Keewaydin Island, an unspoiled Floridian paradise…
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Almost every year after Christmas my family heads down to Naples, Florida, where we get together with family and friends. It’s been tradition for years now. In fact, I’ve been visiting Naples since I was a young kid.
So, how on earth had I not been to Keewaydin Island before? This barrier island off the coast of Naples was the highlight of our most recent trip. One of Florida’s Ten Thousand islands, situated in between the Gulf of Mexico and the waterway that runs between Naples and Marco Island, the allure of Keewaydin Island is that it is only accessible by boat – no cars, no roads, and certainly no bridges. A local favorite, one can visit the island with their own boat, rent a boat, or take a tourist boat, of which there are few.
About Keewaydin Island
The story goes that in the 1950’s, when Marco Island was being developed, the government wanted to develop Keewaydin Island too, and build a bridge and road out to the island. This did not sit well with the local residents, who wanted to keep the rugged nature of the island, and 1000 people banded together and signed a petition to stop the road from being built, as well as further commercial development. They were successful, and to this day Keewaydin remains a pristine and for the most part untouched island, with just a few dirt pathways throughout.
I say “for the most part”, as the island is 85 % public and 15 % private. On the north end of (the 8 mile long and ½ mile wide) island there are a few private homes. They are, of course, only accessible by boat, and with private docks. Apart from that, as well as the people who come over to visit for the day, the island has remained as it has always been. It is also one of the few barrier islands that has fresh water, and therefore has an abundance of animals and wildlife. There are white tail deer, bobcats, pigs, raccoons, turkeys, and some even say black bears. Hard to believe that’s true but that’s what they say!
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It is this rustic beauty that makes Keewaydin Island so unique, and why I just had to visit. My family and I went for a day trip, and it was perfection. First of all, the beaches are absolutely stunning. It’s the whitest sand I’ve seen in Florida to date, and with hardly any people on them. We literally had no one around us where we decided to lay down our towels. And because of this, the shelling is amazing. There’s just simply not as much competition for the shells as there are in places like Sanibel and Captiva. The beach is wide and vast, and seems to go on endlessly.
Keewaydin Island Local Flavor
But you want to know what I really loved about Keewaydin? The local culture. The beaches are located on one side of the island, on the Gulf side of course, but on the waterway side is where all the action happens. This is where the locals pull up their boats to anchor and hang out for the day. Just as you would park a car on the street, the boats are parked on the shore. People break out their boom boxes, coolers, chairs, volleyball nets. Some crowds are young, while others are older, while some have kids running and milling about. This is the place to come and chill for the day with friends as well as meet new people.
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My absolute favorite part about the whole scene had to be the food boats. You know food trucks? Well, think of those as food boats. Yes, I know, food BOATS! Down the shore from the regular boats were these food boats that had shown up for the day to sell everything from burgers to tacos to sandwiches to sweets. There was even an ice cream boat! Which my kids went mad about. There was also a bar boat, with a full service bar – no cooler needed! So if you don’t feel like packing a picnic, you can just bring your wallet. It was one of the most fun and relaxing scenes I had seen in a while.
I had read before our day trip to Keewaydin that there are two parts to the island – the pristine part and the party part – and there really are. Whatever your mood, you can make the island what you want of it. This is what I thought was so interesting about the island, and why I will definitely be back for a visit. There is the beautiful, quiet and unspoiled side on the Gulf, and the fun, happening side on the inlet. For us, we liked doing both.
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How to Get to Keewaydin Island
Unless you have your own boat or rent a boat, there are only two boat services that take tourists to Keewaydin – one that leaves from Marco Island and one that leaves from Naples.
Hemingway Water Shuttle is the more affordable option and departs from Rose Marina on Marco Island. This is what we took. A family-run business, the crew is super friendly and knowledgeable. Their dog Riley is the boat’s mascot, and was every bit a part of the experience for our kids. He added a whole new element to the ride. For example, part of the boat ride experience was looking out for dolphins. Riley could spot them before anyone else, so wherever Riley went on the boat, the kids followed suit. It was quite a site, and they were very sad to leave Riley at the end.
Water WUBER departs from Naples. We did not take this boat as there was no availability. Make sure to book in advance, which can be tricky if you’re planning around the weather like us. But Captain Stephen is the nicest guy and talked to us for a long time on the phone about the island.
If you’re in the Naples or Marco island area, I highly recommend a day trip, or even a half-day trip, to Keewaydin Island. It’s a unique place in Florida and fun for everyone – the whole family, couples, and friends.
Want to read more about Florida? Check out this guide!
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Another make me want to visit write-up Corey
Im going to Naples next month We are DEF doing this! Only one important question – are there bathrooms????
WHat a fab place! I love that coast of Florida and would so love to go back soon, we haven’t seen enough of it by far!
I absolutely love the Gulf side. So many people I know go to the Atlantic but I love the calm, blue-green waters of the Gulf.
Me too! So many lovely memories from there.
Wow, look at all that space. So lovely!! I could do with a sunny break from cold and foggy Holland now 😉
It is always a great way to get me through the winter – part of why we do it!
Ok, you’ve completely sold me!! Hooked and pinned! I like this family tradition of going to Florida after Christmas! What a nice way to warm up and end the year! I love the food boats too! That’s funny! Happy New Year!! #FarawayFiles
Thanks Lori! It’s the best family tradition and good way to keep me going during the wintertime!
I never heard of this before but will keep it in mind for my next visit. Thanks for sharing. #FarawayFiles
It’s a special spot 🙂
Aww this place sounds so lovely. I wish I’d known about it when I visited Marco Island all those years ago… #FarawayFiles
And it’s so close to Marco Island – next time 😉
Looks like a fabulous place, Corey. And I LOVE the idea of food boats! #FarawayFiles
I know me too!! The kids went nuts!
Ooh looks gorgeous! We did Captiva in the summer which we loved but I wish i’d made it to those islands
Captiva is one of my favorite places in FL..so chill and funky, I just love it there.
Hadn’t heard of this island before. That’s what I love about posts like this, you’re constantly learning something new. Looks so chilled. #farawayfiles
Thanks Janice, and glad you linked up with #farawayfiles !
Oh my, what a beautiful Island! Looks like it’s the perfect Christmas island-getaway 😀 #FarawayFiles
Yes, it most certainly was!
That looks like such a lovely place relax and enjoy with the family. I love those food boats too, what a great idea.
I know, they’re pretty brilliant. A relaxed way to spend the day!
Looks absolute paradise and just the kind of place I love finding around the world. Oh to be on those beaches now, heading off for an ice cream from one of the boats…Great post, Corey. #FarawayFiles
It was a much needed escape. I am definitely a warm weather and sunshine kind of girl ;).
Unspoiled is the best word ever 🙂 #farawayfiles
Woweee! Keewaydin Island looks like a treasure island and is so beautiful with icing sugar sand! We’d love to visit, so thanks for the travel tips! #FarawayFlies
Thanks! The sand was out of this world, icing sugar sand is a good way of putting it!
Looks like a beautiful island, and I love the idea of a boat-bar! #FarawayFiles
I know me too! It definitely added some spice to the trip 😉
It sounds like a real gem. I’d love to visit! #farawayfiles
Thanks for reading!
I’ve never been to Florida, but those Sandy beaches look so inviting! #farawayfiles
Florida is like our mini-caribbean (sort of..), but with no passport.
Looks absolutely beautiful and somewhere i’ve never even heard of. That’s whats so good about these groups, you get to find out about new places #farawayfiles
Looks like heaven to me. It is cold, grey and rainy here. I am heading to Florida this summer. Hope I can fit Keewaydin Island in. #faraway files
It’s cold, rainy and gray in New York too. Wish I was still there! Have fun this summer.
What a gorgeous place. I love how uncrowded it is and those food boats are way too much fun! Those local residents back in the 50s knew what they had, I guess. 🙂 #farawayfiles
They most definitely did 🙂
Love it! It’s hard to find somewhere that is still relatively untouched. That is some really white sand!
It really is hard to find unspoiled places these days…that’s what I loved most about Keewaydin.
Hmmm, my last comment seems to have disappeared sonforgove me if I’m duplicating… I love that you’re discovering something new after so many years visiting the same area! And what a fabulous find!! The food boats, locals, pristine beaches everything!! #farawayfiles
Thanks! It was a great find for sure!
Oh how lovely! I really need some sunshine in my life right now for it has been raining incessantly all day every day in Malaysia since the new year 🙁 We don’t have winter in Malaysia but heavy rains and gloomy skies. I love islands that are not too crowded – such an idyllic place to enjoy the sun and some solitude. And I love the dog – he is so cute – and food boats! 🙂 #FarawayFiles
Hope you see some sunshine soon! It’s been really cold in New York. Uggh!
Food boats – I love it! It sounds like the perfect relaxing place to go for a regular family get-together. #FarawayFiles
It was a lot of fun, and always great to explore new places in a locale you thought you knew so well!
Like the readers above – love the food boats and love the dog! It sounds like an easy and fab family getaway once you’re already in Florida. Great post #farawayfiles
Thanks so much..daydreaming of it now in dreary New York..
OMG looks like a paradise! ❤️
Thanks! It’s pretty nice 😉
I was in Naples over the summer, but I didn’t know about Keewaydin! It looks lovely. I love the idea of no cars and I would love to try the food boats.
Not that many people know about it..now you do!
Wow, All the places looking incredible and I love this boat.
Thanks for reading!