The sun is setting earlier and the air is feeling (a little) crispier which must mean the holiday season is around the corner. This upcoming holiday season will be different than years before. Recovery continues to be a work in progress on our barrier islands and progress is being made one day at a time. The Explorer family is excited to welcome visitors returning to the islands to spend time in the warmth with friends and family during the holiday season. 

Before Hurricane Ian, Tarpon Bay Explorers would be open for business everyday except Christmas. Severely reduced demand and resulting staff altered the concession’s availability this year. But, a hopeful uptick in demand around the holidays allowed the Explorers team to alter their offerings to accommodate the Thanksgiving crowd. Tarpon Bay Explorers current schedule of Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 8am-5pm with rentals stopping at 3pm, will not change as well as the recent Kayak Trail Tour offerings on Wednesday and Saturday at 10am (reservations recommended). Though the company will be closed on Thanksgiving day, the Tram Tours have been moved from the usual Thursday to Saturday, November 25th at 10am & 1pm. An additional Kayak Trail Tour has been added to the schedule on Friday, November 24th at 10am. 

“The holidays have always been a special time on the islands,” mentioned Adam Sauerland, manager of Tarpon Bay Explorers and island resident for the past 11 years. “Though this year will be a little different without a Luminary celebration and maybe fewer decorations, we can already sense that people want and will return for the holiday season. We hope that trend continues and we see bumps in demand so we can add more tours or even be open more days throughout the week,” explained Sauerland.

Tarpon Bay Explorers is the concession to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The company offers recreation activities including guided tours and paddlecraft rentals for the Refuge. Kayak and Paddleboard rentals are available on a first come, first serve basis between the hours of 8am-3pm, returning by 4:45pm. For Guided Kayak and Tram Tours, reservations are recommended. Reservations and more information can be made on their website at Reservations for Hobie Fishing Kayaks can be made by calling the gift shop at 239-472-8900. Tarpon Bay Explorers is located at 900 Tarpon Bay Rd (as far north down Tarpon Bay road as you can go) and hosts a wonderful nature-themed gift shop where you can start crossing off holiday gifts from your to-do list.