Like Captains Mary and Jerry, we just love anchoring in Pelican Bay,and then dinghying ashore to unspoiled Cayo Costa. Thanks to its being a Florida state park, this barrier island remains almost entirely in its natural state. Hiking across to the ocean side, particularly at sunset, is one of the greatest experiences the western coastline of the Sunshine State has to offer.
Unfortunately, the rub is that there is an entrance bar, which, at low tide, carries only about 4 1/2 feet of water. Some local cruisers have told me they have found a deeper route, which will hold 5 feet at MLW.
And, in this regard, there is a GREAT You-Tube video giving SOLID ADVICE about entering Pelican Bay, available at:
You might also want to check out a string of earlier messages here on the Cruisers’ Net concerning how best to enter this series of anchorages:
Anyway, check out the message below to read one more glowing opinion about the wonderful qualities of anchoring on Pelican Bay!
Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa is the best anchorage on the west side of Florida – hands down. We have been in there on a holiday weekend when there were 70 boats and everyone was on a single anchor with plenty of swing room. Easy dinghy ride to Cabbage Key for a ‘cheeseburger in paradise’.
Marty & Jerry Richardson
We are there now and can see why the west coast is Jim’s favorite. We anchored last night at the best anchorage on the West Coast. Even [cruisers] adverse to anchoring out should give Cayo Costa a try. There is more than ample room to swing on one hook. There were 18 boats anchored last night enjoying a full moon and a romantic sunrise. Cayo Costa Island is a state park. We dinghied to the dock and walked 3/4 mile across the desert island to the gulf side beach. (There is a regular tram service and bikes for rent, but we preferred to walk ). We had the whole beach to ourselves! Access Fee is $2.00pp. Don’t pass this anchorage! Oh, by the way, there is also a floating dock where you may tie up overnight for $20.
Author, Great Loop Navigation Notes
Eyeball method into PBay is a line from R74 to the entrance sign leaving sign to Starboard; then along the sand spit. Start aiming for the park dock once you are about halfway down the spit.
Or if you must-plug these into your GPS to route yourself into PBay.
A: 26 41.940N 82 14.208W
B: 26 41.745N 82 14.525W
C: 26 41.600N 82 14,600W
D: 26 41.100N 82 14.600W
E: 26 40.900N 82.14.400W
F: 26 40.950N 82 14.200W
G: 26 41.100N 82 14.250
There is small power boat access out the south with local knowledge (uses part of the Punta Blanca channel) – Watch the ferry. Above will get you in (for 5′ or less) on all but an extreme winter low. There are a couple of bars so don’t freak if you think you’re in but start losing depth again. If you are coming from the south you can turn onto the A-B leg close to B. Start cheating about G71 and aim for a point to the right of B. If the depths get scary jog right until you are comfortable. Turn onto the track when you get to it. Once inside the chart is petty good at identifying the deeper areas. Standard rules apply- if there are a lot of boats in the anchorage and no one is anchored in what looks like a choice spot there is probably a shallow reason. You want to be surprisingly close to the beach from B to C. There is a nice hole around ‘E’ and we usually anchor there in about 8-9′. E-F can be a problematic stretch so exercise care. You may stir more mud than you want.
We’ve anchored here on 4 occasions and each time we enter and exit from the north Pelican Pass inlet. We stay as close to the north beach as possible as this is where the deepest water is at the entrance channel. Once inside Cayo Costa you’ll find two pools with 8 to 9 foot depths with the balance being between 5 to 6 feet or so. There are some shallow areas but it is all manageable.
On Pelican Bay entrance. R 74 is now a nun, not a daymark.