About 45 miles south of Sarasota is Charlotte Harbor and Charlotte Harbor Preserve, and this area is great for kayaking. Placida Harbor and Gasparilla Sound, as well as the rivers that flow into them are all accessible from several launch sites in Placida. One of them is from Fishery Road.
From the launch you can go north under the bridge and you’ll be heading up Coral Creek, a pleasant, protected paddle. If you go south, and follow the mangrove shore around Catfish Point, you’ll reach Catfish Creek. There is good fishing, bird watching and just good lazy paddling in these areas.
Between the creeks is an extensive area of old mangrove canals and tunnels. Inside it feels like you’re exploring a labyrinth, quiet and private, lots of turns and dead ends. Perfect for hot days when you crave shade. Here’s a link to see the tunnels on Google Maps:
Of course this launch accesses the bigger open water of Placida Harbor to the north and Gasparilla Sound to the south. Built in 1958, the Boca Grande Causeway is one of the few remaining swing bridges in operation. It runs parallel to the train trestles built in 1911 for the once-bustling railroad line. You can paddle under both of these bridges and see them up close as they run the distance from Placida to Gasparilla Island. Catch the bridge swinging open for bigger boats.
If you’re hungry for a bite to eat and you’re still on the water, the Waterside Grille is a short paddle from the launch site. Head north east into the marina area and turn left to get back to the restaurant. There is a concrete boat ramp where you can pull your kayak. Head up for a beer and a burger.
To get the Waterside Grille by car, turn right out of the parking lot, right onto Gasparilla Road (what was Placida Rd). Drive over the bridge about 1/3 mile. Waterside Grille is on the right. 15001 Gasparilla Road.
This is a launch where you can begin any kind of paddle you wish: fish the calm creeks, venture into the mangrove tunnels, or save that toll money and paddle to Boca Grande instead.
Directions: (From Sarasota)
- Take I-75 to Exit #191, River Road. Go South on River Rd, crossing 41, to Pine St. in Englewood.
- Turn Left (South) on Pine. It turns into Placida Rd. CR 775.
- Continue on Placida (CR 775) 9.5 miles and turn right on Fishery Road.
- Take the first left into a long parking lot. The kayak launch is at the end, along the bridge.
- It’s a good idea to take your GPS and/or compass when you go into the mangrove tunnels, as you can easily get turned around, and lose your sense of direction. As the saying goes, “If you’ve seen one mangrove, you’ve seen them all”.
- Watch for boat traffic while in the bay. Fast moving boats don’t always see small craft, nor can they stop on a dime to avoid hitting you.
Enjoy your paddling adventures! See you on the water!