The Florida Intracoastal Waterway which runs from Boston to Florida and along the Atlantic East Coast and Gulf Coast is a series of canals, rivers, bays and inlets which runs parallel to the shoreline. I recently visited St Augustine, Fla. and saw part of the coastal waterway that runs through town and along the Atlantic Ocean coastline. The river closest to the ocean is the Salt River seen from the top of the lighthouse which connects with the Intracoastal Waterway which lies further inland.
Some parts of the waterway is naturally made with islands and rivers separated by the mainland and some parts were made by people such as engineers, town officials and land developers. The concept of building a inland/coastal waterway in Florida began in 1885 when the Florida Canal Co. began to dredge a canal between Mosquito Lagoon and Indian River which is just north of Merritt Island. USA Today published an article about the Intracoastal Waterway which described its purposes, location and early designers.
Some parts of the waterway is used for commercial purposes to transport ocean freight, marine cargo and some parts of it are used exclusively for recreational purposes. Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway which lies between a barrier island and the mainland is called Millionaires Row because of the expensive homes and boats that line the waterway. There are many people who take their boats up through the Intracoastal Waterway for several states. In my area of SW Florida the Caloosahatchee River runs from the Gulf of Mexico to Lake Okeechobee inland and then through the St. Lucie River until its connects with the waterway on the east coast. Wikipedia also has a lot of interesting facts about the Intracoastal Waterway.
The St. Augustine Lighthouse shown in the pictures above replaced the old Spanish Watchtower that was constructed in 1824 which was also the first official lighthouse in Florida. The St. Augustine Lighthouse was finished in 1874, took over 1 million bricks to build and stands 14 stories tall.
I didn’t have much time to visit St. Augustine and there is a lot to see and enjoy especially if you are a history buff so I chose the historic lighthouse for my short visit and I was not disappointed. The winding staircase inside the lighthouse with 219 steps is wide enough for two people to walk abreast or past one another. When I made it to the top, there was a circular walkway around the top where you can see for miles and enjoy the panoramic vistas of the city of St. Augustine, Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal waterway.
I found out from reading Wikipedia that St. Augustine was founded by Spanish explorer Admiral Pedro Menendez de Avites who named the city St. Augustine because some of his sailors sighted land eleven days earlier on August 28th which is the Feast Day of St. Augustine. St. Augustine who lived around 354-450 was a very important person in the development and foundation of the early Christian Church and religion.
The grounds around the St. Augustine Lighthouse have the original Innkeepers house, now a museum, artifacts from shipwrecks off the beach, an active boat building area where volunteers are building small boats of earlier times like the “Skipjack” and “Yawl” which were used by local fishermen and British Warships. St. Augustine was once the center of the shrimp fishing industry in the U.S. The website VisitSt.Augustine has some good information about what to see and do in this town. Floridahistoriccoast is another good travelers website.
The pictures shown above are of the visitor center and paths through the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation on Sanibel Island, Fla. SCCF is one of the many attractions on Sanibel because they have several preserves, trails, a garden center and exhibits that show and explain how coastal and inland habitats live and thrive under unique conditions. The main mission of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation is to conserve the coastal resources and aquatic habitats on Sanibel and Captiva and surrounding watershed.
The SCCF has several scientists on staff who monitor the water quality around Sanibel and report on the amount of pollution, dissolved oxygen, salinity and other factors of the watershed. The waters around Sanibel were once filled with healthy oyster beds but they have been diminished and threatened by the amount of pollution coming from nearby places.
The Visitor Center at the SCCF is a great place to see the native animals and plants that live on Sanibel-Captiva including the turtles who nest on the islands. There are live turtles to view and exhibits of habitats. If you have the time and like hiking, there is a trail that winds through the several hundred acre preserve where you can view fresh water habitats, native birds and trees on Sanibel. The trail is well marked and you can take a short stroll or walk the whole length of the preserve which can take an hour or two. The trail contains an observation tower as well.
One of the best well known and cared for parts of SCCF is the Native Garden Center which was recently moved to a better and larger location on Periwinkle Way which contains several acres of plants and shrubs to view or purchase. It is managed and cared for by employees of SCCF and many volunteers.
The Sanibel Island Bridge was built and opened in 1963 which allowed traffic to freely move between the mainland of Ft. Myers and Lee County to Sanibel Island. Access to Sanibel Island use to be available only by ferry boat. Commercial traffic and businesses sprouted up on the island after the bridge was built but residents have saved the quaint and small island feel of Sanibel by not allowing high rise Condo’s or fast food restaurants.
The Sanibel Island bridge is actually 3 bridges which reach across two man made islands which together make up the Sanibel Island Causeway. The causeway is 3 miles long and consists of several areas where people spend the day to fish, play water sports, picnic or spend time with family and friends. Since the new bridge was repaired and re-opened in 2007 which replaced the old draw bridge, bicyclists can now use a bicycle lane to trek across the causeway and 3 bridges. Caution should be taken however as there is no barrier between cars and bicycles other than a white line.
The main span of the new bridge is 17 ft 6 inches high and allows yachts and most kinds of boats to travel under who are making their way up the Caloosahatchee River or out to the San Carlos Bay or Gulf of Mexico. It’s fun to watch the boat traffic pass under and by the bridge. There are also several kinds of birds especially Pelicans who use the wind drafts along the bridge to glide and look for fish to eat.
On windy days there are many wind surfers who use the wide open Pine Island Sound to race across the water. There are also kayakers, paddle boarders and people using jet ski’s who travel across the bridge and use the causeway islands to launch their craft. The toll to pass over the bridge is still a hefty $6 per car.
The Sanibel Lighthouse has been an icon and landmark on Sanibel Island since 1884 and has drawn visitors to Sanibel Island for it’s historical significance and nearby beautiful beaches. It had acted as a navigational beacon for ships traveling around the barrier islands of SW Florida for over 100 years. There is a full time lighthouse keeper living next to the lighthouse and a nice path to walk around the lighthouse.
I made a trip to the Sanibel Lighthouse and beaches which surround the lighthouse on both the west and east sides of the southern tip of the island. It only takes a short walk to see the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island. If you walk to the east side of the island you can see the Pine Island Sound, Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Bridge in the distance.
There is a lot of activity near the lighthouse with a fishing pier and water sports such as parasailing. I enjoyed seeing a man throwing a ball out into the Gulf and watching his Golden Retriever swim after it. The waves are usually choppy and currents strong on this part of the island so swimmers should be very careful. It is safer to swim on the Gulf of Mexico side further north on the islands’ beaches where the currents are not so strong. There is public parking in a few different lots next to the lighthouse and its costs a few dollars per hour. There are also restrooms nearby. The pictures above show the lighthouse from both the Gulf and Pine Island Side as well as the beach. There are a couple of good websites to learn more about traveling and or staying on Sanibel including the Chamber of Commerce and official Sanibel City website.
Bowmans Beach is one of the few public beaches on Sanibel Island and well worth the visit for beachgoers and shell collectors. The beach is located in the middle of the island at the end of Bowmans Beach Rd. There is a public parking lot a short distance away where parking costs a few dollars an hour. There are also showers and public bathrooms at the beach. The white sandy beach at Bowmans stretches for several miles and the water is usually aqua marine blue and green and very inviting to swim. Shell collectors like the beach at Bowmans also for its variety and abundance of shells to collect. Collecting live shell is not permitted. Fisherman can also fish from the beach. The only other public beaches I know of on Sanibel are located near the lighthouse at the southern end of the island and the beach at Blind Pass at the northern end of the island. Visitors who have been to Bowmans Beach and rated their experiences on Trip Advisor have rated it mostly excellent to very good. Make sure to bring sunscreen, chairs and an umbrella as the suns rays and UV light are very strong. Other attraction nearby are the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum. There are also many good restaurants on the island. The Sanibel Island Chamber of Commerce has good information for people that want to stay on the island or do more than just visit the beaches.
The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptile caerulea) is a song bird which lets out a loud shrill when it is calling out to other birds or trying to scare away intruders from their nesting and foraging areas. It is mostly grayish with a white underbelly. It flicks it’s tail back and forth trying to scare small insects and spiders from their hiding places to eat. They are common in forests with a lot of dense tree cover like the one where I saw this one at the Six Mile Cypress Slough in Ft. Myers. This wetland park with a great 1.2 mile boardwalk to view a swampland and forest is also on the Great Florida Birding Trail. The Gnatcatcher quickly flies from tree to tree and is hard to photograph. The second picture in this post is of the bird swinging it’s tail back and forth. There are many other small birds in this swampland and wet forest which allows these small birds plenty of places to build nests and small insects to feed upon. The All About Birds website has some good additional information about the Blue Gray Gnatcatcher.
I took these pictures over a course of about 2 years. They were all taken from the Sanibel Causeway with the exception of one. Pine Island Sound can be seen from a lot of vantage points including many from the Sanibel Causeway, Punta Rassa on the Ft. Myers side, Sanibel Island and Pine Island which I do not visit much because of the long drive. As you can see from the pictures there is a lot going on in the sound. The fishing is great there and people fish from boats as well as land. There are strong currents moving through Pine Island Sound so be careful when you take a boat out or swim in its waters. There are some really neat islands you can visit if you are traveling by boat including Useppa Island or Cabbage Key. Captiva Island has a cruise company which can take you out for dolphin viewings, shelling or dinner cruises. Visit Captiva Cruises to find out more about their excursions. I like Pine Island Sounds accessibility by anyone willing to drive a car to the causeway, put in a small sailboat or kayak or fish from its shores.
Pictures in this gallery are of a sunset over the Pine Island Sound, Kayak with a dog perched on front, 2 Laughing Gull Shorebirds flying over the water, Blue Heron, Windsurfers, Sailboat, View of Pine Island Sound and Kayakers and Paddle boarders.
Click on any picture to see a larger image
Pictures in this gallery are of a sunset over the Pine Island Sound, Kayak with a dog perched on front, 2 Laughing Gull Shorebirds flying over the water, Blue Heron, Windsurfers, Sailboat, View of Pine Island Sound and Kayakers and Paddleboarders.
Pine Island Sound is an Aquatic Preserve and body of water that lies between Pine Island, Sanibel Island and Charlotte Harbor and covers approximately 54,000 acres of water. The Sanibel Bridge crosses the Pine Island Sound and you can get a good view of the aquatic preserve and watch people fishing, kayaking, swimming, and bird watching when you drive across the water and land bridge. I have kayaked , fished and photographed birds in the sound and enjoyed being followed by dolphins while I kayaked. I have included some of my own pictures of the sound in this article and a You Tube video of a fish boat captain cruising through the waters of Pine Island Sound.
Pine Island Sound is ecologically diverse containing seagrass beds, oyster beds and mangroves which provide food and habitat for many types of fish and marine life. Dolphins and manatees are regularly seen swimming through it waters. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation located on Sanibel Island is a scientific and research organizaion which monitors the health of the coastal habitats of Pine Island Sound and provides restoration efforts like restoring oyster beds, sea grass beds and mangroves.
The Great Calusa Blueway crosses Pine Island Sound and many people take advantage of the scenic views and waters in and around Pine Island Sound. The Florida Dept. of State contains some basic facts about Pine Island Sound and a map of its location in SW Florida. The waters of Pine Island Sound mix with the salty and brackish waters of the Charlotte Harbor, San Carlos Bay and Caloosahatchee River estuaries which helps to make it unique and rich in marine life.
Windsurfing off the Sanibel Causeway at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee is a popular sport for people looking to speed across the Pine Island Sound. Parasailing and kayaking are also popular pastimes in this area of Lee County. Located between Sanibel Island and mainland Ft. Myers, the Sanibel Causeway is a 3 mile land bridge stretched across the Pine Island Sound. The causeway also has picnic areas and lots of areas to fish. Bird watchers can see Brown Pelicans, Osprey, White Egrets, Blue herons, Laughing Gulls and others kinds of birds. Click on the link below to watch some windsurfing in action.