By TERRY WOEHR
GH37 Berlie Mae
Those of us who cruise extensively have our favorite anchorages, those places that just call to you. Pristine, unspoiled, not too many other boaters juggling for the same “out of the way” place to drop their hooks. We also have found marinas along our journey that just “feel good”.
They offer that certain something we need at that specific point in our journey: a good restaurant, friends that live nearby, or perhaps adequate laundry facilities, etc. We have a marina to share with fellow cruisers that takes care of every detail one could hope to be pampered with.
So, when all the necessities are taken care of, and you are looking to experience South Florida as it should be experienced, give Rialto Harbor, on the Caloosahatchee River in Alva, a call.
Flora, fauna and southern hospitality
The delightful daughter of owners “Bus” and “Nifty” Hamilton delivers fresh flowers to you upon arrival. You begin to get the feeling you are “not in Kansas anymore!” Bring along a good prime filet or chicken to grill. A nightly event is the oak wood
cooking fires built in one or several Weber grills by Bus or Margaret, dockmaster extraordinaire. Any cut of meat or vegetable becomes gourmet. In the morning, the local newspaper is delivered to your boat.
There are 12 acres to explore, all maintained to a tropical art form by resident Horticulturist Frank Weed. Frank can offer advice and wisdom on snakes, rare tropical fruits, orchids, alligators, and feeding bass in Rialto Harbor’s lily pond. A
gorgeous heated pool beckons all. If all those weeks at the helm leave you a bit lame, you can work through that on Rialto’s state-of-the-art cushioned tennis court.
We spent considerable hours trying to create a few good volleys, our age showing. Most boaters have their own private dock. No concrete here, folks. We’re talking wooden decks, with rocking chairs at the 100’ face dock, where most of the transient cruisers are berthed. Laundry facilities are spotless, as well as a bathhouse that also serves as the ‘reading room book exchange’.
There are countless chickens who freely roam the grounds. Not just your average chickens, either. They have quite the exotic collection. Horses? At a marina? You’ll be able to meet Tommy, a beautiful chestnut Morgan; Isabella, the miniature donkey and two new horses who have shown promise as a “team” leading one of Bus and Nifty’s restored carriages. If you have a spare apple or sugar cubes on board, they are thoroughly enjoyed!
Nifty, Bus or Margaret can arrange just about any land-based service you might require. Guests arriving or departing? With some advance notice, airport service (a 20 minute trip) can be arranged. Have you a desire for a different cruising vessel, or
looking to close this chapter, Bus provides an excellent Yacht Brokerage service. There are marine services in the area that cater to the cruisers staying at Rialto Harbor. Detailers, designers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, canvas fabricators--the top of the line come to Rialto. Why, we have even been privy to several weddings that have taken place on the grounds.
For the totally decadent among us, or for a special anniversary, birthday or any reason you can think of, (including friends who have come to visit) they have a guest cottage available. Antiques and a beautiful wood-burning fireplace grace this two story old Florida cottage. Now, this is paradise, folks.
If you were looking for provisioning, or just a quick in-and-out on your way, or neon nightlife, perhaps you would be better served by one of the commercial marinas in downtown Ft. Myers. At Rialto, many of the docks are shared by the ‘livaboards’ who return for weeks or months at a time. Margaret has her hands full when it comes to assigning docks. Of course, those of us who have become “part of the family” have our favorite docks, though there really isn’t a bad place rest your boat against.
There are no garish lights, no security guards, and no cards to run through an electronic dock gate (though the gate at the road has a call box to limit those arriving in vehicles to those that belong or are invited guests). If you are looking to unwind, to take in a bit of Florida that should be placed on the “soon to be extinct” list, Rialto Harbor is one place you must take in. If you spend more than a day there, drop the dink and explore the oxbows and many creeks and canals on the Caloosahatchee.
Still a value at the price
At $2/foot, it might seem on the surface to be pricey. Many cruisers are on strict budgets…this is the exception you must make! Having extensively cruised the east coast from South Florida to the Erie Canal, we had yet to find a marina that beckoned you in, and you leave wishing you never had to-until we stepped off our boat at Rialto Harbor.
I mean, go figure how anyone can believe they are getting their money’s worth at marinas in Atlantic City, and many other ICW boatels who routinely charge far more per foot than $2. And that doesn’t include electric and water. Some even charge extra for a shower! I am always shocked when I return to a marina to discover the price has gone way up and their attitude is one of indifference.
The only shock you will have upon arriving at Rialto Harbor is that individual attention to your needs is their highest priority. I would liken Rialto Harbor to a stay at a stately, turn of the century hotel geared entirely to renewing your spirits and your soul. Five-star rating in every category!