#TravelTuesday: Stretch Out and Stay a Spell on Southwest Florida’s Captiva Island

by Daniel Ramirez on November 16, 2021 in Travel,
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Room to Roam, Room to Relax, and Room to Rock

The first thing to know about a vacation to Captiva Island, Florida, is that the island is vast. Very few things are next door to one another. It’s as though the entire island tells you to spread out, take your time, and breathe.

From the moment you land in nearby Fort Myers – a mere two-and-a-half-hour flight from Austin or Dallas – the warmth of the salt air embraces you, and signs of the Gulf Coast’s sprawling beaches are all around.

Surrounded by picturesque ocean and bay views, the South Seas Island Resort is the ideal place to get away from it all on Captiva Island.
Photo courtesy South Seas Island Resort

By the time you reach South Seas Island Resort, it’s clear that this isn’t a makeshift tourist town that’s dropped close to a metropolis. This is a well-crafted escape from the traffic and the stress and the hustle that life in the concrete jungle can bring.

For an adrenaline rush, run the aquamarine waves of the Gulf Coast with a WaveRunner. Photo courtesy The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

It’s Wild Out Here

The first thing to note about a stay on Captiva Island is how alive everything is, even the water. Situated on the warm Gulf Coast shores, the beaches are the main attraction. Grab a WaveRunner from Sunny Island Adventures, and you really will be running with the waves. While usually calm enough to entertain a leisurely jaunt into the open Gulf and to explore neighboring islands, the tide can get challenging enough to rival theme park attractions elsewhere in Florida, with as much thrill as anyone can handle.

Literally found on a daily basis, dolphins roam throughout the Gulf waters near Captiva Island. Photo courtesy South Seas Island Resort

Take a Ride to Cabbage Key

Take a ride with Captiva Cruises, conveniently located in the South Seas’ Marina, and you’ll find yourself on Cabbage Key, a landmark destination with quite a few interesting residents. The island is home to the ubiquitous anoles – small lizards, either brown or black – strewn throughout the island’s paths and trees, but also to a robust gopher tortoise population. Neither reptile is shy, but they aren’t as curious as the third inhabitant of Cabbage Key – Florida’s famed manatees. There’s not an accurate way to describe the sheer magnitude of these gentle mammals, save to say that they dwarf all visitors, yet are docile enough to surface and say hello. And, throughout your time near the water, whether marina or open gulf, you’ll have no end of attention from dolphins, who call this part of Florida home.

The Cabbage Key Inn, reported home of the very first “Cheeseburger in Paradise”, is a perfect place to grab a bite and see if Jimmy Buffett was right.
Photo courtesy The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

While on Cabbage Key, visit the restaurant that lays claim to inspiring Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” The namesake dish is certainly worth a song about it and its surroundings.

It’s Even Wilder Than That

For the bravest visitor, the Adventure Sea Kayak at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort and Spa offers kayak tours across the bay, into open water, and through the mangroves that have overtaken nearby Buck Key. It’s easy to be distracted by the cormorants and the dolphins that frequent the bay, as well as a manatee or two, before a tunnel appears in the mangrove overgrowth, and the guide leads you into the most incredible natural escape from the sea and the land. You might even encounter a few bonnethead sharks, once you emerge from Buck Key and head back. (They’re rarely more than two feet in length and not bothered by the kayak.)

There is no experience that compares to paddling through an overgrowth of mangrove trees on an island that isn’t inhabited by anything other than wildlife.
Photo courtesy The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Resort Life

South Seas Island Resort is the ideal base to return to, after all of this wilderness (or to never stray far from, if you prefer). Outfitted with miles of beachfront, an expansive pool area, water slides for the young ones you vacation with, an ocean view golf course, and nestled between the bay on one side and the Gulf on the other, South Seas gives a feeling of true isolation and some of the best sunset views you’ll ever take in. Whether sipping on a piña colada at the Crooked Snook Tiki Bar, lounging on Sunset Beach, dining at Harborside (which has one of the most impressive bourbon collections at any resort), or enjoying the waterfront view from your room’s balcony, there is no wrong way to resort, here.

The Crooked Snook Tiki Bar at South Seas Island Resort pairs island cocktails with an island sunset. Photo courtesy South Seas Island Resort

Pro-tip: Go sea-shelling after dark. Massive whelks can be found on shore when no one is near and the tide is low.

Island Soundtrack

The Beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands also plays host to a scene that would be right at home in Texas, specifically in Austin. The Island Hopper Songwriter Fest is held, every year, spread out among the two islands and nearby Fort Myers. Much like the famed SXSW conference and festival, Island Hopper commandeers the club and restaurant stages in the area for nine days, showcasing both celebrated and up-and-coming songwriters and singers, alike.

Music is literally everywhere, spilling into the streets at the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest. Photo courtesy The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Unlike SXSW, few performances are difficult to gain entry to, and attendees often have a chance to mix and mingle with the artists. It’s all as laid-back as life on the island is, making the fest truly one of a kind, just like the region that hosts it.

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Cover photo courtesy South Seas Island Resort

Daniel Ramirez is a native Texan, who has written about the life, leisure and legends of the Lone Star State. From music to food to film, he is always looking to remind the world that the cultural epicenter of the U.S. is just as rooted in Texas as it is on either coast. With his own roots firmly established in Houston, Austin and Central Texas, his nomadic pursuits are always grounded in a familiar mantra – Texas Forever.