I've been an owner at South Seas Club Resort on the north end of Captiva Island for 32 years. Hard to believe it's been so long! Over those years I've watched my son grow up - now himself a middle-aged man and father - and watched the change and evolution of this resort as it went through its ups and downs of ownership, management and the economy. I even watched as it survived and rebuilt after Hurricane Charley.
|Entrance to reception area, taken in 2004|
I've seen how both of us have aged over those years, the inevitable march of time across not only my own face but across the "face" of this resort. I must say, the resort is aging far more gracefully than I am. Beautifully re-purposed buildings, construction of new facilities, revamping and refocusing of the resort's mission statement, have all resulted in a resort that is timely, appropriate, and just downright gorgeous!
When I bought into this resort in the early 80's, it was all about the adults. After all, it was the height of the "Yuppie" era, the start of the "me generation" fostered by unprecedented career and salary growth among the baby boomers who wanted it all. Turn the kids over to Captiva Kids camps during the day while the adults took sailing lessons, SCUBA'd or snorkeled, went deep sea fishing, and then turn them loose on age-appropriate supervised evening activities, while the adults had a jacket-and-tie formal dinner at the fine-dining restaurant, the King's Crown. The resort catered to this demographic back then.
After Hurricane Charley hit Captiva square-on in 2004, the resort closed for almost two years, as it rebuilt, repaired, reconstructed, refurbished, replanted, and reorganized. I was at the resort the week the hurricane hit. As soon as the forecasts were accurate enough to predict the location of landfall, I called Continental Airlines and re-booked my flight home for that Wednesday, just two days before the storm made landfall and the day I was originally scheduled to fly home. Then I rented a bicycle and, with camera in hand, took an extensive photojournalism tour of the resort, taking photos of literally everything on the resort. I wanted the historical record before the hurricane hit.
I'm so glad that I did this. Captiva 2004 Album
During that closure, the resort totally reinvented itself. Gone was the stuffy formal King's Crown restaurant. Gone was the stodgy and dated restaurant at the south end of the resort, Chadwick's. Gone was the antiquated "beauty parlor" where women could get their bouffant hairdos touched up in time for their formal dinner. Gone was the rather "pedestrian" rectangular main pool. These were good decisions.
|The main pool on the north end of the resort as it appeared in 2004 before the hurricane.|
|Cap'n Al's, taken in 2004 just days before the hurricane hit Captiva.|
Today this restaurant is called Harbourside Bar and Grill and has
been totally remodeled with a different exterior.
Today the resort is all about the kids! It has transformed itself into a family-friendly, kid-centric resort, filled with little touches to delight the kids. There is now a water park, just for the kids, adjacent to the main pool complex, lushly landscaped, lots of seating in the shade for the parents, all within quick reach of the little ones.
|View of the kids pool area, called H2 Whoa!|
|Two really cool slides in the children's water park, H2 Whoa!|
The shops, the cafes and restaurants, the activities, the resort grounds - and the tiny little touches in place to catch a passing child's fancy - all aimed at pleasing both parents and children.
|Child-centric pool shop, selling toys even adults would like|
I wanted the poolside Barbie doll but resisted!
|My granddaughter would have loved to do this!!|
|Fun photo op for the kids! And the adults!|
|Randomly placed bubble machine by the beach. Non-stop captivation|
I returned to the resort the first year it reopened after the hurricane. I was curious to see the damage and to see how reconstruction was proceeding. Not all facilities were open. In fact, very little was open. Only the Ship's Store and Cap'n Als had been rebuilt or repaired and were open. But with my own kitchen and plenty of food stocked, that was unimportant. What was very important was the loss of habitat and devastating loss of vegetation. It was shocking and heartbreaking! In particular, along the beautiful resort drive from the south end to the north end - a pristine, undeveloped 2 mile stretch - was pretty much destroyed by the hurricane.
|The resort drive, running the 2 mile length of the resort, a runner's paradise,|
with ample shade along the way.
|That same stretch of road in 2006 - two years after the hurricane. Totally destroyed|
habitat and cover for wildlife....and runners.
I don't return every year, but I do try to go back every 3rd or 4th year. I returned again in 2011. Ever so slowly, the vegetation along the 2 mile long resort road is returning. It will still be another decade or more before it reaches the height and cover it provided pre-hurricane. The resort has replaced many of the large palms and plantings in the landscaped areas of the resort and along the golf course, and the landscaping today is, in one word: gorgeous!
And now again am returning in 2015. I was in need of a purely decadent vacation, one not in any way tied to running a half marathon race. So I booked my flight and rented a car (after debating whether to fly or drive) and then counted the days until it was time to go.
United has only one non-stop flight into Ft. Myers. It's always been that way, even when it was Continental Airlines. So I am always at the mercy of their flight schedule which changes at least yearly. Some years that flight would get me there in the early afternoon. Some years it would get me in late at night, in which case I'd fly in the day before and stay on the mainland that night. This year it got me into Ft. Myers early evening. I made a quick stop at the big Super Walmart to buy a pillow (the resort pillows are awful) and to stock up on food, wine, beer, and anything I may have realized I'd forgotten.
I got to the resort at around 7:30 PM - it's a long drive to get down to the bay, go across the causeway, travel the entire length of Sanibel Island, and then onto Captiva Island - and picked up the key to my condo before driving up to the north end of the resort where my unit is. As soon as I could get unpacked and get the groceries put away, I walked over toward the beach just in time for the sunset. Always a stunner, always predictable, always a photo op.
|Sunset on my first evening in paradise....Captiva!|
Getting morning runs in here is so easy, since there are plenty of options and diversions along the way...ocean and bay views, wildlife - owls, osprey, lizards - and a Starbucks at the south end of the resort, just a convenient 2 mile run from my condo. The Osprey population has increased since the hurricane and every day I could hear them calling. I spotted at least two bonded pair in my runs and walk-abouts at the resort. A fairly new nest platform had been erected along the golf course near my condo, no doubt in response to a pair trying to nest in an inappropriate location. Very cool!!
|Osprey nest platform just to the right of the large cabbage palm|
|4.6 mile run for Starbucks on Sunday morning, before the sun was up.|
|Tuesday Morning Run: Shorter, 3.4 mile very early morning run in the dark|
and in the rain rain for Starbucks.
|Wet running shoes drying on the balcony.|
|Wednesday morning run: |
This started out as a short run for Starbucks but it was feeling so good
that it turned into a 6.2 mile run before stopping for a Starbucks.
|Saturday late morning "I'm on vacation" celebration|
at the Tiki bar, having an excellent, spicy Bloody Mary.
|Crispy buffalo chicken wrap with a beer, poolside at The Pointe|
I made sure that I had an outdoor lunch every single day. Some days I ate at The Pointe overlooking Pine Island Sound and the main pool complex.
|Having a Captiva Sunrise, a fruity drink enjoyed on the beach|
at Sunset Beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico
|The Sandbar, beach front bar, as it appeared in 2004|
The beachfront bar today, with outdoor table seating on the sand, grill, bar, sundries shop:
|The beachfront bar today|
Other days I ate at Sunset Beach Bar on the beach, in the shade of palm trees overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
|Sunset Bar table seating on the beach|
|My favorite spot at the Sunset Beach bar: on a stool, sipping a cool|
drink, waiting for my lunch to be ready.
|Many waitstaff working those beach umbrella patrons out there on the beach.|
The old Uncle Bob's ice cream parlor before the hurricane:
|Uncle Bob's Ice Cream Parlor in 2004. Small, cramped, always a long line out the door.|
Sold ice cream and penny candy.
The new ice cream parlor, in a new location, bigger, better, serving ice cream and pizza, right across from the entrance to the H2 Whoa! water park:
|The new ice cream and pizza shop, large interior with tables and booths.|
The shoreline has changed the most of anything over the years. Erosion, enrichment, more erosion, more enrichment....the beach front is continually shifting, sometimes with a gentle slope down to the water, sometimes with an abrupt two-foot drop onto the tide line. But one constant has always been there: the sea turtle nests this time of year.
|Beach in 2004, just two days before the hurricane hit. Some significant but normal|
erosion of the beach, pre-hurricane.
|Same stretch of beach in 2015. Notice total change in contour of the|
beach front and loss of nearly all significant trees.
|Sea turtle nest in 2004, before the hurricane. Note the sharp drop-off down to tide line|
and amount of vegetation before the hurricane.
|Sea turtle nest in 2015. Gentler drop-off to high tide line and|
significant loss of vegetation along the beach.
I noticed this year that traffic on the golf course seemed very light. Changing times, changing demographics, and probably a victim of the family orientation of the resort these days. My condo looks out over the tee box for the first hole. In past years I could sit out on my screened in balcony and eat my breakfast while watching the golfers line up - sometimes get stacked up - as they teed off. When my husband was alive, the ritual was to arrive and immediately go to the pro shop to get our tee times booked for the week. The course would be so busy that we were always paired with another couple, so that they could push more people - foursomes - through the course. Not anymore. Times have definitely changed.
Well....it was a wonderful and relaxing week. I accomplished what I wanted to do, which was pretty much very little. The change of scenery added new life to my running - always a plus. I drank bloody Mary's for breakfast, had fruity rum drinks for lunch, sat by the beach, sat by the pool, ran to Starbucks several times. Watched the sunset over the Gulf. Watched the sunrise over the bay. And as much as I didn't want to, it was time to go home.
Next: Race day in Montreal!