Cape Romano: Our Secret Sanctuary

We have our very own “secret sanctuary” in sunny Florida.  A curious and interesting place, Cape Romano is at the southernmost tip of Ten Thousand Island (the uppermost of the mangrove islands). It is located just a few miles south of the luxury resort community of Marco Island, on the Gulf side. The sky is a lovely, brilliant blue, the sun is shining, the air is dry, and a cool breeze is blowing with temperatures in the mid to low seventies during the winter months.


Florida has both a cosmopolitan appeal in places like Jacksonville, Miami, and Orlando, as well as old world charm in places like St. Augustine, Marco Island, and Amelia Island.  All of these places are wonderful in their own way, but the most wondrous places in Florida are the most obscure.  Many people have come to love the beaches at Panama City, Sanibel Island, and Captiva, but there are a tiny few remaining beautiful beaches that are a bit more remote. The beach at Cape Romano is one of these places.

Accessible only by boat or Jet Ski, Cape Romano is a quiet place for reflection in the early morning or late evening, but it does get swamped by visitors from Marco on Jet Skis by mid-day on the weekends. During the week; however, in the twilight of dawn or dusk, it is as if you have transported into a surrealistic dystopian, sci-fi, or fantasy world.


To travel to this location you will find yourself on the Tamiami trail, mentioned in many books set in Florida, otherwise known as “Alligator Alley”. The best way to approach the island is in a little flat bottom jon boat you can launch from the Goodland marina.  Goodland is a sleepy little fishing village located in the midst of the mangroves at the very beginning of the Ten Thousand Islands.  Their biggest boast is a visit from Donald Trump, back when he was considering installing a casino at Cape Romano.  I am glad he did not choose to destroy the splendor of the sanctuary, for it surely would have.

As you motor carefully through the shallows of the brackish waters of Gullivan Bay, the dolphins swim alongside your boat in playful pods teasing and tempting you to join in a swim as they guide you out to deeper waters. You won’t miss the Cape when you see the unique dome home that was established here by Bob Lee in 1980.  This is Bob with his fresh caught snook. You can read more about Bob, his adventurous project, and his family here: in this article by Natalie Strom.

Once self-sustaining, powered by solar panels, with a 23,000 gallon fresh water cistern, the home is no longer habitable.

Hurricane Andrew came through in 1992 and stripped about 600 feet off the beach sending most of the dome dwelling, and a couple of other homes in the boating community, into the sea. The Environmental Protection Agency ordered the removal of the structure in 2007, (which has not been done and it is assessing the owners fines daily). Building on the sanctuary island is no longer allowed.  There is a cut through the middle of the island called Morgan’s Pass, also created by hurricane activity, where an estuary runs into a deeper pool of salt water. Fascinating sea life thrives here. Anemones, starfish, urchins and other small sea creatures abound.

On one side of the Cape, the seashore is two feet deep in shells. On the other side, there are miles of white sand and driftwood.  There are many little sandbar islands dotting the turquoise waters around the Cape that are covered with birds and are protected bird sanctuaries.  They feast on the abundant shell life. The birds nest here year round. Their calls can be deafening when they are disturbed.  Most all of the larger sandbars for bird sanctuaries are marked off-limits to humans.

Not my best pose in a bikini, but about the only one I would consider making public.
Not my best pose in a bikini, but about the only one I would consider making public.

Shelling is my favorite pastime here, collecting hundreds of samples over the years.


There are certain currents at specific times of the year that bring King’s Crown and whole sand dollars washing ashore in great heaps.  I hope that civilization can preserve the sanctuary, and it remains as unspoiled as possible for future generation to enjoy.

30 thoughts on “Cape Romano: Our Secret Sanctuary

  1. Love the pictures and the shells. We are in the Panhandle of Florida and don’t see all those beautiful shells, but the beaches are gorgeous here with all the white sand. My goal is to travel down the coast when my husband retires and see the rest of Florida. He’s from here – I’m from Louisiana and there are not pretty beaches there! 🙂


    1. Glad you could enjoy. I believe the prettiest white sandy beaches are in Panama City and Ft Walton/Destin areas…miles and miles of sugary sand, not the sticky kind that clings to your clothes like you find farther south. I do hope you get to tour the coast and the wild Florida interior. It is more like Louisiana around the Everglades and Okeechobee.


      1. It is true! I am still learning about places right here in Orlando I never knew about. Recently, I learned that you can take boat tours through canals in the ritzy neighborhoods of Winter Park’s most prestigious homes. You can spy on the wealthy through their tropical gardens. Ha!


    1. Yes, they are beautiful, thank you, John.There are treasure chests throughout my home filled with such shells. They decorate the bathrooms. They cover my glass tables in the LR, and Greg’s collection from deep sea diving is in a curio there. Sometimes, it is as if I live under the sea.


      1. I have a pic that Greg didn’t scan for me that shows the jon boat pulled up to a spot where the shore has washed away on one of the sandbar islands, and you can see that the shells are literally two feet deep. You have to dig through them to get to the sand.

        The sand dollars only show up in Spring, for about three weeks and then they are gone. There is some current (It has a name, but I can’t recall it.) that brings them into the Gulf about this far north. You won’t find them a few miles further north in Sanibel.


    1. True! Boys would love the island (you would too). The dome home makes a cool fort for the imagination. You have the great Pacific closer. I have never seen the North American Pacific, only in Costa Rica.


      1. There are some beautiful places in Oregon and Northern California, especially. I am quite fond of Brookings, Oregon for the rocky outcroppings and nice beach access.


      2. Fantasy book number four or a whole new series. i like the idea of your very own series.

        About the boys. You reminded me of something that happened when my oldest was a wee lad. We went camping on St Vincent’s Island off the coast of Port St. Joe, FL, when he was about six years old. (Four hundred miles from our GA home). When we got home., I had a suitcase full of shells, and no clothes…the little shit!


  2. I have quite a few Uncle Wiggily books. I was born in 1948, and MY grandmother read them to my mother. She read them to me. I read them to my kids. I will read them to my grandkids!


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