Calusa Blueway Challenge

By: Mike Hammond

Shortly after moving to Southwest Florida in 2004, I began volunteering for Lee County Parks & Recreation. My favorite volunteer opportunity was to ride along in the boat as my colleague, Nancy MacPhee, and the staff finished setting up a paddling trail called the Great Calusa Blueway. In my opinion, time seems to be moving too fast, but we couldn’t be happier to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Calusa Blueway with the Calusa Blueway Challenge.

The Calusa Blueway Challenge is not a one-day race or event. It is an interactive experience families, friends, or individuals can do all year long and win prizes while enjoying the Calusa Blueway.

The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau has set up a virtual passport game that includes parks, launches, points of interest, outfitters and other businesses along the paddling trail. We have always said the Calusa Blueway is much more than just maps, apps and trail markers. It is the history, wildlife and people all connected by the water.

Hopefully, this challenge will inspire people to explore and experience all the Blueway has to offer.

Setting up your passport is free and easy. Just go to to get started.  When you open your passport, you will see a list of “Places To Go.” Checking in with your mobile phone at each place or experience will earn you points. Points vary based on the experience.  A simple check-in at Bay Park in Bonita will earn you 50 points, while taking a kayak tour with Gulf Coast Kayak or participating outfitter will earn you 350 points. There are more than 30 “Things To Do” listed on the challenge with more events and experiences to be added.

Participants who check in to at least 75% of the locations by the end of February 2025 will be entered for a chance to win a 2024 Body Glove Performer iSUP or a two-night stay at the historic Tarpon Lodge on Pine Island. You can also earn other prizes, such as Calusa Blueway hats and buffs.

By the time you’re done reading this article, the challenge has started. Get your passport and paddle and start earning points and prizes. You may find your new favorite paddling spot or waterside restaurant!