Toward the end of my maternity leave, we took our first family vacation and upon my mother-in-law’s suggestion, we *gasp* went to Florida. During our childless years, we would never have thought to vacation in Florida. The plastic Miami scene wasn’t our thing. Neither is Disney. But we were childless no more. FOMOBaby was almost four months old and in full FOMO mode (not sleeping, screeching and screaming for hours–especially after 2 pm, and only slept in a swing). We are beach people but a resort hotel room with adjacent neighbors seemed like torture for us and fellow vacationers. A self-catering condo also sounded like a not-vacation (taking care of a colicky baby is exhausting enough without having to clean up a condo). MIL suggested South Seas, a full-service resort on Captiva Island with condo accommodations. Apparently, NO ONE goes there in August.
We booked a 2 bedroom/2 bath beachfront Gulf Cottage. On the way from the airport to the resort, we stopped off at the Target in Fort Myers and stocked up on supplies and a Fisher-Price swing. For most of our 2-week stay there, we were the only guests in the Gulf Cottage section of the resort. We had the beach to ourselves the whole time. Nothing but water in the distance. FOMOBaby could scream to his heart’s content in the afternoon, evening and during the night. It was blazing hot but we had the bathwater-calm ocean at our feet to cool off. FOMOBaby had his own baby beach cabana with regularly prizing of ice-cold water and a fan. This is when we knew we had a beach baby on our hand. During our stay, he NAPPED at least three times in his beach tent. FOMOBaby actually fell asleep and stayed asleep, without needing to be worn and bounced. We even took him out to dinner in Captiva and Sanibel. As it was low season, every restaurant we went into was OK with us bringing him, even the fancy French restaurant. I never thought I’d enjoy Florida so much.
The next year our in-laws came with us and we rented a 3-bedroom Beach House. The little man was now mobile and enjoyed running back and forth between the pool and the beach. We would plop him in the Swimways Baby Spring Float and just hang out in the shallow water for hours. FOMOBaby got to go on his first boat ride with Grandpa at the helm. We took the boat around Pine Island Sound, hung out at Cabbage Key where FOMOBaby chased around a quad of turtles named Donatello, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Raphael. It was a majorly rough ride back to Captiva but somehow FOMOBaby FELL ASLEEP. The rest of us thought we were going to die and the motion-junkie kid just dozed off.
The second time on the island, I finally learned that there was a whole resort pool complex at South Seas (c/o my awesome ex-boss who happened to be vacationing at South Seas at the same time). Somehow we missed it the first time around, probably since we just hung out on the beach in front of our cottage and honestly, a newborn wouldn’t get much out of the waterslides and kid’s camp. We also discovered the Island Seafood Truck this time, where we bought fresh grouper and cajun butter. Several trips were made to Pinocchio’s Ice Cream in Sanibel. Our in-laws had friends in Sanibel, so we visited the beach there for the first time. The shelling was definitely better there, but you could see the skyscrapers of mainland Florida in the distance, which detracted from the feeling of being on a secluded island.
We are going again this year in a few days and I can’t wait. During these years of his life, FOMOBaby changes so much and going back to Captiva at the same time every year really highlights how much he grows over the course of a year. When we went last year, we were picking up a high chair and baby proofing locks rather than an electric swing at Target, he ate real food at restaurants (ok, Kraft Mac & Cheese is not quite real food) rather than just a bottle, he went shelling with me, and we said sayonara to the baby beach cabana (no way was he staying put inside a tent). I think this year, we will be saying adios to the Swimways Spring Float and will be spending a lot more time at the pool than the beach. His picky eating has gotten better in the last few weeks and I’m crossing my fingers he will be willing to eat something other than French fries and Kraft Mac & Cheese. I have a feeling he is going to learn that he can break out of his portable crib during this trip. On our first trip, FOMOBaby learned to sleep without the swing on all night and it was the first step in getting him to sleep in a crib, so maybe this trip, it may be time to move to a big kid bed?
My favorite picks in Santiva and the Surroundings (Captiva-Sanibel)
Best Casual Beach Food: Mucky Duck
Best Fine Dining: Mad Hatter
Best Grouper: Lazy Flamingo (there are two locations–I like the one closer to Captiva better)
Best Shrimp: Yucatan Shrimp at Doc Ford’s
Best Raw Bar: Trader’s Cafe
Best Key Lime Pie: Green Flash
Best Ice Cream: Pinocchio’s
Best Accommodation: Land’s End condo overlooking Red Fish Pass so you can spend your afternoons/evenings watching the dolphins
Best Accommodation for Those With Boating Experience: Rent a boat for the duration of your stay and a beach cottage on Cabbage Key (accessible only by boat)
Best Groceries and General Supplies: Jerry’s
Best Beach Gear Rentals: Yolo Watersports
Best Spa: Spa at Tween Waters Inn
Best Fresh Seafood: Island Seafood in Matlacha (I’ve heard the truck stopped coming to Captiva but it’s worth a drive to Matlacha to stock up on fresh seafood)
Best Bug Spray: No-See-Ums All Natural Bug Spray (the no-see-ums here are no joke and other stuff does not work on the bugs in these parts)