Where in the world is North Captiva Island?

Florida’s North Captiva Island, located in the Gulf of Mexico, is about as far away from the chaos of everyday life as you can get, while still staying within the United States.  I had heard it’s almost similar to Thailand or Indonesia in its exoticism, with the heat and humidity…and bugs.  But I went into my research with an open mind and now I’m trying to convince any of my friends and family to take a trip to explore the island with me.

North Captiva IslandAs you may expect, being as remote and as small as it is - 4 miles long and 1/2 mile wide at its widest point! - getting to North Captiva Island takes some planning as it is only accessible by water taxi or private charter boat.  The Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida is the closest airport to North Captiva Island and most major airlines service this airport.  From there, take the Pine Island Taxi to Pineland Marina and board the Island Girl – the only scheduled ferry to North Captiva Island.

Sidebar:  Because the island is sosecluded, you have to either bring what you will need for your trip with you, plan ahead to make sure it will be there for you, or a combination of the two.  This applies to groceries, bottled water, basic first aid supplies (aspirin, bandaids, etc), bug repellent, and especially produce – be sure to check with your airlines and local customs on rules regarding bringing produce onto the island.  Most travelers opt to fax their order – at least 48 hours before you will arrive on the island – to Publix Santa Barbara grocery store, on the mainland (Pine Island Taxi will stop at Publix on the way to the marina).  They will take your grocery order and pack your items for easy transport.  There is a small grocery on the island, but it stocks mostly convenience items is ridiculously expensive.

Once on the island, be prepared to sloooooow down and take in the natural beauty that surrounds you.  There are no cars and no paved roads on North Captiva.  Bicycles and electric golf carts (a private golf cart and/or bicycles are included in most vacation rental, so be sure to inquire about this at the time of booking) are used to explore our sandy paths.

There are over 5 miles of beaches to explore.  Visitors report strolling for hours without seeing anyone else – you will, however, run into some local wildlife.  Two-thirds of the island’s 700 acres are a protected State of Florida wilderness park and wildlife sanctuary for manatees, loggerhead turtles and over one hundred species of migratory birds.

If your idea of a vacation is body shots and disco music, Captiva is notfor you.  The 50 or so year-round residents operate on “island time” and there are very few established businesses.  Island activities include shelling, snorkeling, charter sport-fishing, swimming, kayaking, boating, stargazing, bird watching, dining at one of the 2 restaurants and island hopping…Sanibel, Pine Island, Cayo Costa, and Useppa are all within minutes by boat.

So, despite that fact that every article and travel forum I read about North Captiva stressed the need for Deet-strength bug repellant, I’m not scared.  I’m harnessing my inner Robinson Crusoe, packing my spray (and maybe a mosquito net) and going to check out this beautiful and remote island for myself!  North Captiva Island is one of the few places left that has mastered the delicate balance between man and nature.  This unique island paradise is not for everybody – but as the locals will say, it was never intended to be!

Insider Interview: Florida’s North Captiva & Boca Grande

3435492417_cd85059273_bIt’s no wonder Sarah Rapp loves what she does.  For the last 10 years she has worked as a Broker/Realtor and advertising agent for rental properties throughout Southwestern Florida.  As the owner of her own company, Beach Vacation4me, Sarah has worked for 8 years in North Captiva and 2 years in Boca Grande and owns a private residence in North Captiva…although she divides her time between Boca Grande and North Captiva.

And who wouldn’t love dividing their time between these gorgeous barrier islands?

Property ID#19623   Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Property ID#19623 Tropic Ten - Dunes Of Boca

Sarah recalls her first visit to North Captiva, “I loved the natural beauty – it’s still somewhat untouched and family oriented.”

And untouched they are – North Captiva is only accessible by boat and there are no cars on the island, vacationers instead opting to navigate around the island by golf cart, bicycle and boat.

Boca Grande has a land bridge making car travel an option, however many still choose to get around in golf carts or on bike.

“For some people, the fact that they have to be without their car in North Captiva is a bit too much,” says Sarah.  ”So Boca Grande is the next best fit.”

Peak season for both of these lush US islands runs from March through the first part of April.  However, both of these locals have great weather year-round, so go ahead and plan your trip for the off-season when you can enjoy warm weather and great rates on vacation rentals!  And if you’re concerned about hurricanes, they are no reason to miss out on a great tropical escape.  Sarah recommends getting travel insurance if you’re planning your trip anytime between August and November.

Once in Boca Grande, vacationers have many options of activities – one of Sarah’s favorites is to head out on one of the many bike paths that wind through the city.  Sarah has also found that Boca Grande has some of the best shelling of anywhere Sarah has been, saying  ”They’re magnificent”

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtest of Florida Trend

Gasparilla Inn - photo courtesy of Florida Trend

She also recommends stopping by the charming Gasparilla Inn & Club for dinner and drinks.  The club has a variety of dining options ranging from The Main Dining Room (open for breakfast and dinner daily), The Pink Elephant, or “The Pink” as many call it (a more casual option for lunch, dinner and drinks), or the popular BZ’s lounge where patrons can lounge on the sofas and chairs and sip one of the Inn’s signature drinks: Gaspartinis, Mojitos and Planter’s Punch.

North Captiva and Boca Grande are only about a 40 minute boat ride apart from eachother – close enough to plan a day trip from one to the other.

Sarah’s North Captiva Picks

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

A good catch on Dennis Realy's fishing charter!

Food:

  • The Boat House Restaurant and the Island Club – chef David Kivel serves up delicious surf & turf eats, making this a great restaurant to go for a romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion while on the island.
  • Mango’s Island Grill & General Store – a great place to stop by for breakfast or lunch, grab your food to go or enjoy it on Mango’s waterfront patio.
  • Andy’s Seafood Market – in Matlacha, an old fishing village on the mainland before you take a boat over to North Captiva Island, has great fresh fish for vacationers to buy and take with them to cook at their vacation rental house.

Activities:

  • Dennis Realy, owner of North Captiva Charters, is the island’s “Best Kept Secret” and a master fisherman.  According to Sarah, “He knows his stuff – red fish, tarpon, shark, whatever you want to catch, he will cast and then hand you the rod.  I’ve never fished and not caught something!”
  • Visit Boats and Fun run by father, Alberto Barbero, and son, Matias Barbero, who Sarah refers to as “Mr. Fun,” for jet ski, kayak, wakeboard and boat rentals, banana boat and inter-tube rides, and scuba & dolphin excursions.  ”Matias is always smiling, always happy,” says Sarah.  Boats and Fun “has really created a great shop – you can go by and ask them when the tide is, what’s going on around town, anything.”

Vacationers who stay at one of Sarah’s North Captiva rentals that is managed by the Island Club also get to enjoy a guest membership (and all of the amenities that come with it!) to the North Captiva Island Club Resort.  The club offers tennis courts, a huge pool, fitness equipment, day excursions, a pool bar that also serves up milkshakes for the kids and more.  The staff of the North Captiva Island Club will also help assist with groceries and luggage!

Guest Blog – Loggerhead Turtles of North Captiva Island

On my most recent trip to North Captiva Island, I had the opportunity to go on a turtle walk with a conservationist volunteer who is responsible for reporting on sea turtle nests. It was a fascinating fact finding experience. We started before sunrise and walked for approximately 3 hours investigating turtle nests and crawls. This is what I learned.

Each summer from May through August, something wondrous happens along our beaches: An ancient mariner, the loggerhead sea turtle, leaves the water during the night and crawls ashore in North Captiva Island to lay her eggs in a sandy nest.

The task of excavating a nest may take her over an hour to accomplish. The turtle – weighing several hundred pounds – laboriously digs a nest cavity with her rear flippers.

turtle1

Turtle nest

She then deposits approximately 100 pliable ping-pong ball sized eggs into the chamber, covers them with sand and returns to the sea.

After roughly a two-month incubation period, a cluster of tiny hatchlings emerges from the sand and scrambles to the Gulf. Unfortunately, their sea-finding ability can be disrupted by lights from buildings and streets. Confused, the hatchlings wander inland and are crushed by vehicles or die from heat exhaustion in the sunlight.

 

 

 

 

Loggerhead Turtle Facts:

  • Loggerheads are air-breathing reptiles, scientific name Caretta caretta
  • The common name refers to the turtle?s large head
  • Loggerheads are the most common sea turtles in Florida.
  • Weighing 250 – 400 pounds, adults can grow to more than three feet in length.
  • Hatchlings are two inches long.
  • Nesting occurs from May through August. Hatching may extend through October.
  • The nest cavity is 18 – 22 inches in depth.
  • Incubation period of the eggs in their sandy nest is 55 – 65 days.

 

turtle tracks

turtle tracks

Danger of Extingtion
Most adult loggerhead turtles nest every other year or every third year, laying several clutches of eggs during a nesting season. Only a small percentage of hatchlings survive to maturity! Loggerhead turtles have existed on Earth for millions of years with little serious threat to their survival – until recently. Pollution, lighted beaches, loss of nesting habitat, drowning in shrimp nets and other fishing gear have contributed to the drastic decline of these and other sea turtles.

Guest Blog – North Captiva’s Historical Ice House

Fish house following hurricane Charlie - It has since been restored

The Calusa Indians, who dominated South Florida for more than a millennium, were skilled sailors and fisherman. Their large canoes of hallowed out cypress logs were capable of reaching Cuba. They thrived through living in harmony with our Southwest Florida environment. Pineland on Pine Island contains some of the most extensive Calusa mound sites and canal works.

The Calusa Indians fished with nets made from Cabbage Palm fibers. After the demise of the Calusas from European conquest and the introduction of diseases like smallpox, new settlers became adept at commercial fishing. Pine Island Sound was peppered with fishing camps and later, ice houses, which eliminated the need to preserve their catch through drying and salting.

One such ice house was built in 1924 by the Punta Gorda Fish Company at the north shore entrance to Safety Harbor at North Captiva Island. One story rests on a wooden platform supported by wood pilings. The Ice House is one of few remaining buildings documenting the system of remote, water-based fish industry ice houses.

The structure was built as an ice house to serve the fishermen and run boats in the loading, unloading and storage of freshly caught fish. The structure is a specialized form designed to function under potentially adverse weather conditions, relative isolation, and the possible requirement to relocate the building to follow the migration of the fish.

Guest Blog – North Captiva Island


Mangoes ready for the takingby Sarah Rapp
Resident, North Captiva Island

Did you know that besides Florida, no other states report the production of mangoes? Consequently, Florida is the main United States producer of this fruit. Mango Mania is a festival held at the German American Social Club (2101 S.W. Pine Island Road, Cape Coral during the month of July).

Festival-goers can taste and buy their fill of just-picked mangoes of assorted varieties, many of which are not available in supermarkets. Additionally, they can learn how to grow their own and buy a tree. There’s music, dancing and even some non-mango comestibles for anyone who simply can’t live on mangoes alone.

If you don’t have time to go to the festival, order mangoes from the market, or stop at one of the local fruit stands on the way to the marina. The fruits vary in shape (kidney, round, oblong, oval) and weight ranges from a few ounces to five pounds.  Although the fruit will ripen on the tree, it is usually picked green and will ripen quickly. The fruit is just delicious…so why not celebrate your own mango mania while visiting North Captiva!

 

Mango Salsa
Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.
Ingredients:
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper
Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.

Mango Salsa

Fresh mango salsa is easy to make and perfect with halibut or salmon or as the salsa in fish tacos.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced (about 1 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Jalapeño chile, minced (include ribs and seeds for a hotter taste if desired)
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste. Also good with diced red bell pepper

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If the salsa ends up being a little too hot or acidic for your taste, you can temper it by adding some diced avocado.