May 2017 – While visiting the Gulf Coast and Everglades, we planned a paddling trip to the famous dome houses at Cape Romano. The history of the houses had fascinated me since the first time I saw them mentioned online, and I knew we had to make the trip to see them while they are still there. The houses were originally built on the beach, but nature has taken its course on them.
We checked the tide times and weather the night before and prepared our gear for the trip. Although it was a beautiful, sunny day, a front was moving in that make it more windy than we would have liked and caused the water to be a bit more rough than usual.
We launched a little later than we would have liked, about halfway into the outgoing tide, after making the drive from Everglades City. We had to pay a few dollars at the Caxambas Park to launch and then quickly paddled across the pass to the first island. We had seen dolphins from the dock and saw a ray as we were paddling across this area.
Since the gulf side was pretty rough on the day of our trip, we decided to paddle the inside of the islands. We stopped to explore at a few spots where the water was low and then continued our journey. We took a few side trips through the mangroves, some of which required us to turn around and retrace our path when the water became unnavigable.
We saw very few people on our paddle down. Only one boat and a few jet skiers were in the area. Eventually we made it all the way south to the and rounded the tip of the island. We stopped for a few minutes on to rest on the first sandy beach we saw. The beach was covered in tons of pretty nice shells.
We pushed off again and traveled east around the beach when suddenly the domes were in view. No one else was around, so we decided to paddle around and check them out before stopping for lunch.
Knowing the history of the dome houses and having seen before and after photos on the internet, it was a really cool experience to see these houses in person and especially after having paddled all that way. The experience was made even more incredible by the dolphins and manatees that were playing around the houses and around our kayak.
After a few minutes of exploring and picture taking, we beached the kayak to eat a quick lunch and rest for a period before heading back. The dolphins continued playing just off shore, providing us with entertainment for our lunch.
After resting, we pushed off (difficult with the changing tides). We had planned to paddle back up the gulf side, but after several minutes of being tossed around and pushed further out into the gulf, we decided to head back the way we came. The wind had picked up and the tides were changing. Part of the trip was easy going when the winds and tides cooperated. The last part of the trip was very difficult. Getting back across the pass to the launch was the longest and most difficult half mile we’ve ever paddled.
After loading up, we drove to El Tapatio to refuel and recount our adventure. This restaurant was the best Mexican food I’ve ever had (and I’m a frequent visitor to Mexican restaurants). The waitresses switched easily between Spanish and English to accommodate the guests, and the food was amazing. It definitely hit the spot after a long day of exhausting ourselves in the sun.
The paddling trip was fourteen miles roundtrip and was one of our more difficult trips due to the wind and currents. We brought a gps (recommended), sunscreen (highly recommended – the salt/sun combination is pretty brutal), and ties for everything in the boat (also recommended – we tipped over once trying to shove off against the current). After an entire day creating sore muscles and sunburn, I was so glad we made the trip. This was truly an unforgettable paddle.