Campers will launch their boats from Pine Island and set out on an epic paddle to Cayo Costa State Park.

Campers will launch their boats from Pine Island and set out on an epic paddle to Cayo Costa State Park.

At the end of July, we’re setting out on a new kind of adventure with our teen campers. We’re going to pack up our kayaks and paddle from Pine Island to Cayo Costa, a beautiful and barely inhabited island north of Captiva. When we arrive, we’ll set up camp in rustic cabins. The crazy thing is, after that, we’re going to make it up as we go along!

There are plenty of activities to enjoy. We can paddle, hike, snorkel, go beachcombing, make art, cook gourmet camp food… and the list goes on! We’re going to wake up and decide what we feel like doing. We’ll stargaze and toast marshmallows over a campfire. We are only limited by our ideas, and one thing is for sure – there will be tons of opportunities to enjoy and learn about nature. We call it a freestyle adventure, and we’re pretty excited to share it with you. We interviewed group leader Kealy McNeal to learn more.

There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset on a wild island.

There’s nothing quite like watching the sunset on a wild island.

What makes Cayo Costa special? How is it different from Sanibel?

Visiting Cayo Costa is like going back in time. Very few people live there, so the island is relatively untouched by humans and it’s a rare chance to experience wild Florida as it once was. There are only park structures in the area where we’ll be camping, a few cabins and some picnic tables. It’s really quiet and beautiful.

Campers can expect dark skies for stargazing, and clear water for snorkeling. Cayo Costa is farther from the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River than Sanibel, so it is not as impacted by changing river conditions that can alter water clarity. We will also find a slightly different assortment of items on the beach. One year we collected sea biscuits and arrowhead sand dollars, both close relatives of the sand dollars we commonly find on Sanibel.

Campers will be asked to keep a journal about their experience, and will be able to share their writing on our blog, if they’d like to.

Campers will be asked to keep a journal about their experience, and will be able to share their writing on our blog, if they’d like to.

What will the sleeping situation be like?

We will be staying in basic one-room cabins. There are restrooms and cold showers nearby. We will have everything we need!

Cayo Costa State Park will be our home base for this adventure.

Cayo Costa State Park will be our home base for this adventure.

How will we decide what to do each day?

We’ll share our ideas and make a decision as a group. There are so many options! Fishing, hiking, paddling, exploring, writing… some days campers might be asked to test their physical limits, but it will all be for the sake of adventure and creating lasting memories.

Whittling is a favorite creative pastime among campers.

Whittling is a favorite creative pastime among campers.

What are some of the survival skills we’ll practice?

Making fires, building shelters, and collecting fresh water to drink. We also love requests, if there’s a specific skill your camper would like to learn!

Campfires are an essential part of any outdoor adventure.

Campfires are an essential part of any outdoor adventure.

Can we make art?

Definitely. There will be opportunities to write, make sand sculptures, carve, and create art with natural materials. Creativity is encouraged!

Is there any wildlife we can expect to see?

The wildlife watching on Cayo Costa is excellent. We’ll venture to Manatee Hole, a top secret spot where manatees can be found year-round. In the past, we have seen fish, sharks, and sea turtles while snorkeling there. We’ll also see many of the common creatures we find on Sanibel.

Cayo Costa’s pristine beaches are perfect for beachcombing.

Cayo Costa’s pristine beaches are perfect for beachcombing.

What are we going to eat?

Delicious camp food! I want to keep it a surprise, but there will be no shortage of tasty meals. Maybe we will even forage for edible plants on the island and figure out how to prepare them.

What will we do in the evening?

Watch the sunset, stargaze, build campfires, make s’mores, sing songs. We encourage campers to bring their instruments.

Thanks, Kealy! This program runs from July 29th to August 2nd and is open to a limited number of campers ages 13-18. To learn more and register, please click here.

Campers on the dock at Cayo Costa State Park.

Campers on the dock at Cayo Costa State Park.

Campers are likely to find sand dollars on this trip!

Campers are likely to find sand dollars on this trip!

We’ll visit some of our favorite gentle giants at Manatee Hole.

We’ll visit some of our favorite gentle giants at Manatee Hole.





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