“One of the most amazing places to paddle is the Don Pedro Island State Park. Many have been to the Don Pedro Island by boat. Most people just visit the beach and have no idea the hidden treasures that are concealed within the island. Launching from the land base on Placida Road provides the quickest paddling route to the island.
Located a short paddle away, directly across from the land base is a very small passage into the mangroves. This natural mangrove tunnel leads to a hidden lagoon inside the Don Pedro Island. A unique estuary can be found here, with sea stars and live soft coral. This is the only paddle boarding location in Englewood where I have seen a colony of sea stars. Other marine life can be found throughout the tunnel, blue crabs, fish, live shells, and sponges. The trip through the tunnel is fascinating every time I go.
The Don Pedro Island mangrove tunnel is different from other locations. There’s more marine life, and other elements to explore. Sitting on my paddle board through the tunnel is required. There are a few low hanging branches, which make this location a bit adventurous.
Standing on the paddle board provides better visibility into the water. I love to stop and spot the sea stars and live shells that I’m paddling over. The seagrass throughout the tunnel is very healthy, allowing for small marine life to thrive in its nursery. Dwarf seahorses can be found on occasion in the seagrass here. One thing to keep in mind is that the dwarf seahorses mate for life, and they only swim within a square foot of where they are born. Always place a dwarf seahorse back where you found them to help prevent them from being separated from their mate.
The mangrove tunnel and hidden lagoon part of the island is very private and rarely traveled. The Hidden Lagoon is located inside the Don Pedro Island and can only be reached by traveling through the narrow mangrove tunnel. The first time I went through the tunnel and entered the Hidden Lagoon was breath taking. The tunnel opens up to the coastal lagoon. I would consider the Hidden Lagoon an ideal fishing location. Check the tides before taking a paddling trip out here. On a low tide it’s almost impossible to get all the way through the tunnel. Due to the narrow passageway, low tides, and precious marine life this trip is recommended for non-motorized vessels only.
Marine life is abundant, in the warmer months the manatees can be seen frequenting the area. Dolphins are also seen closer to the main channel. After exploring the inside of the barrier island, take a break on the beach of Don Pedro Island. Docks are located only a short paddle away from the mangrove tunnel. Land access for kayaks and paddleboards is located behind the docks. Walking trails and beach access is located on the Don Pedro Island. Explore one of the most scenic locations Englewood has to offer. Paddling this location makes for perfect a day trip.”
And stay at Casa Contenta of Little Gasparilla! Less than half a mile from Don Pedro Island State Park and 300 feet from the bay leading to the mangrove tunnels!