I’m not sure who was more excited about Kayaking, me or my six year old daughter. Paddling has been in my life since I was a teenager, and I knew I wanted my children to have the same love of the water. This would be her first time on the water and my first time in 10 years. Paddle Marco seemed like the ideal opportunity to introduce her to the water.
Marco Island is a beautiful location on the Golf Cost side of Florida, just a few minutes away from Naples. This island is a beach lovers paradise. Locals often spend their time out on the water fishing. The unique ecosystem of the island attracts both fresh and saltwater creatures in one place, making it paradise for visitors.
Kayaking on the ocean can sometimes be a little intimidating for a begginer, so I decided to look for a Mangrove Tunnel tour. These tunnels are all around the island and this was going to make for a perfect low key adventure. When my husband found out my plans for a backwater adventure on Marco Island, he decided to tag along with my three year old.
We met our guides at Paddle Marco and they did a breif intro to paddling for those that hadn’t been on the water before. Olga was our primary guide. She was terrific, giving us tons of information about the area and what all lived in the water. I was shocked to find out that we would be sharing the water with sharks and crocodiles. Thankfully we never saw any and I was assured that the crocodiles stayed exclusively on the other side of the water. Our tour was going to stay in the brackish waters of Mcllvane Bay.
Dolphins frequently visit these waters. The manatees that normally inhabit the area had moved on to warmer waters during this time of year. The best time to see them is in the summer months of June – August. On our adventure, we spotted many species of birds in the mangroves and even a very friendly raccoon.
The tour had us on the move at all times. Along the way, Olga did a fantastic job of engaging the kids and the rest of the group giving tidbits about the Island. Mid-way through we found two sandbars to explore. The exploring was a great break in the action.
On the sandbar, our mission was to find the Horse Conch, the state shell of Florida. My daughter learned a valuable lesson this trip; shells are home to sea creatures and some of them are big. After finding a second sandbar, we found 2 Horse Conch. Did you know a Conch’s can take on a crab? One of them had just finished eating a horseshoe crab when we arrived. I envisioned conchs as slow moving creatures.
The mangroves were the highlight of the adventure. It was low tide, and can sometimes be challenging to get through. The mangroves are an amazing tree system capable of housing a variety of different animals. Fish love hanging out in them to lay their eggs. Oysters cling to the root systems. And during hurricanes, the mangroves even help control the storm surge. The currents of the waterways cut through the mangroves making great tunnels to explore. Those tunnels are what we were looking for!
As we were getting closer to entering the tunnels, we decided to bring my daughter’s paddle in. It was going to be a tight squeeze in some places with the possibility of down trees. We headed in the first tunnel with relative ease. It was a rush to get through and magical at the same time.
Kayaking with Kids and Toddlers
It turns out my daughter loves to paddle. She got right into it right away. We decided not to give my son a paddle just because of how small he was. Before going, we told them not to wiggle around too much for fear of tipping. Once we got in, I found that the kayak was a lot more stable than I remembered. At some point during the adventure, we let my son trying out paddling. He was dying to try it out. It was short-lived because he kept acting as a break. But he loved it! I recommend waiting until they are five before giving them one. Even my daughter quit paddling halfway through.
Taking the kids on the water required the two-person kayaks. They are a little longer and require a little more power to paddle them. Normally it’s not a problem, but when the front person is just learning to paddle, it becomes a little more work. With any adventure and new exerpaince with kids, you have to keep them entertained. For us it was all abouth the search for the crabs that kept up the intrest. Just find whatever works best.
Your Paddle Marco Adventure
If you like paddling, I recommend taking one their tours. With the twists and turns of the mangroves, you could easily get lost in there. The guides take pictures of you the whole time, and you get a free gallery to do with what you want when your adventure is over.
Paddle Marco also rents kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to guests. Paddle Marco will handle pickup and drop off of the equipment as well as providing you with a bag to keep your stuff safe. You can leave from either Paddlecraft Park or Caxambras. At Caxambras, you can go out on the ocean.
Plan Your Trip: Paddle Marco
Location: Capri Paddlecraft Park, Marco Island
What to Bring: Bottled Water, Water Shoes/Teva style sandals, Quick Dry Shorts, Hat, and Sunblock
Recommended Guidebook: Naples & Marco Island – Long Weekend Guide
Other Reads: Fifty Places to Paddle before you Die