat for the night with plans to be at Cabbage Key right when the restaurant opened the next day for lunch. We got there around 10:50 AM and got our name on the list. Perfect timing as we got there just before the tour boat flooded in! We ordered our very over priced burgers and at a quick early lunch and then headed back to the boat.
We were so excited to go find the Tunnel of Love and Cayo Costa beach! Last time we were here we went into Pelican Bay via dinghy and took the shuttle to the other side of the island to the beach. This time I found Tunnel of Love on our charts so off we went to explore. We are so limited by depth in the big boat that we all love just zipping around and not caring what happens to the dinghy (for the most part). We hit bottom? Ok. We get stuck in a mangrove? Ok. It’s kind of relaxing to be able to motor around and deal with whatever comes our way in an inflatable boat.
The Tunnel of Love was great. What a neat experience. We were pretty sure we may not make it through some spots. Molly navigated a lot of mangrove branches and we all played some limbo with the branches. We had to push ourselves off a few times but we kept following the little GPS dot and finally found where we could tie up and hop out on land!
Not 50 steps away the grasses opened into breathtaking beach. And we had it almost all to ourselves. It was so amazing to be here instead of where the shuttle lets off with all the people. I can’t get over how beautiful it was.
Shells everywhere. Shell jackpot. We walked and walked and walked. Shells. Crabs. You name it we picked it up.
We chatted with a few scattered people and then went back to where we came into the beach and let Maddy play in the sand for a bit. She loves to imagine and create. She was busy building a horse jump out of shells and sticks.
Eventually we were hot and it was time to head back through the grasses to the dinghy (which was thankfully still there!).
By the time we got back to the boat we were hot and the kids were ready to jump right in. They had a great time swimming off the back of the boat and were thrilled to discover an adult favorite….the life vest diaper. They thought they were so clever wearing their vest upside down with legs through the arm holes. Little did they know that adults have been doing that for ages!
Ben and I enjoyed sitting out back and watching them and just relaxing. It was Sunday afternoon at this point and all the boat traffic had calmed. What a lovely way to spend an evening!