Florida’s Far-Out Waterway
— By Hiram Sleaster, Maine
To spend 24 hours without hearing another motor is my
ultimate goal during a boating vacation. For the past eight years,
I’ve rented 16-foot Carolina Skiffs and kayaks from Back Country
Marina in Everglades City and headed out into the Wilderness
Waterway. Everglades City is known for its fishing and the Ten
Thousand Islands so it always surprises me that the Wilderness
Waterway isn’t well known. It’s part of the Everglades National
Park and it’s the definition of out of the way.
Local fishermen use it to get to their fishing holes but very
few have run the whole 99-mile trip to Flamingo. It takes about
seven days by kayak, and can be done in a powerboat in around
six hours. The fishing here is some of the best in Florida but the
water is shallow so you have to use a small outboard. You also need
to use a tide chart and time your trip in some areas — or you can
just run on the outside when it’s low tide.
There are hundreds of rivers, creeks, islands, and beaches.
The wildlife’s amazing, too. On the route to Flamingo, there are
about 20 campsites spaced about 10 miles apart for anyone to use.
Everglades National Park has permits for $10 per site and you can
pick them up across the street from Back Country Marina. These
campsites are simple, often just docks with a roof over them.
There’s beach-site camping on the outside of the islands. Back
Country Marina in the middle of the Ten Thousand Islands rents
everything from small boats with 30 hp to pontoons for larger
Getting There: Strictly for outdoor enthusiasts, the Wilderness
Waterway runs from Flamingo at the southwestern tip of Florida to
Everglades City. While the route is well marked, boats over 20 feet or
with high cabins are not advised to attempt it because of narrow channels
and overhanging foliage. The closest major airports are 50 to 100 miles
away and include Fort Myers, Miami International, Fort Lauderdale
International, Key West International, and Palm Beach International.
Where To Stay: Most of the Ten Thousand Islands are too small for
human habitation but the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has
designated plenty as suitable for overnight camping visits. Rent boats
from Back Country Marina (formerly named Glades Haven Marina) in
Everglades City. Rentals for 20-foot pontoons start at $210 per day or
$150 for 16-foot Carolina Skiffs. www.gladeshavenmarina.com
Inset: Hiram Sleaster fires up the engine for a trip through the Wilderness Waterway. Tourists enjoy an airboat ride in Florida’s unique Everglades National Park.
LEFT PHOTO VISIT FLORIDA; INSET HIRAM SLEASTER