The most northerly beach access point, Tigertail Beach can be reached by taking either Tigertail or Kendall Dr from North Collier Blvd and then turning left onto Hernando. Parking is free for Collier County residents who display a permit and for all other visitors it's $3 for 2 hours and$8 for all day. An annual pass for non-residents can be obtained from Tigertail Beach, Caxambas Park, Map 1 (8D) or Marco Island Library for $50 (no documentation is required). It is best to consider Tigertail Beach as two quite distinct areas, the Lagoon and Sand Dollar spit.The Lagoon - Great Family Fun You approach the lagoon from the parking lot via one of fi ve walkways. Once on the sand you will be looking west towards Sand Dollar spit and beyond to the Gulf of Mexico, which is hidden from there by seaoats, shrubs and even some small trees. The lagoon is a great place for families with younger kids to spend the day since it is normally very calm and the concession rents cabanas - a must if you are going to spend much time out in the hot Florida sun. In addition, you can rent aqua-trikes, water squirt boats, paddleboards and stable kayaks. One really neat trip is to kayak or paddle board along the lagoon and access many of the small mangrove inlets and then beach the kayak on sand dollar spit for some wonderful shelling. It's best to go a couple of hours before high tide for maximum access. If you are an avid photographer, you can also sneak up really close to the herons, ibis, roseatte spoonbills and kingfi shers as they rest in the mangroves or feed in the shal-lows. All of the rentals are either pedal, paddle or electric and do not interfere with the peace and quiet.Fantastic WildlifeThe lagoon is also a great place to fi sh (either spinning or fl y) with many secluded areas around mangroves or shallow water towards the Big Marco Pass. Over the years it has become an important rest area for mi-grating birds and also a major nesting site in spring and summer for several endangered species of birds, so parts of Sand Dollar are therefore closed to the public during the nesting season. It is listed as Site #73 on the Great Florida Birding Trail. At this time of year, you can expect to see many types of heron, ibis, egret, king-fi sher, sandpipers, willets, pelican and osprey. There are always mullet jumping and you should also see fi ddler, horseshoe and ghost crabs and maybe three kinds of starfi sh depending on how far you walk!Café and PlaygroundThe great benefi t to this part of Tigertail Beach is that you are also close to all of the facilities - restrooms, showers, BBQs, a great kids' playground and the café that offers lunch and light snacks, beverages and ice cream. Kids' meals come with a beach frisbee, ready for fun in the sand.
Sand Dollar Spit - a Magnifi cent Unspoiled Gulf BeachTo reach Sand Dollar spit and the beautiful, pristine, soft sandy beach on the other side of the lagoon, you either have to wade through it, head south some distance to where the lagoon ends and make a turn to the north, or rent a kayak and make it part of a day trip. It's a bit of a trek to walk to the spit, but it's defi nitely worth it. The beach here (which abounds with wonderful seashells) is absolutely breathtaking and totally natural. In July and August, you will see nesting shore birds, such as Wilson's plovers, least terns and black skim-mers, protecting their nests and young. The adults can be seen diving and skimming the surface for small fi sh. You will also see Loggerhead sea turtle nests taped off for protection. Please do not go too close to nesting birds or enter any of the restricted nesting areas. Other specieis of shorebirds start returning in August and September, including laughing gulls, western and least sandpipers and snowy plovers.No two visits are ever the same and you can walk for miles with just the lapping of the waves, the rustle of the seaoats and the cries of birds to keep you company. In my view it's the best part of the whole beach and is well worth the walk, but don't forget to take some water with you (it can get pretty warm out there!) and some shelling bags since there are over 200 different shell varieties that can wash up on these shores.Summer 2011 www.marcoreview.com Page 37