If you ever spend any time in the Naples area of Florida and love being on the water, immersed in nature, then this is for you.
Renting a Boat
Sometime in late June or early July I received an email from Groupon offering a full-day boat rental for $220. I had rented boats a handful of times in the past and this Groupon offer seemed like a decent deal, so I took it.
The offer was from Bayfront Rentals in downtown Naples and by the end of August, we cleared a day in the middle of the week to take a day off and head down to Marco Island.
The Groupon was for $220, but that just covered the boat rental. There was an additional charge of $85 for fuel plus about 20 bucks in taxes, so the total out-of-pocket was about $325, which is still decent, but there are other comparable alternatives that can be found without Groupon.
Bayfront Rentals is located at the intersection of Goodlette-Frank Rd and Tamiami Trail (route 41.)
Starting From Naples
The groupon deal we had gave us the option of a small Hurricane deck boat or a pontoon boat. Since it was just two of us we went with the deck boat.
Starting from downtown Naples, it is a leisurely 90 minute trip to Capri Pass and the northern end of Marco Island.
With pelicans, seagulls, and cormorants all around us, we headed out at low tide and passed under the Tamiami trail bridge and past Tin City.
If you’re like me and don’t have a lot of experience, just stay inside the green and red channel markers and you’ll be fine. All along the way you’ll see signs that mark areas that are designated as minimum wake zones for areas frequented by Manatees.
The Naples airport is just to the northeast of Tin City, so as we motored past dozens of very large and very expensive yachts, a number of private jets taking off and landing were just overhead.
As you move out and south from the marina, you’ll see the Coast Guard Auxillary building and the Boathouse restaurant off to your right, and then the next thing you encounter are the beautiful waterfront homes of Naples’ Aqualane Shores and Port Royal neighborhoods as you approach Gordan Pass, which is your first opportunity to access the Gulf of Mexico.
Pelicans are everywhere
Into the Mangroves
Once you get beyond Gordon Pass you enter another world; other-worldly if you will, as you descend into a secluded mangrove corridor surrounded by nature on every side.
(Did you know you can grow your own mangroves at home from the "seeds" you see floating in the water or washed up on the beach? Check out my wife's post How to Grow Mangroves at Home to learn how!)
Entering the mangrove corridor
To your right is Keewaydin Island; a long narrow strip of sun-drenched beauty that separates you from the Gulf of Mexico. To your left is what is essentially the northwest corner of the Everglades.
Joining the pelicans and seagulls, were blue herons and osprey, and too many other kinds of birds to mention, as well as at least three pods of dolphin along the way.
We didn’t see any manatee this day, but be on the lookout for them as there are a few designated areas that are marked as minimum wake zones frequented by manatees. The channel is marked as 30 mph inside the channel except for those areas marked as manatee zones. It is also minimum wake everywhere outside the channel.
Osprey family in nest atop a channel marker; feeding the little Oprey babies
A few miles south of Gordan Pass, you’ll find Rookery Bay off to your left, and once you pass that area, Keewaydin Island narrows to about only 600 feet or even less. There are some private beachfront homes in this area with docks that you’ll see on your right, and to your left is Little Marco Island.
Once you are past Little Marco Island, you’ve got less than a mile to go to reach the southern tip of Keewaydin and the Gulf of Mexico will soon be opening up before you as you enter Capri Pass.
That southern-most part of Keewaydin is a popular place to stop and ease your boat straight onto the beach and anchor and relax on the beach for awhile. Just walk your bow anchor several yards into the beach to secure your boat and enjoy.
Little blue heron at the south end of Keewaydin
However, for us, it was nearly lunchtime, so we continued on to, and through, Capri Pass.
On this day, Capri Pass was absolutely gorgeous. Sandbars forming little islands teaming with birds. A multitude of color; all shades of blue and green. The expanse of the Gulf of Mexico opening out before you is simply breathtaking.
Capri Pass – photos just don’t do it justice
Skirting the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, we continued south, straight for the northern end of Tigertail Beach and then turned into the channel heading east into Marco Bay.
Just up around the bend was our lunch destination, the Snook Inn, but I made the mistake of bending back to the north side of the peninsula that divides Marco Bay, so we had to backtrack to get to where we needed to be. Also, if you happen to end up at the Marco Island bridge, you’ve gone too far.
Once at the Snook Inn, we drifted into the dock, tied up, made our way to the bar, and sat down to a half pound of peel and eat shrimp and a fresh blackened grouper sandwich. Boy did that hit the spot!
The Snook Inn
Snook Inn Hurricane Ian Update:
Sadly, the Snook Inn on Marco suffered major damage from Hurricane Ian that swept through Sept. 27-28, 2022. The historic storm surge totally wiped out the beautiful Snook Inn tiki bar. To see photos of the damage to the Snook Inn, see my post Hurricane Ian Damage in Marco Island, Florida (Photos One Week Later)
Keewaydin Island Beach
For the second part of our trip we headed back toward Keewaydin with the tide rising.
The wind had picked up a little as well and current was moving fast at the southern tip of the island.
Now we eased our Hurricane up onto the beach and enjoyed some time relaxing on the beach and in the Gulf of Mexico.
anchoring at Keewaydin is very easy
looking north out at the Gulf from the southern tip of Keewaydin Island
I had brought some fishing gear so I enjoyed about 30 minutes of casting about. I didn’t catch anything, but there were plenty of big redfish and a few snook in the area chasing schools of mullet.
We took our time heading back north through the mangrove corridor and had enough time left to venture out through Gordon Pass and take one last peek at the magnificent Gulf.
We frequent the beach on the north side of that pass, so it is kind of special to be able to see it from a completely different vantage point.
A late afternoon storm was threatening, so we quickened our pace from Gordon Pass back to Bayfront.
Nosh on Naples Bay
We got back about 15 minutes early, unloaded the boat, loaded the car, and took a two minute drive over to Naples Bay Resort and stopped in at Nosh for their happy hour.
yes. that is, indeed, prosciutto!
We had heard about Nosh, but this was our first time eating there and it did not disappoint!
The happy hour appetizers are amazing, and the service was great! I highly recommend the steak au poivre tips. And the flatbread of the day was terrific as well.
It was a great end to a perfect day on the water.
Other Boat Rental Options
I think that next time we will give Boat Rentals at Naples Bay Resort a try and report back on how it compares to Bayfront Boat Rentals. Naples Bay Resort doesn't do Groupons, but the price is comparable even without the Groupon. I also like that they don't charge a flat fee for fuel. You just pay for the fuel you use.
If you have any recommendations for boating in the Naples area, we'd love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below with any boating questions, tips, or secrets you're willing to share.