Discover Florida’s 12 Best Islands: Explore Captiva Island

Small, compact and charming, Captiva Island is just plain delightful.
2019 Captiva Songwriter Fest

Sunset Beach at South Seas Island Resort is a perfect launching point for water sports. (COURTESY THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL)

Small, compact and charming, Captiva Island is just plain delightful. Driving onto this spit of land from neighboring Sanibel Island, you pass some magnificent homes, partially hidden behind well-planned landscaping that shows off the island’s tropical vegetation. Marking the driveways are handcrafted signs with names like Mermaid House and Happy Destiny that add a touch of whimsy to this enchanting isle.

Downtown’s main street, Andy Rosse Lane, can be walked from end to end in 10 minutes. It’s anchored on the Gulf of Mexico by The Mucky Duck, an English pub. Tables set on the sand make it a popular spot for sunset watching with a cold brew and a plate of freshly shucked oysters. On the opposite end, the street dead-ends at McCarthy’s Marina on Pine Island Sound. Its dock welcomes boaters and is also the departure point for Captiva Cruises’ fleet of boats that take tourists to Useppa Island, Cabbage Key and Cayo Costa State Park, as well as for dolphin-watching and sunset sails.

Tucked between the two bodies of water on Andy Rosse Lane is an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. The Gold Parrot, housed in a gingerbread-trimmed cottage, is chock-full of brand-name swimwear and accessories. At the brightly painted Key Lime Bistro sidewalk cafe, a musician sings about Margaritaville as diners enjoy the day’s local catch. Wildly creative sculpted fish, sea life paintings, wood carved parrots and funky pottery fills Jungle Drums Gallery from floor to ceiling.

Lodging on Captiva may be a bit limited, but each property is distinctly different. The 330-acre South Seas Island Resort with its beaches and mangroves is ideal for water sports, from parasailing over the Gulf to quietly paddling a kayak in the sound. Its golf and tennis facilities are state-of-the-art. A trolley runs throughout the resort and golf carts are available. Family activities abound including a sea school for kids.

On the opposite end is Jensen’s on the Gulf, a laid-back boutique hotel of seven suites nestled among wild foliage near the sand. A third property, ’Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa is a mishmash of buildings and cottages painted in cheerful colors, some dating back to the 1930s. The resort is sandwiched on a narrow strip of land between the Gulf and the sound, which explains its name.

Don’t Miss…

Cayo Costa

Southwest Florida’s waters are dotted with islands accessible only by boat, including Cayo Costa State Park. Truly a jewel, this unspoiled island with breathtakingly beautiful long white beaches is where some of the most interesting shells wash up. The island’s interior is covered with pine forests and six miles of hiking trails. To get there, book a half- or full-day trip with Captiva Cruises.

Bubble Room

Kitschy is fun, and the Bubble Room, which opened in 1979, is one of those odd restaurants that’s earned “institution” status. The décor overwhelms with model choo choo trains traveling along the ceiling’s edge to year-round Christmas decorations and a waitstaff dressed in Boy Scouts uniforms. But the No. 1 reason to visit is the sinfully delicious mile-high layer cakes: French Chocolate, Orange Crunch and White Christmas.

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