Cayo Costa, which means "Key by the Coast," offers scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico and is accessible only by boat. More than 95 percent of the island is owned by the State of Florida and reserved for park lands.
The Cayo Costa State Park has something for everyone 7 miles of beautiful beaches, 6.5 miles of biking and hiking trails, pine forests, oak-palm hammocks and mangrove swamps. Visitors may see manatees and pods of dolphins in the waters surrounding the 2,426 acre park, as well as a variety of birds. Saltwater anglers can fish from their boats or throw a line out into the surf.
The new Friends of Cayo Costa State Park will celebrate the park's history from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5 through an inaugural "Cayo Costa Heritage Day." The day will feature tours of the island, storytelling by members of the original fishing families, nature walks, demonstrations and wonderful food.
"This is a chance for visitors to see the unique qualities of this pristine barrier island and to learn more about the fascinating history of the original and early settlers who made their livelihood there for so many years," said Norm Meshaw, chairman of the event.
Several area charter services are offering roundtrip transportation included with admission on a limited, first come first served basis. From Pine Island, Captiva, Punta Gorda and Boca Grande, boat tour owners and operators have come forward to support the inaugural event introducing the new Friends of the Cayo Costa State Park.
"We are delighted with the generous support of these businesses," said Meshaw. "They have dedicated their passenger tour boats to our event and are offering fabulous discount fares for people wishing to come to Cayo Costa for the day. All proceeds are going to our Friends groups so we can begin new efforts to support the park."
What: Cayo Costa Heritage Day
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 5
Where: Cayo Costa State Park
Tickets: Adults, $20; Children 12 years and younger, $10
To make local reservations, contact Captiva Cruises at 472-5300
Captiva Cruises is dedicating their 49-passenger Santiva for the day. It will depart and return to McCarthy's Marina.
"Cayo Costa is a State of Florida treasure and Captiva Cruises is proud to have been bringing passengers to the park since 1986," said Paul McCarthy, owner of McCarthy's Marina and Captiva Cruises. "We are happy to support this event and the new Friends group."
Tropic Star Cruises will depart with three roundtrips from Bokeelia with their famous boat reminiscent of the African Queen from the Bogart film. Kingfisher Fleet will dedicate seats on the Kingfisher leaving and returning from Fisherman's Warf in Punta Gorda. The Calusa Queen, from Boca Grande, will operate with two roundtrips and can accommodate 60 passengers.
Activities will be held at the state park landing area off Pelican Bay and beachside near the pavilions and camp ground area. It will take place rain or shine. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 years or younger. The price includes transportation, all activities and lunch.
The Friends of Cayo Costa State Park is a new citizen support organization focused on protection and improvement for Cayo Costa State Park. FCC is a division of the Barrier Island Parks Society. All proceeds from the event will go exclusively toward funding project and program needs for the park.