Through shrewd investments a century or more ago, or by just being ahead of the crowds, some fabled beach resorts occupy such a prime stretch of real estate that it boggles the mind. South Seas Island Resort is one of those cases. On its own peninsula at the end of Captiva Island near Fort Meyers, Florida, this once-remote area has grown into a whole village that has 2.5 miles of white-sand beaches and enough activities to keep families going for a week.
I had trouble even figuring out how many “rooms” this place had and finally gave up on the math. There are a few conventional hotel-type rooms, but most of the lodging here is in something larger: condos, villas, or whole homes rented out by the owners. It all goes into one giant rental pool available to the reservations agents matching guests to the right set-up.
In my case we were in a three-bedroom condo where three generations of us were going to spend a cook-free Thanksgiving. We could cook when we wanted of course: there was a full and well-supplied kitchen in the condo. It had full appliances and good counter space. There were also three bedrooms, a fold-out sofa, and a nice screened-in balcony that looked out at the water.
We weren’t really there all that much though. With five real restaurants, a huge pool complex, tennis courts, and a great beach, you get all the expected diversions of a beach resort. That’s just part of it here though. The recreation staff tries to go far beyond the norm, with a family interactive center, a nature center, and the cool iSPY self-guided program for kids. Children get a map that has magnifying glasses where the iSPY spots are located. If the children find what can be spotted in that area, they get a colored bracelet from the stand. Each spot has a different color related to jumping fish, an osprey nest, brown pelicans, bobbing manatees, and more. The three girls in our group loved it and I never would have known I could see manatees swimming around the docks in the marina otherwise.
The well-manicured par-3 golf course keeps other guests busy, plus there are watersports, kayak tours, or fishing trips—all for an additional charge. Bike rentals are available as well and for most people it’s worth it: otherwise you need to rely on the not-so-frequent shuttle bus to get you from one side of the resort to the other. Since the pool complex is literally miles from some of the condo buildings, getting everyone on a bike makes a lot of sense.
Restaurants here run the range from simple quick-bite places to the formal Harbourside Bar and Grill with a good wine list and fresh seafood. We sampled most of them during our visit, spending Thanksgiving eating barbecue at Holy Smoke and hitting the Scoops pizza and ice cream diner multiple times.
With a wall of candy for sale by weight, Scoops makes kids’ jaws drop, but parents get a kick out of all the retro candy for sale from their childhood.
The biggest negative about South Seas Island Resort is the hefty fee tacked on top of your already large lodging bill. Even for resort-fee-obsessed Florida, this one can come as a shocker for a large group or family: “For your convenience a resort fee of $15.00 per adult per day will be added to your room rate” Yes, you read that right: $15 per person per day! With five adults in our group, that added $75 a day for things like beach towels, internet, and parking—things included in the rates in many other destinations.
Most of the activities on the long list of daily activities require a fee, which ranges from modest ($10 coconut painting) to hefty ($300 family sailing clinic). Some others are complimentary, such as a morning turtle talk, family lawn games, and toddler sandcastle sessions.
This resort is a big draw for good reasons though and many families return here year after year—booking the same condo or buying a timeshare even. There are few places in the U.S. that can boast miles of private beaches and the water stays warm longer here than on the Atlantic side of Florida. The dining variety and the pools make this a big hit with the kids.
See Uptake’s South Seas Island Resort page or go to the resort website for reams of info on accommodation options, activities, and rates. With all the possibilities in this huge complex, it can sometimes be more productive to call them at 866-565-5089.