More Travel Facts for the Cape Haze Pioneer and Boca Grande Trails
Looking for an easy escape from winter's icy grip? Here are extended Travel Facts to help you plan an active trip to Florida's warm-fingered Gulf Coast. Read the full article to learn more about what gives these neighboring rail-trails their salty personalities.
The airport at Ft. Myers is not far from Boca Grande. You also can fly to Tampa or Sarasota and drive south. Eventually you have to get a car, hop on I-75 and take Florida 776 to Englewood. The Cape Haze Pioneer trailhead is at the intersection of Route 776 and 771 in the town of McCall.
Biking from the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail to Boca Grande requires rides on busy two-lane highways. Until the trail to Placida is complete, I recommend driving to Boca Grande. Park at the north end fishing pier and bike over the causeway, or park in the state park on the island's southern end.
Where to Stay
The barrier islands are renowned for their resorts, in particular Palm Island. It has two miles of private beach on the Gulf, tennis courts, and tours of the nearby islands. Gasparilla Inn (800.996.1913), with its golf course, tennis courts, fishing guides and grand setting is one of the most posh places on Boca Grande. The Innlet (941.964.2294) is a fine, less regal lodging alternative, and its restaurant is very bike friendly. Placida Harbour offers condos along the Little Gasparilla Island beach or the harbor facing the mainland (941.697.4500; 888.941.9444). Harbor Lakes (941.624.4511; 800.468.5022) in Port Charlotte is a good place to camp close to the trails. It also has cottages.
Where to Eat
Locals eat at the Fishery (941.697.2451) in Placida, right by the fishing boats. It's funky and fine at the same time. Best breakfast place is Loons on a Limb, in the Boca Grande Village (941.964.0155). Don't miss the Pink Elephant at 5th and Bayou Avenue in Boca Grande (941.964.0100).
What to Do
A good time to visit the trails is in September and October, when the weather cools and the crowds have yet to arrive. Standing at the southern point of Boca Grande, Dave Allen points out the watery world that surrounds the barrier island: Charlotte Harbor to the north with Cayacosta Island; the Gulf of Mexico to the West, with Sanibel, Captiva and many smaller islands. "This is some of the best kayaking water you can find," says Allen, a regular rider in the Coastal Cruisers bike tours. He also runs Port Charlotte Kayakers.
Combine biking and kayaking by riding or driving to Grande Tours (941.697.8825) in Placida and swapping your wheels for boats. Marian Schneider, who runs Grande Tours, will outfit kids as well as novices to experts with kayaks and guides to explore the creeks, the bays, and the islands in the gulf.
The deep water where the Gulf of Mexico meets Charlotte Harbor at Boca Grande Pass has attracted tarpon for eons. Some say the tarpon fishing is not what it once was, but Boca Grande still has an active fleet of tarpon fishing boats, including Mark Fultch's "Sitarah" (941.964.0234).
The Boca Grande Fishing Guides Association holds an annual tarpon fishing tournament in May. And Don Pedro Island State Park(941.964.0375) is only a ferry ride away.
Where to Rent Bicycles
Frank Goody at Bikes and Boards (966 S. McCall Road/Hwy. 776) in Englewood rents a selection of road and hybrid bikes (941.474.2019); other shops that are open in high season rent bikes as well.