I’ve just celebrated another Laurentines Day on the 28th of February! (If you’re new here, that’s the official holiday I created for my birthday.) In fact it was the 11th annual Laurentines Day. I usually plan a celebration or a trip but this year I just wasn’t in the mood to party and a trip just wasn’t possible so I decided I would embark on a quick getaway and go camping solo!
What on earth would make a 30 something year old single mom want to celebrate her birthday in the wilderness by herself? The answer is life. I’m tired y’all — mentally, emotionally, physically tired.
The demands of being a single parent with a teenager playing high school football, college recruitment tasks (it’s apparently my new part-time job that no one warned me about), track mom chauffeur duty, working full-time with the largest workload I’ve ever had since being at this hospital, and running my blog business have zapped me. Add on top of all of that the woes of being single for 2 years and the how much dating today currently sucks.
This mama needed to get away quickly, from everything and everyone ASAP. I needed water, wine, solitude, and silence, my go-to ingredients when I need to recharge.
One of my adventure goals this year is to visit more Florida state parks and one of the parks on my list was Lover’s Key State Park, south of Ft. Meyers. The pictures just drew me in. My original plan was to drive the 2 1/2 hours down to Lover’s Key and come back.
However I knew that wouldn’t feel like enough of an escape, so I decided to look for state parks with cabins and then maybe I could visit 2 state parks in one visit.
I came across Cayo Costa State Park in my search, a barrier island state park near Port Charlotte, with 2420 acres of unspoiled Florida nature. They have rustic cabins and tent campsites.
The state park is only accessible by boat. One look at the deserted beaches and clear water in the pictures on the website and I was sold. You can’t get much further away from life than running off to a semi-remote island!
Unfortunately for the date I needed there were no cabins available, but I wasn’t deterred. I own a 3 person tent that I used last spring to go camping with my son and my friend. It was on my bucketlist to try it solo so I decided this would be as good a time as any to go for it.
Cayo Costa State Park is only accessible by boat. You can dock a private boat if you own one or even charter a boat. However, the ferry service that operates regular service for campers is Tropic Star.
There is a another concessionaire listed on the state park website that runs day trips to the island, but for overnight campers needing round trip service you have to reserve through Tropic Star.
It was super easy to call and make my reservation. Once you arrive you can drive around near the dock to unload your gear and then go and find a parking space in the lot.
The ferry ride across Charlotte Harbor to Cayo Costa island is about 1 hour. It’s a comfortable ride with covered seating area. However I will say that if the seas are choppy or you tend to get motion sickness you may want to take something like Dramamine or some other motion sickness medication.
Cost: $50 roundtrip; $10 per night parking
The campsites are very basic but large. You have a picnic table, wooden post, and fire pit. Some of the campsites are much closer to each other than some of the others. It was hard to determine that from just looking at the map provided online.
None of the campsites are actually beachfront. The dunes are between the campsite and the beach, but when it’s quiet you can hear the waves crashing against the shore.
The cabins are on the other side of the main road from the tent sites and seem to be a bit more private because they aren’t so close together. The cabins are primitive with bunk beds and some do have a screened porch. There is no electricity or bathrooms inside of the cabin.
There are community bathrooms and showers but no power in the bathrooms. There also isn’t hot water so just be prepared for that. There is potable water so that’s a plus.
Pets are allowed at the tent campsites but not allowed in cabins. They are also not allowed on the beach which is why I opted to not bring my dog along.
Things To Do
I went on a night where there was no moon and boy am I glad it worked out that way. The moonless sky was absolutely jaw dropping! It was like being in a planetarium with every single star twinkling in the sky.
It was such a spiritual moment. I wish I had a star chart so that I knew what I was seeing.
The stretches of beach on the gulf facing side of the island provide the perfect viewing spot for a Florida sunset. I really enjoyed the serenity.
The beach is also nature’s best gym! It’s perfect for a run, a jog, a swim, or you can have a private yoga session at sunrise like I did. After doing yoga in the morning completely alone, with nothing but the sounds of the crashing waves and birds, I was so centered and at peace.
Sunday morning I rented a bike from the gift shop. The bikes are adorable with baskets, drink holders, and cell phone holders. There are miles of easy trails to explore on the island. When I return I will rent a bike to have for the entire day.
I haven’t been on a bike in over 20 years, but I managed to navigate the trails just fine and wasn’t in too much pain the next day. LOL Some pain, yes of course. But I didn’t die and I didn’t fall off so we will call this a win.
- Miles and miles and miles of beach.
- Bike rental – $4/hr; $10 all day
- Hiking trails
- Kayak rental
Things to know before you go:
1. There are raccoons, snakes, and dune rats on the island. I never saw any snakes but I definitely heard critters roaming and scurrying around at night outside of my tent. I was definitely on edge after being warned by one of the volunteers about the dune rats chewing through tents to get to food!!
Thankfully I didn’t have any issues with uninvited guest. I had a small hard cooler that I secured shut with tethered rope. You should definitely pack a hard shell cooler or container for food and a way to secure it shut.
2. I packed modestly because I wasn’t sure of the lay of the land. However, people literally seemed to bring everything but the kitchen sink.
The crew loads your gear onto the ferry. They unload it onto the dock. There are large wheel barrels near the ranger shack that you can use to bring your gear from the dock to the tram pickup point.
You load your gear onto the tram and they take you the mile to the camp and cabin sites. As long as you are arriving between 9 am and 4pm you can take advantage of the tram to carry you from the dock area to the campgrounds.
3. I didn’t have any issues with bugs this time of year, at the end of winter. Being so close to the water I can definitely see how bugs would be treacherous in the warmer months so insect repellant is an absolute must.
4. The store has souvenirs, firewood, ice, every Klondike bar flavor known to man, and pretty much any and everything you may have forgotten to pack.
5. It’s a campground and with that comes the inevitable fact that some people are horribly inconsiderate campers and some people will be awesome!
My fire starters I brought weren’t working and the wood just wouldn’t catch and get going. My campsite neighbor to the left was gracious enough to help me out, though my ego is bruised from not being able to say I did everything by myself on this solo camping adventure.
However the campers to the right had no regard for being in a shared space. Their loudness, was the one thing that put a bit of a downer on my trip. I really craved peace and quiet. In the future it’s worth it to invest in noise cancelling headphones when you want to drown out all of the noise around you.
6. Alcohol is allowed in the park but you can’t have glass containers on the beach. I was glad to have my Thermos vacuum insulated jar with me. It kept my wine ice cold from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon.
Thermos vacuum insulated jar
7. There is no electricity at the campsites and generators are not permitted. You will definitely want to have backup batteries and chargers. I forgot my charger but there is a charging station on the front porch of the ranger’s station.
Overall solo camping was actually very calming and I would certainly do it again. I’m so proud that I was able to erect my tent in no time without any issues. I really enjoyed spending time with myself getting recentered and refocused.
I had headphones to listen to my audi book and music and I brought my colored pencils and coloring books. I also had my Thermos filled with my favorite white wine.
My spirit felt renewed and recharged after taking this time to just be.
Because of the timing of the ferry it made it difficult to get to Lover’s Key as I had originally planned.
By the time I got there it was 4pm in the evening. I just had enough time to walk along the beach before making the 2 and half hour drive back home. I will have to plan another trip just to Lover’s Key so that I can really take in all of its beauty and activities like kayaking through the estuaries.
On my short trip I learned that in addition to Cayo Costa there are several other islands in the area worth exploring: Captiva Island, Boca Grande, Cabbage Key, Pine Island. I love how Florida is always full of suprises.
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