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North Captiva Island

I still can not believe that the family vacation we planned for months is now over and behind us.  It was everything we wanted and more and I loved, well almost, every single second.  Being in Florida is just always so good for me, but also we were celebrating and that ... was the very best part.  This was our first family vacation since my husband was diagnosed with cancer in April of 2018.  We did spend a long weekend in May of that year at his best friends lake house to begin the journey and think about our new normal with chemo and cancer ... but since then we have not traveled together for obvious reasons.  It was hard.  I tried my darnedest to take the kids places, to make memories, to make sure their lives didn't completely stop ... but this trip was so good.  We watched him have fun, relax, take photos (one of his loves), play games, prepare meals, and just be.  I cried so many happy tears and just tried my best to take it all in. 

So, why North Captiva? Well, a few reasons.  My dear friend Nicole and her family have been the ones we vacation with in the summer and we tried our best to find something on the beach for all of us to really get away.  We chose a full week, which is something I have not done in so long, and every single thing we checked out in the Sarasota area was just booked. I did not want to go to 30A with the crazy crowds and she wanted to do something different as well and she landed on Captiva.  I have been to Sanibel and Captiva many times and loved it so much. When she was searching she discovered North Captiva and we both jumped at the chance to really get away. North Captiva is a barrier island that is only accessible by ferry or my small plane.  The idea of being removed from the world sounded so good.  We could just relax, be forced to enjoy where we were, and really just soak it in. She did the research, found the best place, read all about the island and was the best vacation wife, maybe ever. Nicole can research places like no one I know.  She knew everything we needed and kept up to speed on every detail. There were no amount of fun cocktails I could buy that would repay the work.  I just had to be thankful and enjoy. 

North Captiva is the perfect mix of an island and old Florida.  If you have lived in Florida you know what I mean by Old Florida. It is a slow and very relaxed life. A lot of the elements of south Florida my husband and I love were untouched.  It is lush with black mangroves, sea grapes, silver palm trees, agave plants, everglades palms, and so many more.  There are no paved roads and driving a golf cart from one location to another on thick lined vegetation roads is a slice of heaven.  It is just stunning. Since it is an island there are few stores and restaurants.  No paved roads, no grocery stores, no hotel, no coffee shops, just the simple necessities and lots of great activities.  There are a few restaurants on the island and they serve great food, we preferred Barnacles at Mainstay which had great food, strong island drinks and the best ice cream shop.  The ice cream shop also has some cute t shirts, hats, and souvenirs along with some drinks you can purchase in the can and a few (very few) essential items. We ate at Barnacles our first night since we were tired from the trip, checking in, getting settled, and putting away all the stuff. I recommend the Mahi tacos and the men recommend the Mahi Reuben. The fish is fresh and delish and all of their sauces are made fresh.  It was yummy!

So ... what did we do? We spent a lot of time at one of two beaches, we kayaked, paddle boarded, hiked, watched for manatees, dolphins, and turtles.  We relaxed and read, watched the Olympics, ate yummy food, took naps, grilled, caught all the sunsets, took rides to discover every inch of the island, shot so many photos and just absorbed each and every day.  We had scheduled a private chartered boat but the weather didn't cooperate so we swapped it for a morning trip to Cabbage Key which was amazing.  All of the barrier islands in the area are truly stunning.  I wanted to check out Boca Grande as well but the red tide was strong in the area and it seemed like a bad time to do so. We saw so many manatees, dolphins, turtles, osprey, spiders (big ones with pretty webs), birds, a few good snakes, and tons of just incredible flowers and native plants. I am telling you ... it was the feel of a Caribbean island just off the coast of south Florida. 

Other than our one morning trip we did not leave North Captiva from the day we arrived until the morning we left.  It is about a 30 min ferry ride to the marina and then a drive into Fort Myers if you wanted to go somewhere and we signed up for island life so we completely embraced it. 

Tips and tricks ... 

There is no grocery store on the island and the staff leaves on the last ferry of the day so you need to plan ahead.  We learned that you can Instacart your groceries and have it boat packed for the ferry. We flew so we took and chartered van from the airport to Publix and then to the marina.  All of our groceries were packed in coolers and cooler bags and all labeled.  It was perfection.  However, you need to be mindful of where your items go onto the ferry and that they are all removed the same way and loaded onto the carts they use to pick you up.  We had thirty items from Publix and each was labeled and numbered.  It was easy to track them from the ferry to the carts and then upstairs to the house.  Lost and damaged groceries is common, so we had eagle eyes on ours.  If something is damaged its not easy to have it replaced.  There are a few amazing shoppers who you can use to shop for you mid week or if you want to do it differently and they will take the boat packed items to the ferry and then you can meet your goods at the time the ferry arrives to you. It runs four times a day so it is easy to plan.  Also, if you have Amazon items shipped they arrive the same way so you just need to track them to know which day to meet the ferry for your packages. 

Nicole was vigilant in reading and understand the issues of a barrier island. We read and learned a lot and not all have an incredible experience.  If you need a plumber, etc they have to come to you on the ferry, so make sure when you check out rental places on VRBO you read the reviews about the home owners.  Our home owner was incredible and when we needed help it was him, not the property manager, who made it better. We did have an issue with golf carts, which we rented, and it became tricky.  You do not want an issue with your house or your rentals to become the focus of your vacation.  Since you are renting on an island read, read, read.  You will be thankful you are prepared and know what you are getting into.  There are two Facebook groups for the island, one run by Property Managers and one run by guests.  I would read both. 

Golf carts are your mode of transportation.  We rented a home only 5/8 of a mile from one of the beaches we loved so getting there was quick.  However, when it rained two evenings the water pooled in puddles and we needed the carts to make it to the beach.  These are not brand new carts, but they do the job and they are so good to get yourself and your crew with all of the chairs etc to the beach. We made multiple trips but it worked.  Our home had one cart and we rented a second one.  Check your home for chairs, umbrellas, bungee cords, and anything  you will want.  If it isn't at your home there are some places to get them but you do set them up and take them down yourself.  We had a system and everyone pitched in. 

It is a barrier island, so remember that when you see the issues that come with that.  There are areas where they store trash for the boat to come pick up, there is a space for unused house items that need to be removed and issues of the like.  It is a gorgeous island with amazing people, but they do not have the same amenities (garbage truck pick up) that a city would. It has an island and completely disconnected feel which is why so many love it and I would just recommend you relax and enjoy! 

Bottled water is a must have.  We bought both bottles and then huge jugs for the refrigerator and coffee maker. 

Bug spray is a must have as well. We had Skin So Soft from Avon and it worked like magic. 

Sunscreen is so important in Florida in the summer.  Take a lot and use it as directed. I wore Supergoop 50 all day and a big hat and never burned. I felt like I had achieved success ... the sun is so strong. 

There are two property management companies on the island.  Make sure you do the research on your house and your owner.  The property managers are iffy ... and hard to communicate with ... so be prepared for that.  We only had one issue, and it was a big one ... but our home owner was incredible so all was ok for us.  Others had different issues, so please, please, please read all you can. 

Reader questions ... 

Shells, how is it?  Incredible.  The tides bring in shells by the hundreds so the shelling is magical. We did not find any whole sand dollars but they can be found near the sandbars and are fuzzy when you run your feet along the bottom of the ocean. 

Is the island private?  It is not.  You can go for the day anytime.  The ferry one way is $24 and you just have to plan your day and activities in advance. 

Are the manatees there year round?  Yes!!  Season for Florida is October to May so remember that when  you are booking.  Rental fees and crowds will be more in those times.  

How far in advance did you book?  We booked our home in April for a July visit.  We were so lucky to find what we wanted and with an incredible home owner. 

What did you pack?  Well, way too much.  I lived in simple dresses, swim suits, and pajamas.  I took four pairs of shoes (silly me) and only wore my Rainbows!  I would pack lots of swim options, hats, sunnies, easy dresses you can wear over a suit or after showering, comfy pjs and leave the rest home.  I wore a simple dress and Rainbows home and on the way home wore a cute top and shorts and was so hot when I arrived.  It's an island and on the cart you get so dusty so definitely nothing you love too much!!

Is it kid friendly? Absolutely!!  Our kids loved it and I saw all ages of kids and they all seemed to thrive. 

How much did you spend?  Our trip cost us about $4k and $5k per family.  I do not have any discounts or codes to share.  That includes flights, chartered vans, ferries, food, lodging, and all the drinks and ice cream. We did use points for two of the flights if that helps.

Would I go back? Yes, the bigger question is why did we leave. 😎

If you have any questions email me and I will do my best!!  Have the best day and the most amazing weekend. 💗


  1. Looks like so much fun. I went on a kayaking trip to Cayo Costa in high school and one day we kayaked to Cabbage Key Inn.
    Your post reminded me that I need to take my kids to that corner of the world and show them Old Florida.

  2. Beautiful. Old Florida is my jam. When I find a spot that makes me think "this feels like old FL" then I never want to leave! Glad the trip was amazing!Thanks fo sharing the details.

  3. This looks and sounds incredible!

  4. The island is beautiful. Friendly people almost every where. My daughter and family and my son and family are here right now. Two grandmothes also.Lots of cooking,walks,drinks boating consume our days along with the beach and looking for sea shells. We will all be back.

  5. We're going to North Captiva in January. 70 degrees water temp sounds chilly. Do some beaches have warmer wayer than others?



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