Found on the island that bears its name, Captiva Island, Florida offers plenty of fun including water sports such as swimming, fishing, diving, paddle boarding, kayaking, and snorkeling in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Charter a boat and go deep sea fishing or cetacean-watching. Hang out on the beach, search for shells, and soak up the sun. For lunch or dinner, consider the Keylime Bistro, the Sunshine Seafood Cafe, the Green Flash, or Captiva House—all of which offer American fare and seafood.
Book a Captiva Island vacation rental today. Properties range from quaint cottages to luxurious villas situated just steps away from the beach. Many accommodations are pastel-colored to match the ocean, as well as built on stilts to protect against high tide. Check out a few of the most exciting places on Captiva Island.
Another town found on its own island, Sanibel is famous for its white sand beaches planted with palm trees. Even if you’re in town for a visit, you should visit the fantastic Sanibel Public Library and the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Center for information about the area. Head to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge for a view of the colorful shorebirds or the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum with its collection of eye-poppingly beautiful seashells.
2. St. James City
St. James City is at the bottom of Pine Island, right across Pine Island Sound from Captiva and Sanibel. You can explore Pine Island via paddle boat or take the kids to hike and birdwatch at the Galt Preserve or the St. Jude Nature Trails. Shop at the Olde Florida Outpost or The Potter’s Workshop & Gallery. Of course, there are boats to charter to explore the sound or fish.
Found north of St. James City, Pineland offers boat charters and rentals that take you and the family around the island. Visit the Randell Research Center, famous for its walkability, wildlife, and Calusa Indian mounds. Restaurants found right on the water are the Cabbage Key Inn Restaurant and the Tarpon Lodge Restaurant, both of which offer American grub and seafood.
Found at the very top of Pine Island, Bokeelia is the home of a famous fishing pier and a few art galleries, including Island Concalve Fine Art Gallery and Crossed Palms Gallery. Take an excursion to little, privately owned Useppa Island or Cabbage Key or take the kids to the Museum of the Islands. At the end of the day, retreat to your vacation rentals on the waterfront.
5. Boca Grande
Boca Grande not only offers fishing and hiking but is the home of several state parks, including Gasparilla Island and Cayo Costa. The Boca Grande Historical Society and Museum have exhibits on the history and folklore of Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast and is also a lighthouse. For meals, head to the Pink Elephant, Temptation, or the South Beach Bar & Grille for seafood and American cuisine.
This city is on the mainland, connected to Boca Grande by a causeway. Golfers in your family might play a few holes at the Coral Creek Golf Club or you and the family can rent kayaks and explore the nearby mangrove swamps. Hike through the Wildflower Preserve or charter a boat for some deep sea fishing or a sunset booze cruise. Placida’s also the place to rent a glass bottom kayak to watch the reef as you travel around the water.
7. Rotonda West
If you look at a map of this city you’ll find it’s in the shape of a circle with the upper part of Rotonda Sands thrusting into its southwest section like a slice of pie. Rotunda West is a haven for golfers with the Rotonda Golf & Country Club and Long Marsh Golf Club. Take the kids on a bike excursion on the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail Park or kayak on one of the many bodies of water. Vacation rentals are spacious villas placed with big, grassy yards. Some have swimming pools.
Situated on its own tiny island, carved by marinas and slips, Matlacha is home to the Matlacha Menagerie and, right next door, the Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. The kids will love it for its name alone. Don’t miss the vivid artwork at the Griffen American Center for Haitian Art, or the work of local artists at the Matlacha Community Park. The restaurants are smallish, funky and pastel colored, including Pizza Bella, the Island Seafood Market, and Great Licks Ice Cream.
9. Cape Coral
A lot of vacation rentals in Cape Coral are not only roomy but have big enclosed swimming pools and cabanas. Try to grab one, then make sure to buy some fresh veggies and fruit at the Cape Coral Farmer’s market to whip up a meal in the kitchen. Take a walk over the long pier at the Cape Coral Yacht Club, and take the kids to visit the Sun Splash Family Waterpark. Museums to visit include the Cape Coral Historical Museum and the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library.
10. Fort Myers
This large city on the Caloosahatchee River is a few miles north of Cape Coral and has enticements for both nature lovers and city folk. For nature lovers, there’s the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, a haven for reptiles and wading birds, Manatee Park, and Lakes Regional Park. Sports fans will want to take in a game at JetBlue Park, which is where the Red Sox train in the spring. The kids will love the indoor and outdoor museums, including the Railroad Museum of South Florida and the Southwest Florida Museum of History. You and the hubby can slip away for some nightlife at the Miscue Lounge or the City Tavern.
11. Fort Myers Beach
Found 16 miles south of Fort Myers on Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach activities include dolphin watching and excursions down the coast to the Everglades. Let Fido run at liberty to the Dog Beach. There’s actually a place called Times Square, but with its year-round warm weather and palm trees, it’s nothing like New York City’s. But it does have stores, eateries, and music. Vacation rentals include beach houses on stilts and condos in peach colored buildings.
12. Burnt Store Marina
Found on Charlotte Harbor, considered a suburb of Punta Gorda, Burnt Store Marina is the place to go if you and the family want to be on the water most of the time for deep sea fishing, dolphin watching or sunset cruises. Cass Cay Restaurant & Bar is right on the water and serves cocktails and seafood like Ahi Tuna. By the way, legend has it that the city got its weird name because a local trading porch was torched by Native Americans during the Seminole Wars — or something.