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I hope this post finds you having a good day! It has been SO busy at our house lately because we are getting ready to head to the southwest coast of Florida in a few weeks for spring break. We are headed to check out a new place we have never been- Little Gasparilla Island. It is only accessible by boat and very small. I am so stoked!! Little Gasparilla happens to be very near a couple of other islands that already have my heart- Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. There is just something so special and magical about this part of Florida that I can not put my finger on it. I still get SO happy looking at these photos from our last trip to Captiva Island. It was truly one of the most magical trips we have taken yet as a family and I can’t wait to tell you ALL about one of my most favorite places.
Let me start with the back story….. So, a few days before this last trip to Captiva I had graduated from nursing school. My. Brain. Was. Fried. Trust me when I tell you it was two years of absolutely pushing myself to the limit mentally and physically. And so mama needed a break, some water and sand, and celebration. As my husband and I were discussing where we might go to celebrate this big accomplishment and culmination of a two year journey I could not stop thinking about Captiva Island.
You see we had been to Sanibel Island the previous summer and I had fallen in LOVE with this area. You can read more about that Sanibel trip here and here. Anyways- while we were in Sanibel the summer before we had taken several day trips over to Captiva Island but had never stayed there overnight. I had decided then that I would go back one day and we would try Captiva. And so armed with a darn good reason to celebrate, we decided we would give it a try. I was able to find an awesome realtor in Captiva, Ryan at Dream Vacation Rentals, and we found the most adorable beach front cottage. It was a beautiful, yet modest, two bedroom beachfront bungalow. That was all I wanted or needed. Peace, quiet, some grown up beverages, and the beach. You see Captiva Island is similar to Sanibel Island in lots of way but one thing that Captiva has going in my opinion is that it feels more private and secluded. The beaches never seem crowded because there is very limited public beach access areas. This is a challenge if you aren’t staying on Captiva and want to go to the beach but if you are an exhausted nursing student, mom, and/or wife then you are really wanting some solitude.
So we had our adorable and quaint cottage booked and I was counting down the days. Fast forward to a few days before graduation and our trip…. I get a call from Ryan that made my heart stop. The house we were supposed to be renting in a few days pipes burst and they were going to have to do some work and therefore we would not be able to stay there. I swear I almost fainted in the driveway. But bless Ryan’s sweet heart he said some of the most beautiful words I have ever heard in my life that went a little something like this, “But don’t worry, the owner also owns another house down the road that she is willing to rent you for the same price”. I asked him if he was sure it was comparable with little more than slight irritation in my voice. Ryan replied that this was a 6 bedroom ocean front estate with an indoor pool and that it usually rented for one night for the same cost we rented the other house for the entire week. He said that the owner felt bad and we could just pay the same price that the original house was. I think I cried. I thought it was a joke. It was seriously so unbelievable I thought we were being punk’d. Besides my husband and the birth of our child, it is still one of the best surprises I think I have had to date. Talk about a graduation gift!
Enter “New Latitude” aka the most amazing big house on the most amazing little island. When you go to Captiva Island you do not even feel like you are in the states anymore if you did not know otherwise. The vegetation and landscape make you feel like you have been transported to some Bahamian oasis minus the VERY expensive airplane ticket and long flight. The beaches are very empty for the most part especially compared to the beaches of Fort Meyers. Captiva makes you feel like you are hundreds of miles from the mainland and reality as soon as you cross the bridge that takes you from Sanibel to Captiva. There are tons of exotic birds, dolphins, manatees and other marine life every where you look. Not to mention the insane amount of gorgeous seashells that I had never seen before coming to this part of Florida. I love the Gulf. All of it. If you have read my blog or social media channels at all you know that I am obsessed with the blue water, powdery sand, and shells that she offers and I just can’t wait for a trip to Destin with my family in June. But I will also say, I think this stretch of coast and the dozen or more islands near here are probably Florida’s best kept “secret”.
In addition to the beautiful surroundings, Captiva offers some spectacular culinary options and there is enough places to choose from that you have ample selection. We ate at a few places again on this trip that we had discovered on the Sanibel trip and of course we had to try several new ones. The food on Captiva does not disappoint and you really can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants there. Some of my most favorites on the island include the Bubble room, Mucky Ducks, The Green Light, Mad Hatters, O.C. Otters, and Doc Fords. There is too much to say on the food here for this post alone but check out this post on our favorite restaurants on Captiva.
We also found one store on Captiva that carries beer, wine, and the grocery basics. We usually get our groceries from Jerry’s in Sanibel which is a treat in and of itself. It’s worth a trip to Jerry’s just to check it out as they have tons of tropical birds, great groceries, and several shops attached including beach shops, ice-cream parlor, liquor store, and a few specialty shops. Best of all once you pay for your groceries you go get in your car and they send your groceries down to the parking garage via conveyer belt and someone loads them for you. Gosh I love Jerry’s!!! But it’s good to know that there is a store on the island with some great options in a pinch or just because you don’t feel like going “into town”.
This is a good time to mention that the ride from Captiva to Sanibel is very short and only takes around 10-15 minutes by car. There are TONS of places to eat and things to do in Sanibel in and of itself including but not limited to Ding Darling, Bailey shell museum, CROW clinic, shops, shelling, and tons of good ice-cream places. There are also quite a few charter outfits that offer pirate cruises, dolphin cruises, sunset cruises, fishing trips, shelling trips, the Sanibel thriller ( a fan fav of visitors), and SO much more.
Captiva offers a lot to do and see though without ever having to leave the island. In fact, the only time we went to Sanibel on this trip was to get more groceries mid-week and then on the last night we drove to Sanibel and got take out from The Pecking Order (highly recommend the Peking order chicken and waffles)!!!!! A few of my favorite things that we did on Captiva during our week there did not involve leaving the island or spending any money at all. My absolute favorite was shelling and followed closely by fishing. Fortunately, Captiva is a fantastic place to do both. Shelling is fantastic here because there are such few people on the beach that there is not a lot of competition. This area is known for exceptional shelling due to the position of the islands in the ocean that essentially catches all of the shells like a net. The men in my crew were very excited about the fishing that Captiva had to offer. We caught a ton of the saltwater catfish pictured above and Mr. MT even managed to catch one with his bare forearm. From the look of things I definitely think a rod is preferable to an appendage when trying to fish.
There are also many places in the area to rent boats or charter a trip if you or your group wants to have more serious fish fun offshore. Jensen’s Marina is a great rental option and another place on Captiva Island that we enjoy going to. You can walk out onto the dock and watch the manatees come right up to the dock. This is really fun and completely free. You can also put your boat in here or dock it here if you bring your own boat.
Another fun option on Captiva is to rent a golf cart for a few hours and explore the island more. YOLO watersports is a popular place to rent carts and in a great central location on the island. The majority of the island is golf cart friendly. There are also other outfitters on the island that offer jet ski rentals, parasailing, and paddle boards ect. To make a long story shorter there is no shortage of things to do in Captiva and it will be a vacation you will not forget!
As for me, I am counting down the days until I am back near my favorite part of Florida. While we are staying on Little Gasparilla this time I have heard we are VERY close to Captiva and North Captiva. I am secretly scheming a day trip back over there. I am thinking we will dock at Jensens and check out the manatees and then hit the bubble room for an awesome burger and some orange cake! I can’t wait to tell you all about the next journey. Make sure you follow Mommie Tourist on all of our social channels so you can come along too. I would always love to hear about your favorite vacation spots!!