Family. Nature. Comfort. These three words perfectly describe South Seas Island Resort, a three hour drive northwest of Miami on Captiva Island, accessible by car from Sanibel Island via Blind Pass Bridge. Put all preconceived notions aside, this is no stereotypical Florida resort but one with a special natural beauty that shows off a side of Florida minus the glitz, glam and attractions of other Florida destinations. With gorgeous coastal views and nothing to distract from its setting, the atmosphere is laid back and low-key – understated comfort envelops you the moment you step foot on the grounds.
You’re greeted with a country club ambience but almost set in a different time, far away from day-to-day rat race rhythms. Perhaps, it’s the golf carts cruising around the island that evoke this vibe or maybe the thump of tennis balls in the distance. An unhurried tempo is suddenly topped off with the maximum speed – an army of golf carts cruising by at 30 mph! As my own athletic aspirations haven’t kicked in yet, I decide instead to tour the island (the resort comprises a two mile stretch on the northernmost shores of Captiva) to ponder the calm of the Gulf of Mexico from a serene powdery white beach.
Family. You don’t need to be one of the Brady Bunch to appreciate wholesome family fun. South Seas Island Resort offers a kid-friendly environment that begins with free breakfast for children under twelve and that’s a good thing too, because there’s so much for kids to do here. With an array of fun and educational activities, children’s minds and bodies will sure get a run for their money, and they’ll also be learning about nature, conservation, and wildlife while they’re at it. Scoutabout, an original South Seas Island concept, allows kids to explore the island on a supervised scavenger hunt. I’m a long way from twelve, but my inner child was tempted to come out and play. The Sanibel Sea School offers another innovative and experiential sea-based program, both educational and entertaining. Imagine kids snorkeling through sea grass searching for manatee. Cool, huh?
I choose to tune up my tennis at the Pavel Blackwood Tennis Academy, where I’m happy to see players of all ages and levels. Wisely, I opt for a few professional lessons which get my serve on track. Taking a leisurely bike ride, riding the ocean on a wave runner, learning the ropes in sailing school, or leaning back on a guided kayak tour, South Seas Island Resort has many ways to capture your imagination.
Comfort. While there’s an emphasis on nature, keep your tents at home. The resort avers being typecast as a luxury resort but it’s obvious the staff’s goal is to coddle its guests. The selection of accommodations is so extensive; you’ll be tempted to make your stay an annual ritual. It’s worth mentioning that after Hurricane Charley in 2004, the resort closed for two years to undergo renovations and celebrated its grand reopening in 2006 with a facelift and substantial upgrades. It also added amenities that elevated it to a level to attract world-class travelers as well as locals looking for stay-cation options.
By day two, I needed a little respite from my achy-breaky athletic pursuits, so I headed over to the Kay Casperson Spa in Chadwick’s Square in the South Village for some first class indulging. This cozy, intimate spa is a sanctuary for what curator Kay Casperson calls “beauty inside out”. Her philosophy is to promote healing, nourishing, and love for self. The signature facial and deep tissue massage are two treatments that should not be missed. I left not only relaxed and invigorated but inspired to care for myself more (and ready to hit the green again for another eighteen holes).
As a self-proclaimed foodie, the resort met my expectations and was committed to serving more local and organic produce, meats, and fish. Executive Chef Charles Mereday and Chef Joe Pittman are passionate about what they call “farmhouse to beach house” cuisine at Harbourside, the resort’s signature bar and grille. Chef Mereday and his talented staff awed me with their wholesome, nutritious dishes while still managing to display an innovative vision. Of course, kids and pickier eaters won’t be compromised either as there are numerous options for every taste and appetite.
If you go gaga over sunsets just remember that on the Gulf coast the stunning sunsets right on the beach are like nothing else in the world. With a glass of wine and a front row seat from the tiki hut in front of my villa, I was ensured an absolute picture-perfect view before heading off for another amazing dinner. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
Did I mention that South Seas Island Resort is a hidden gem?
South Seas Island Resort
5400 Plantation Road
Captiva Island, Florida 33924