On Saturday we took a trip out to Port St. Joe along the peninsula down to Indian Pass where the tip of St. Vincent Island lies just a half mile from shore across St. Vincent Sound. The island itself is a National Wildlife Refuge where Red wolves, Sambar deer, Red and Gray fox, feral hog, American alligator, Nine-banded armadillo, and Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake can all be found living on the island. Visitors are allowed on the island by day and camping is not permitted. To make getting around on the island easier there are a network of gravel roads traversing the island, however only foot and bicycle traffic are permitted. Visitors can take a shuttle boat over from Indian Pass or do like we did and bring your own kayak or canoe.
Our trip from Fort Walton Beach to Port St. Joe took just under three hours. We arrived early and unloaded the kayaks and gear. It only took a few minutes to get underway and it was a short quick jaunt across the pass. Our group consisted of two Hobie SOT kayaks and two SIK kayaks. It was a green flag day (calm) so the group headed out the pass and paddled along the Gulf side of the island, encountering several dolphin pods along the way, until we were about halfway down before we saw one of the roads (#4) and landed there.
We ate a quick lunch, loaded up our backpacks with water bottles and bug spray and headed in to explore the island. Within just a few yards the sea breeze leaves visitors to the mercy of Florida’s brutal heat and humidity. Luckily, having lived in Florida for quite a while, we were acclimated but not happy about it. However, in short order we began encountering the wildlife that St. Vincent Island is famous for.
Our first encounter was with a pack of deer flies. DO NOT FORGET to bring your bug spray with you. Deer flies are nasty, painful creatures capable of inflicting painful bites. We applied our bug spray and pushed onward. Our next encounter was watching a feral pig with piglets crossing the road ahead of us. Next we nearly tripped over a large turtle sitting alongside the road in the tall grass. We took pictures and continued on to our next encounter with a small group of Sambar deer who bolted onto the roadway in front of us. They were too fast for my camera at the first encounter, but we met up with them again about fifteen minutes down the road and I was able to get pictures as they grazed.
Finally the heat was too much, our water levels low, so we headed back to the beach to cool off and head back to the pass. It was an easy paddle back, having paddled into the wind on the way out, however, once at the pass and with the heating of the day the chop in the pass was a bit intimidating. The SOT kayaks negotiated it without problem, while my SIK kayak had quite the wild ride while I tried to keep the kayak from pitching and rolling in the surf. I wouldn’t recommend beginners attempt to negotiate the pass.
I finally made it back to the landing, just a little worse for wear. One of our group got overheated and had to cool down, just another side effect of Florida’s heat and humidity. Aside from the heat, humidity and negotiating the pass it was a good trip. We’re planning another trip soon with an early start to explore the bay side of the island.