Keewaydin Island: Florida’s Unspoiled Paradise

Keewaydin Island: Florida’s Unspoiled Paradise

Keewaydin Island, an unspoiled Floridian paradise…

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.

Beach walk on Keewaydin Island in Florida

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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Approaching Keewaydin Island in Florida

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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Boaters on Keewaydin Island in Florida.

Food boat on Keewaydin Island in Florida.

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.

Full service bar boat on Keewaydin island in Florida

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.

Boat ride on the Hemingway shuttle to Keewaydin Island in Florida.

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.

More Florida posts you might enjoy:

Guide to Sanibel and Captiva: Florida’s Island Oasis

Universal Studios Orlando: Everything You Need to Know to Plan Your Trip

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens: Discovering the Jewel of Miami

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54 Comments

  1. Jean
    January 9, 2018 / 11:01 pm

    Another make me want to visit write-up Corey

  2. Momma To Go
    January 10, 2018 / 6:56 am

    Im going to Naples next month We are DEF doing this! Only one important question – are there bathrooms????

  3. January 10, 2018 / 11:03 am

    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!

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      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.

  4. Esther
    January 11, 2018 / 3:14 am

    Wow, look at all that space. So lovely!! I could do with a sunny break from cold and foggy Holland now 😉
    #FarawayFiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:33 pm

      It is always a great way to get me through the winter – part of why we do it!

  5. January 11, 2018 / 3:28 am

    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

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:34 pm

      Thanks Lori! It’s the best family tradition and good way to keep me going during the wintertime!

  6. January 11, 2018 / 4:04 am

    I never heard of this before but will keep it in mind for my next visit. Thanks for sharing. #FarawayFiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:35 pm

      And it’s so close to Marco Island – next time 😉

  7. January 11, 2018 / 5:23 am

    Looks like a fabulous place, Corey. And I LOVE the idea of food boats! #FarawayFiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:35 pm

      I know me too!! The kids went nuts!

  8. January 11, 2018 / 6:20 am

    Ooh looks gorgeous! We did Captiva in the summer which we loved but I wish i’d made it to those islands
    #farawayfiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:36 pm

      Captiva is one of my favorite places in FL..so chill and funky, I just love it there.

  9. January 11, 2018 / 7:03 am

    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

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:37 pm

      Thanks Janice, and glad you linked up with #farawayfiles !

  10. January 11, 2018 / 7:17 am

    Oh my, what a beautiful Island! Looks like it’s the perfect Christmas island-getaway 😀 #FarawayFiles

  11. Lyn
    January 11, 2018 / 7:21 am

    That looks like such a lovely place relax and enjoy with the family. I love those food boats too, what a great idea.

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:38 pm

      I know, they’re pretty brilliant. A relaxed way to spend the day!

  12. Clare Thomson
    January 11, 2018 / 9:10 am

    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

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:42 pm

      It was a much needed escape. I am definitely a warm weather and sunshine kind of girl ;).

  13. January 11, 2018 / 10:40 am

    Unspoiled is the best word ever 🙂 #farawayfiles

  14. January 11, 2018 / 11:14 am

    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

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:43 pm

      Thanks! The sand was out of this world, icing sugar sand is a good way of putting it!

  15. January 11, 2018 / 11:30 am

    Looks like a beautiful island, and I love the idea of a boat-bar! #FarawayFiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:44 pm

      I know me too! It definitely added some spice to the trip 😉

  16. January 11, 2018 / 3:08 pm

    It sounds like a real gem. I’d love to visit! #farawayfiles

  17. January 11, 2018 / 4:00 pm

    I’ve never been to Florida, but those Sandy beaches look so inviting! #farawayfiles

    • January 11, 2018 / 4:47 pm

      Florida is like our mini-caribbean (sort of..), but with no passport.

  18. January 11, 2018 / 4:23 pm

    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

  19. January 11, 2018 / 5:16 pm

    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

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:11 am

      It’s cold, rainy and gray in New York too. Wish I was still there! Have fun this summer.

  20. January 12, 2018 / 12:19 am

    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

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:12 am

      They most definitely did 🙂

  21. January 12, 2018 / 12:30 am

    Love it! It’s hard to find somewhere that is still relatively untouched. That is some really white sand!

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:13 am

      It really is hard to find unspoiled places these days…that’s what I loved most about Keewaydin.

  22. January 12, 2018 / 2:06 pm

    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

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:13 am

      Thanks! It was a great find for sure!

  23. January 12, 2018 / 10:10 pm

    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

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:14 am

      Hope you see some sunshine soon! It’s been really cold in New York. Uggh!

  24. pigeonpairandme
    January 13, 2018 / 1:02 pm

    Food boats – I love it! It sounds like the perfect relaxing place to go for a regular family get-together. #FarawayFiles

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:15 am

      It was a lot of fun, and always great to explore new places in a locale you thought you knew so well!

  25. January 14, 2018 / 9:49 pm

    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

    • January 17, 2018 / 10:17 am

      Thanks so much..daydreaming of it now in dreary New York..

    • January 23, 2018 / 11:16 pm

      Thanks! It’s pretty nice 😉

  26. Anisa
    January 21, 2018 / 9:19 am

    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.

    • January 23, 2018 / 11:16 pm

      Not that many people know about it..now you do!

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