Here's something so appealing about the idea of escaping to an island to get away from it all... provided the island has great beaches, plenty of unique dining options, and luxurious accommodations, that is. Captiva, a barrier island along Florida's coast, is the perfect spot. It's quiet and mostly covered by preserves, but still boasts restaurants, attractions, and South Seas Island Resort. Add in colorful cottages that house local businesses along Andy Rossi Lane, lush palm trees, white sand beaches covered in picture-perfect seashells ready for collecting, and dolphins leaping through turquoise waves... what more could you ask for from an island vacation?
South Seas Island Resort is the place to stay for luxurious, Old Florida vibes. Located on a former key lime plantation, the resort is the height of beachy comfort. On one side is a 2.5-mile stretch of private beach, and on the other, the resort is surrounded by a 330-acre wildlife preserve that's home to dolphins and manatees. Learn the art of fishing via surf casting, shore-cast or charter a boat and captain from the resort’s Bayside Marina, fishing for snook, redfish, and tarpon when in season. The resort boasts a full-service spa and nine onsite food and beverage outlets, including the Crooked Snook, a poolside tiki bar; Latitudes Food Shack & Attitudes Beach Bar, and an outpost of the legendary Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille.
Sunny Island Adventures is South Seas Island Resort’s exclusive “all things fun“ on-site recreational rentals and watersports provider! Sunny Island Adventures offers everything from parasailing, wave runners, kayaks, paddleboards, golf carts, boats, and bike rentals.
As for accommodations, the resort offers rooms in the Harbourside Hotel, as well as one, two and three bedroom villas and two-to-nine bedroom private homes, so you can choose what works best for your stay.
The Bubble Room is one of Captiva's most iconic attractions. Its over-the-top aesthetic and old-school decor make for a unique place to enjoy a meal. Each room is kitschier than the last, starting with the Christmasy front room. You'll also notice photos of stars who have visited, a perfectly-vintage soundtrack playing in the restaurant, and old toys lining the walls. Even the menu items boast quirky names (like "Bubble Bread") and retro touches (like the flaming socra cheese which is lit tableside). Save a lot of room for dessert; the massive and colorful cakes and pies are must-tries.
Captiva Beach is a perfect example of why the beaches here are so special. It offers white sand and calm, warm waves, as well as incredible sunset views. This beach is also a great place to take advantage of world-class seashell hunting. Hundreds of different types of shells can be found on the shores of Captiva Island, and beachcombers and collectors come from all over to find beautiful specimens to bring home. This beach is less developed, so it feels more like a hidden gem and remains less crowded than other stretches of sand.
Captiva Island and nearby Sanibel Island each have an interesting past, and the Captiva Island Historical Society's History Gallery has a unique way of presenting that history. Before the Sanibel Causeway was built in the 1960s, mail boats that ferried supplies, passengers, and letters from the mainland to the islands could be found all around the Pine Island Sound. The Gallery contains a replica of one such mail ship, the Santiva, and the windows on the re-creation contain photos and interactive touch screens loaded with information on Captiva's storied past. Learn about the Calusa tribe, along with early homesteaders and fishermen who settled the island before it became a popular vacation destination.
Turner Beach is different, in that it encompasses both Sanibel and Captiva Islands on either side of the Blind Pass Bridge. The Captiva side has restrooms and an outdoor shower for rinsing sand off your feet and any seashells you might want to bring home. While the currents near the bridge are too strong for swimming, the water is more calm further down the shore. This beach is popular for fishing and beachcombing as well. And since it faces due west, it's known for sunsets as well. Just make sure to get here early if you're hoping to catch the dusk colors, since parking is limited.
At the Crow's Nest Beach Bar & Grille, the ocean views are simply an added bonus to the delicious food, tasty drinks, and fun atmosphere. The owners specialize in wine and martinis, which pair perfectly with the menu of seafood and southern offerings, many of which can be made vegan. They also offer hermit crab races on Monday and Thursday evenings... one round for families, and a second session later for adults.
For a relaxing vacation with hints of memorable quirk, Captiva can't be beat. Just as the white sand is loaded with special seashells, the island is filled with hidden gems. Simply relax and enjoy all the beauty and personality Captiva has to offer.
Banner Photo Credit: Shutterstock