Captiva Island is immediately north of Sanibel Island just west of Fort Myers in Lee County. It fronts the Gulf of Mexico on the west and Pine Island Sound on the east.
North Captiva Island is north of Captiva Island and is not the focus of this article.
Captiva, North Captiva, and Sanibel used to be joined until a severe hurricane divided them by creating a new channel to Florida's Gulf coast.
Located between the southern tip of Captiva Island and the northern end of Sanibel, the channel is known as Blind Pass.
A hurricane also broke through Captiva Island and created Redfish Pass at the northern tip of Captiva Island.
The island north of that pass is North Captiva Island, which is only accessible by boat or plane.
The old legends say that Captiva is named because the pirate José Gaspar, also known as Gasparilla, held his female prisoners on the island.
Historians can't confirm that Gaspar really existed, but it makes for a colorful story.
Another interesting story is the history of the Tween Waters Inn, a resort that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It started as a fishing and resort destination in the late 1920s, continuing to grow in popularity after stories of Teddy Roosevelt enjoying time there became well known.
Today, the Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa continues to draw visitors from around the world as a tropical paradise destination, promoting sunny island adventures, beautiful beaches and water activities.
Wilbert Herbert Binder first homesteaded Captiva in 1888. His grave is in a small cemetery next to The Chapel By The Sea.
The chapel is a small white wooden sided little church on the beach. In its early days it also served as the schoolhouse.
It welcomes people of all spiritual beliefs, and is open from Thanksgiving to Easter every year.
That's the time of year everybody on this island calls "season".
Captiva is accessed from Sanibel by a small bridge over Blind Pass. Sanibel is reached by a toll bridge connected to the mainland west of Fort Myers.
Until this bridge, named the Sanibel Causeway, was built in 1963, access was by car ferry from the mainland.
Captiva Road heads north from Sanibel to the very northern end of Captiva Island. It is a canopied trail with occasional views of the beautiful blue Gulf and white sand beaches.
The luxury homes along Captiva Road are known as "Millionaire's Row". These homes are both on the Gulf of Mexico and the bay to the east.
The small area known as Captiva Village is at the north end of this road just before it enters the South Seas Island Resort and Yacht Club.
The Village is the heart of local life on the island. There are art galleries, boutiques, a small library, and the chapel mentioned earlier.
There are a few restaurants, inns, and quaint homes tucked away among bright tropical flowers, palm trees, and pastel colored buildings and picket fences.
Captiva Drive runs east-west in the Village and connects the boat docks of Pine Island Sound with the Gulf of Mexico white sand beach.
Captiva Island has taken its share of hurricane damage over the years.
The most recent was Hurricane Charley in 2004 that damaged or destroyed more than 300 buildings on it's way to smashing into Punta Gorda on the mainland.
The South Seas Island Resort and Yacht Harbor occupies the northern two miles of Captiva Island.
It was built on the site of a large key lime plantation many years ago and suffered extreme damage from Hurricane Charley in 2004.
It is now completely restored after a $140 million renovation, and is a mainstay of the island tourism economy. Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille is open to the public at the entrance to the resort.
There are several small businesses on Captiva that offer a wide range of adventures and water sports.
Among these are kayak eco tours, day sails and boat trips to nearby Useppa Island and Cabbage Key where Jimmy Buffett allegedly got the inspiration for "Cheeseburger In Paradise".
Some of these businesses operate out of South Seas Resort, Tween Waters Inn and Captiva Village.
Some Capitiva businesses in Captiva Village got together and offer a free tram service that will take you almost anywhere on the island.
Leave your car behind. Let the tram pull you at a snail's pass around the island so you can enjoy the scenery.
The spectacular Captiva sunsets over the Gulf of Mexico are a popular event in Captiva Village. Guests and locals stroll to the beach with drink in hand to relax in beach chairs. It's a perfect place to enjoy the sunset together.
There are several enjoyable Captiva beaches, resorts and parks throughout the area. From Captiva Beach in the north to Blind Pass Beach to Lighthouse Beach in Sanibel island, you will easily find an appealing spot one no matter which area you stay in.
Shelling - both on Capitva and nearby Sanibel - is also one of the favorite things to do for many visitors.
It is estimated there are 250 kinds of seashells from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean regions.
Turner Beach, which is located on both the Sanibel side and the Captiva side of the Blind Pass Bridge, is reported to be the best places for shelling in the area.
Much of the land throughout Captiva and Sanibel islands is protected as nature reserves, with the most well-known being the J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, in Sanibel Island.
This refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is famous worldwide for its many species of birds and other wildlife including manatees.
Since the majority of the birds are migratory, what you see will vary depending on when you visit.
There is a 4-mile one way road through the refuge on which you can drive, bike or take a tram tour, and you can explore the several trails or get a high view from the observation tower.
Captiva is also easy to get to by air, being only about 35 miles via the Southwest Florida International Airport, in Fort Myers.
LODGING ON CAPTIVA ISLAND FLORIDA
Captiva Island Vacation Rentals By Owner and other rental agencies have listings for privately owned houses and condos on Captiva Island. There are also a few fine lodging establishments on the island.
Captiva Island Inn Bed & Breakfast, 11509 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Island Florida 33924. Captiva Island Inn is unique with several small cottages scattered around the Captiva Village area.
Each one is close to the restaurants, entertainment and shops in the heart of the Village, and is an easy walk to the beach.
They also provide a trolley that will take you anywhere on the island for easy access. Average rates $135-$207.
South Seas Island Resort and Yacht Harbor, 5400 Plantation Road, Captiva Island Florida 33924. South Seas is on the far north end of the island and is a self-sufficient vacation destination.
It is a gated resort with rooms, villas, private homes and condos available for rent.
The resort has several swimming pools, a marina, boat rentals, kayak tours, several restaurants and bars, tennis courts and a 9 holes golf course, the only golf course on the island.
The resort has car rental facilities, a grocery market and deli and a fitness club. Average rates $161-$389.
Tween Waters Inn, 15951 Captiva Road, Captiva Island, FL 33924. This inn is located at the skinniest part of Captiva Island about a mile south of the village area of Captiva.
It has several vintage rooms, cottages and efficiencies with views of the bay and the Gulf.
It also has a swimming pool with poolside live music, a quite private pool for those seeking serenity, children's activities, tennis courts, a marina and a restaurant called the Capiva House.
The Gulf beach across from the inn is one of the best on the island.
The entire resort was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 15, 2011. Average rates $130-$222. .
RESTAURANTS ON CAPTIVA ISLAND
Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, 5400 South Seas Plantation Road, Captiva, Florida 33924. Tel: 239-312-4275. There is also another Doc Ford's on nearby Sanibel Island.
Owned by famous author Randy Wayne White and named for the hero in many of his novels, this casual place has great drinks, seafood, and steaks.
Inside, outside dining, music, and you may see the author chatting with customers.
Key Lime Bistro, 11509 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva Island, FL 33924. Tel: 239-395-4000. A great place for fresh seafood. They have swordfish, shrimp, grouper, sea bass and other specialties when available. The bistro is part of the Captiva Island Inn complex. Outside dining and music.
Old Captiva House, 15951 Captiva Drive, Captiva Island, FL 33924. Tel: 239-472-5161. This restaurant is located at the Tween Waters Inn. Upscale dining on a laid back island, but very good food. Waiters in tuxedo shirts, entrees pretty expensive. Seafood delicious and well prepared. Great place to catch a sunset.
Sunshine Seafood Cafe, 14900 Captiva Dr, Captiva Island, FL. Tel:239-472-6200. Good local seafood nicely prepared. Excellent sea bass and paella. A good wine list, and a popular spot where the locals love to eat.