Coastal towns often have a lot more to offer than beautiful beaches. And even though spending a vacay lounging on the beach every day is certainly an attractive option, the collection of things to do often goes far beyond sticking your toes in the sand and occasionally taking a dip.

As I’ve gotten older (and as I’ve done more yoga), I’ve learned to appreciate what’s around me in ways that I simply couldn’t when I was still in my twenties. Before, I knew when beauty was around me, or when I was having a “Life Is Good” moment, but there was always something else attached to it–those moments of peace were an escape, or a peaceful interim as I waited for the next thing to happen.

During a visit to Bonita Springs, FL, we took a pontoon boat ride on the Imperial River and into the Gulf. And during it, I got to experience the whole thing in-the-moment, even though I snapped pictures all around and played with my new iPhone camera a lot of the time. The boat rental was from Bay Water Boat Rentals, an easy-to-find rental company on Bonita Springs Boulevard.

For people who don’t know, pontoons are the flat boats that have lots of space to walk around and seating around the perimeter. They are designed for cruising, and make a smaller amount of wake than other boats.
Our pontoon didn’t have a radio, which we lamented but got over quickly, and apparently the gas gauge was broken as well. Those two things were kind of strange to me, but the boat was pristine and well cared-for otherwise. They give you a big laminated map with a spiral center, and you can follow that all around the Estero Bay. On their map, they have Big Hickory Bay marked, which is a lesser-known name for the part of the bay between the Imperial and Estero. I kind of liked knowing that because “Hickory” shows up in a few names around the region.

We cruised through the busy Estero Bay waterway, hopping over a few waves from larger boats and searching the mangroves for gators and manatees (no luck). And honestly, there isn’t much of a story to tell about the boat ride, except for that it was relaxing and I think we all enjoyed it. Just thinking about it puts me at ease (and makes me want a beer).

Since I don’t have much to say about it, maybe you’ll enjoy these pictures instead:

A restaurant called Bayfront Bistro invites boaters to park at their docks, and we were guided in by a deck hand standing there leading the way. We had great food there, thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere.

Afterward, we cruised back, detouring to see a dog park beach that people have to boat for. It was amazing.
We got a little lost on the way back, so I’d recommend making sure you have your GPS on your phone on. We took a wrong turn and ended up on the river in a neighborhood. It was a little nervewracking, but our trusty phones helped us figure out where we were.

The pelican who had seen us out was still there on his perch when we got back!

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