Pine Island's Tropic Star scenic boat tours just got better with several new cruises. There are now Cayo Costa day trips, lunches at Cabbage Key, trips to Boca Grand, beach trips, nature tours, sunset cruises and dinner cruises.
"The first tourists in Florida arrived by boat," Capt. Bruce Cankar said. "Juan Ponce de Leon and his crew arrived 500 years ago and still today cruising the local waters aboard the Tropic Star is the best way to see the Sunshine State.
"We have one of the most unique boats in Southwest Florida and wanted to offer the widest range of tours possible," Cankar continued. "The hull of the Tropic Star was one of three hulls built as a prototype for the Walt Disney jungle ride and when she was finished off, the upper structure was made to look like the African Queen from the old Humphrey Bogart movie."
The Tropic Star has added new boat tours.
Cankar moved to St .James City from the Chicago area in 2006 with his wife, Lee. Cankar was an industrial arts teacher in the Chicago schools for 33 years.
"When I retired from teaching and we came here to Southwest Florida, I started with Tropic Star," he said. "I currently hold a 100-ton master captains license.
"We're starting a new division entitled 'Cayo Scenic Tours,' Cankar said. "I love giving tours because it combines two of my passions: teaching and being on the water. From a boat you can reach special places where there are no roads, and glimpse views you can't see any other way - and there's no shortage of waterways to explore - Florida has 1,800 miles of coastline and 12 000 miles of rivers and streams."
The new cruises include:
n Cayo Costa Day Trip: Enjoy seven miles of white sand beaches, swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and excellent shelling. To enjoy a day at the beach on Cayo Costa, bring a picnic lunch and beverages. There are half-day and full-day trips.
n Lunch at Cabbage Key: Cruise to the famous Cabbage Key Inn for lunch. Don't forget the Key Lime Pie for dessert. Add a visit to Cayo Costa State Park from 1-3:30 p.m. for $10 per person.
n Boca Grand Trip: Visit the Gasparilla Island lighthouse station, which has been a beacon to mariners since 1890. This upscale island has many shops and restaurants. Rent a golf cart and tour the whole island or walk to sightseeing and shopping, or time for lunch and exploring. Reservations are required.
n Lunch & Beach Trip: The Eco Heritage Cruise stops for lunch at Cabbage Key Inn, then after lunch continues on to an island beach for the rest of the afternoon.
n Two Hour Nature Tour: These are two-hour narrated nature cruises. These tours explore the waters of Pine Island Sound and Charlotte Harbor, looking for dolphins, manatee and aquatic birds. The captain will explain the history and ecology of the area during the tour. Be prepared to see Florida's natural beauty.
n Three Hour Nature Tour & Lunch: This features the two-hour nature tour along with a one-hour stop for lunch at the famous Cabbage Key Inn. A truly unique dining experience.
n Sunset Cruise: End a day with a beautiful Florida sunset over the waters of Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. Then finish off the evening with dinner at one of Pine Island's many unique restaurants.
n Dinner Cruise: This three-hour cruise will take you to the Cabbage Key Inn for dinner. Experience cruising the inter-coastal waterway and Charlotte Harbor at sunset. Enjoy a great meal (cost not included) on a beautiful island.
"The tour begins where the road ends," Cankar said. "This new tour division of Tropic Star Cruises offers a great variety of cruises. Tropic Star Cruises has been operating on Pine Island for over 30 years. In past years our primary business has be providing ferry service to Cayo Costa State Park and up until recently our trips required a full day. Many of these new cruises are now only 2 or 3 hour tours. We truly have something for everyone."
All tours are by reservation only. Days and times change through the year. Call 239-283-0015 for reservation. No refunds for reservation cancelled less than 24 hours before scheduled departure.
For reservations call: 239-283-0015
Tropic Star passenger capacity is 53, plus the captain and crew. The boat and Tropic Star of Pine Island are owned by the Tapager family.
To catch the boat, Tropic Star Cruises docks at 7290 Barrancas Ave., Bokeelia, 239-283-9512.
For tickets, visit Tropic Star Cruises at 16498 Tortuga St., Bokeelia, or call 239-283-0015.