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A Cocktail-Lover’s Guide to ‘Tween Waters on Captiva Island

Personally, I love good wine and, when lounging poolside, a top-shelf gin with tonic to refresh. The wine and cocktail lists at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island keep my thirst well quenched, but also offer a full suite of martinis, frozen drinks, signature craft cocktails, and local beers.

Sunny Sipping

Starting at the Oasis Pool Bar & Grille, the adult beverages pair well with splashy, sunny days. It’s known for its tropical frozen drinks – perfect for warm spring days this time of year.

I especially love ordering mine in a Tervis tumbler, the definitive Florida brand of insulated drinkware. Buy the ‘Tween Waters logo tumbler for $19.95 and get your 16-ounce frozen drink for free. Another cool pool bar deal, the Bucket Promotion awards you one free bottle of beer when you buy four.

Plus! Sipping poolside has never been so cool or so full of savings: Oasis Pool Bar has now launched 50% off all drinks for Happy Hour from 5:30-6:30PM nightly.

Nightlife & Nosh at Crow’s Nest

As an apertif at Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, I lean toward the Murky Water cocktail – ‘Tweenies version of a dirty martini made with Ketel One vodka and a blue cheese-stuffed olive. My beer-snob husband orders from the craft beer menu, usually Bury Me Brewing’s From My Dead Cold Hands IPA on tap, made nearby in Fort Myers. Reef Donkey APA from Florida’s Tampa Bay Brewing Co. also comes in draft, along with other crafts in bottles.

When I’m in the mood to drink my dessert, the Key Lime Pie Martini differs from others with a douse of Rumchata mixed with key lime liqueur and vanilla vodka.

Wining & Dining at Old Captiva House

Dinner at gracious Old Captiva House calls for a nice bottle of wine.

“I select the wine personally with my team,” said Food and Beverage Manager Laurent Bosc. “My goal is to offer good wines at good prices. Many countries such as Italy, New Zealand, and Australia are offering excellent unknown wine that often can compete with French and overrated Californian wines.” He urges guests to move out of their wine comfort zones to experiment with the excellent, lesser-known vintages.

I’m also a big fan of the bar’s Cumber-Tini, a twist on my usual GT with Hendrick’s gin and muddled cucumber. With that, it’s time to toast a hearty cheer to a day of sunning, supping , and sipping at ‘Tween Waters.

NOTE: Starting mid-May, kitchen and dining room renovations will mean that Old Captiva House will be temporarily relocated to the Wakefield banquet facility overlooking the Gulf.

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Getting water-logged to chase a flying Fox

If you ask me, Michael J. Fox is the culprit.

After all, it was a movie in which he played a starring role — 1989’s “Back to the Future Part II” — that first made red-blooded American boys like me start dreaming about the airborne sweet spot somewhere between terra firma and a jet airliner at 30,000 feet.

OK, full disclosure… I was 20 going on 21 when the movie came out.

Fox is Canadian, though, so there’s got to be a favorable conversion rate in there somewhere.

Anyway, the point is that after watching Marty McFly bounce off walls and race next to cars with what amounted to a low-hovering skateboard, we all figured similar real-world gallivanting was imminent.

But now, as 49 stares down the barrel at 50… Fox’s fantasy still seems way too far-fetched.

At least when it comes to land, that is.

Fortunately, the ‘Tween Waters Inn is flanked on two sides by water, which provides a bit more opportunity for those still hoping to give ol’ Michael J. a run for his multi-colored money.

And just as fortunately, it’s only a shade more than a mile from Yolo Watersports, too.

There, at 11534 Andy Rosse Lane, TWI guests and visitors can get their Fox on in the form of “flyboarding” — an activity in which riders stand on a board connected by a long hose to a watercraft.

Motion is created when water is forced under pressure to a pair of boots with jet nozzles underneath, providing thrust for the rider to fly as high as 50 feet in the air or dive headlong down to 8 feet.

It’s $95 for a 30-minute session with the certified folks at Yolo, who’ll ride shotgun to ensure fun and safety while the paying customers – with pre-flight instructions rattling around in their heads – desperately attempt to replicate YouTube videos that make it look barely harder than riding a bicycle.

For the record, those instructions seem pretty simple and focus mainly on basic movements – 1) stand with locked legs to begin; 2) point toes down or up to move forward or backward; and 3) lift alternating knees to go in the opposite direction (left knee moves you right, right knee moves you left) — but they provide little solace as you rise and tumble with all the alacrity of a sleep-deprived toddler.

It’ll take all but full-on Olympians (read: show-offs) multiple tries (read: crashes) to stay consistently dry and vertical, at which point a true adventurer may endeavor to raise his or her game, literally, by raising elevation – which provides both the thrill of flying and the terror of crashing for the same low price.

Soreness was alongside exaltation and exhaustion by the time my half-hour was up, though the sensation of a nose full of water lasted long after I’d gotten back to shore.

Turns out a comfy chair and attentive servers at the Oasis Pool Bar quickly take the edge off, especially upon their arrival with a frosty Rum Runner or Margarita.

And, whaddya know (eh!), it only took two or three repetitions before I’d begun to forgive my Alberta-born nemesis.

Maybe not enough to punch up “Doc Hollywood” on Netflix just yet…

But I’m surely willing to negotiate.

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Music to your ears: Jamming at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Captiva Island holds a reputation for some of the best music to be found around Southwest Florida, and you can thank ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa for that. For as long as I can remember, our visits to Captiva have been orchestrated by a party-down visit to the Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, where live contemporary musicians take the stage several nights each week. It has always been THE place to nightlife in these parts.

In the past few months, ‘Tweenies has gone a step jivier with the introduction of its Songwriter Saturdays the first weekend of each month. On the shirttails of the famous, countywide Island Hopper Songwriter Fest each September, ‘Tween Waters has piggybacked on a building reputation for high-profile artists from the BMI circuit. The informal Saturday concerts – to further sweeten this deal – take place at the Oasis Pool Bar, where the drinks are fruity and the setting tropically splashy.

The next Songwriter Saturday hits the pool deck on Feb. 3 starting at 4 p.m. ‘Tween Waters welcomes Hugh Mitchell to the stage. He has toured nationally since 2006 as a side man for other artists in venues ranging from bars to arenas. Now he has broken out on his own with a new 2017 release.

From his hometown in Alabama, the Birmingham Magazine writes: “Hugh Mitchell has an unmistakable down-home flavor, but he isn’t the result of a country factory. Call it country, call it rock. Just listen.”

I believe I will, and that you should too.

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Living the top-rated life on Captiva Island at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Recently, Coastal Living magazine published its 2018 list of 20 Best Places to Live on the Coast. Captiva Island made the top 10. My only surprise at that was: It should have placed number one. But of course we’re talking about a board of “experts” who don’t know Captiva Island like I do. And the scope, after all, is worldwide.

IMHO opinion, Captiva Island tops out even if you can only live there for a week or three days. Especially if you are living it up at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa, with its prime location balanced between Gulf of Mexico sunsets and Roosevelt Channel sunrises.

In that way and place, the sun dictates how you live on Captiva Island. I like to start with a morning coffee on the marina docks, where I can watch the bustle of morning boaters raring to get out on the water. Ospreys squawk and scold at all the commotion. Manatees and dolphins play undisturbed around the mangroves. Captiva Island comes alive.

In between, there are two swimming pools, a pool bar, a spa, tennis courts, and dining to see you to the other side: the Gulf side, where long beach walks, seashell hunts, and sandy snoozes bring you to the magnificent, near-religious finale of solar adieu. Sunrise, sunset. If that isn’t the way to live life to its fullest, what, I ask you, is?

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Searching for Shell-Halla in the dead of winter

The Weather Channel was in ghastly form.

Three-quarters of the country below freezing. More than 40 percent experiencing wintry precipitation.

Snow angels, Southwest Florida style.

And measurable amounts of the white stuff falling in North Florida from Tallahassee to Gainesville.

But just when it seemed the Jim Cantore basic cable film festival would never end, a thought suddenly occurred to me:

It doesn’t snow in Southwest Florida.

So while friends at nearly all points in the contiguous U.S. preoccupied themselves with the travels of “Winter Storm Grayson,” I grabbed my outdoor adventurer’s cap, scooped up the wife and son and again set out for the high Lee County seas.

That meant a return trip to The Marina at ‘Tween Waters Inn, where we booked ourselves three seats on an afternoon beach/shelling excursion to Cayo Costa — a north/south barrier island about eight miles from the resort via Pine Island Sound.

Another day in winter paradise.

The boat docked on the island’s southeast side after a 30-minute ride, and a brief trip across a boardwalk and a tree-lined sandy path ended at the entry to a pristine white-sand beach that stretches the length of the island along the Gulf of Mexico.

And even on a blustery 55-degree day, it was a shelling Shangri-la.

The three-hour trip allowed for two hours of beach time, and the remoteness of the island — it’s accessible only by boat or helicopter — provided untrammeled shoreline and tidal pool examination simply not available in places with more traffic.

Frenetic 9-year-old Ryan crammed a pair of one-gallon bags full of conchs, murexes and pretty much anything not nailed down, while the more discerning (age withheld) Danielle — with a single bag in tow — sought a very particular treasure consisting of olive shells, snail shells and fully intact sand dollars.

The biggest lightning whelk on Cayo Costa, alongside a regulation-sized quarter.

We were in full-on competition with a few fellow passengers for a couple hundred yards, before the field flaked off to just the heartiest hunters once we’d been walking for 45 or so minutes.

Of course, armed with the Tennessee determination (read: stubbornness) of her mother Sondra, Danielle was hell-bent to go 20 yards past the longest survivor, and her indomitable nature was rewarded in the form of a barnacled lightning whelk as big as my head that weighed in at a cool seven pounds.

Her semi-educated guess was that it had been in the water for half a century, which paired nicely with the Nike swoosh-shaped piece of sea glass she figured had been wet for roughly a decade.

We lugged our haul to the boat to claim prime return seats, a choice that paid off with a clear view of a frolicking bottlenose dolphin herd about 50 yards off the bow. Any shot at glimpsing manatees, however, was short-circuited by the cold snap that drove the regal sea cows to the warmth of a nearby power plant.

Sand dollars, shells and other treasures.

Absent our mammalian pals, Ryan, Danielle and I rode out the final few miles spotting islands, flamingos, and buoys for blue crab traps — while simultaneously making advance choices for our dinner at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille and thinking up mocking Facebook posts for our freezing-cold friends up north.

Incidentally, Danielle and Ryan shared a Crow’s Nest Burger and an Ultimate BLTAE and posted half a dozen shots of the TWI sunset … while I had the grouper sandwich, then made up a catty meme for a friend in Niagara Falls whose pipes froze over the night before.

“Greetings from Shell-Halla, Grayson… Wish you were here.”

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Holiday & Christmas Event at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa

There’s no lack of fun and holiday cheer to spread here at ‘Tween Waters, starting with our annual Thanksgiving buffet followed by a full day of Tree Lighting celebrations, sunsets arias and a special pre-holiday accommodations offer. Check out the details:

Turkey Turkey Turkey. Gobble Gobble Gobble up a fantastic Thanksgiving feast at Crow’s Nest and Captiva House November 23, 2017, with favorites like a roasted turkey and classic homemade gravy carving station and roasted redskin smashed potatoes and new variations like vegan spinach ravioli and califlower au gratin. Captiva House Buffet Hours 12-8PM. Crows Nest Buffet Hours 2-8PM. Call for reservations: 239-472-5161 x 421 OR book online via captiva-house.com Open Table reservations. Check out the full menu here.

Launch the holidays right with the brilliant sight of the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony, November 24, 2017,  at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa. NEW this year, we’ll be celebrating for hours, starting CJ the DJ spinning by the family pool noon-3PM, holiday tuns beachfront 4-6PM, live music from Gatlin at 6PM while 100,000 lights come to life around the property with the lighting of the gigantic 30-foot tree overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, followed by a colorful fireworks display starting around 7PM choreographed to holiday music. Continue the party outside with music by CJ the DJ after fireworks, or head inside to the Crow’s Nest for dinner and another performance by Gatlin.

Seeking more holiday fun and magic? Prepare to be inspired by sunset operatic arias live on the beach at ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa on Saturday, November 25, 2017. Beginning at 5PM opera singers Alicia Branch and William Strattford will fill the beach with beautiful music, only matched by our gorgeous nightly sunsets. Cash bar available. Make the evening an event with dinner reservations at Crow’s Nest or Captiva House: https://captiva-house.com/

Like Santa, ‘Tween Waters also loves to give, which is why when you book a reservation midweek Sunday-Thursday November 26-December 21, 2017, you’ll save 50% off guestrooms, studios and one-bedroom suites and 30% off cottages and two- and three-bedroom suites — plus extend your stay and we’ll pro-rate the weekend! PLUS, your multi-night stay includes FREE continental breakfast buffet, FREE wi-fi and no hidden resort fees, and a FREE $100-value resort coupon book on any reservation through 2017! Call only, BOOK DIRECT, 800-223-5865! Saving this much means spending more on presents for the ones you love during the holidays.

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Benefits of the New Breakfast Policy

breakfast tween waters inn

I hate change, so when I heard that ‘Tween Waters was switching their breakfast policy, like many of you, I started to panic! Would they have my beloved pastries? What about the mornings when I just want something fresh? Was this going to cost me more? I just want my breakfast back!!!

After speaking to Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts CEO Tony Lapi (and maybe taking a chill pill too), I was able to calmly examine the policy a little further, and began to realize this really wasn’t the end of the breakfast world as we know it. In fact, I might actually save some money.

As explained to me, in order to maintain their bountiful buffet, they have to work that into the nightly rates. It’s built in. So removing the free breakfast buffet option, I don’t have to pay that automatically in my nightly rate — so no money lost. In fact, they reduced their rates by 8% across the board (so all cottages and suites too), meaning I’m actually paying less per night in the future.

So now that I have 8% back in my pocket — equating to anywhere from $20-40 per night — can I still spend it on breakfast? Of course! But I also don’t have to. Food and Beverage Director Laurent Bosc says they plan to have quick breakfast options, which will have grab and go items like fruit, cereals, pastries and more, all at reasonable prices, so that I can grab my breakfast, not waste any time getting to the beach, and still have money left over in my pocket each day in savings.

But some days I want a little extra — pancakes, omelets, eggs benedict, oh my! Bosc tells me that that won’t change. I will still be able to order these items from a menu for breakfast, just like I had when the breakfast buffet was in place.

Plus, with newly renovated rooms complete with partial and full kitchens in some rooms, I also have the option to make my own breakfast.

So to all of my ‘Tweenies peeps who, like me, started to fret when they heard about the 2018 policy, don’t panic! It’s designed to save us money, reduce waste and save us precious beach time, while still giving us options — and that’s the truth.

NOTE: The New Breakfast Policy doesn’t begin until 2018, and they’ve been planning this for a while now, which means your rate most likely reflected the 8% change. If you booked your reservation extremely early (around 1 year prior) your initial reservation might not have been adjusted, but has since been refunded the 8% difference. 2017 reservations are not affected by this new policy.

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All the World’s a (Terrifying) Stage

My first concert was Van Halen. My first poster was Bruce Springsteen. My first girlfriend would have ditched me for Jon Bon Jovi. So, needless to say, music has played a role in my life for many years.

And it’s no stretch to suggest – alongside champion boxer and prolific author – that being the front man of a rock band has been a prime fantasy of mine since the hair was long and the face was smooth.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Grammys… turns out I can’t sing a lick.

Oh, I can hang with “The Boss” from the comfort of my bathroom and I’ve been known to draw stares as I belt out “Margaritaville” at red lights, but when it comes to hitting the high notes more than an arm’s length from showerhead or steering wheel, I’m far better off staying on mute.

Given my role as TWI’s adventurer-in-chief, though, the right to remain silent is no longer an option.

So with that responsibility weighing heavy on a recent Wednesday night, I paid a visit to the 8:30 p.m. karaoke session at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille with an intent to indulge my inner entertainer.

It’s a relatively new outlet for wannabes – having started as a regular weekly gig in early 2016 – but it’s an automatic attention-getter once the “stage” starts going up in the corner of the dining room.

The stage is a stage by only the most liberal definition, of course, but once the predictable procession of Buffetts, Beatles and Beastie Boys begins revving-up the enthusiastic, bottle-tipping vacation crowd, it might just as well be the big room at Madison Square Garden.

But if you think that might help with the nerves… think again.

More than a dozen people were there to perform and I got the number nine slot, nestled comfortably between a retired U.S. Army master sergeant (we all know what divas they are) and a guy who did the worst Ricky Martin impersonation this side of the actual Ricky Martin. Whoa.

The crowd was an eclectic mix of perhaps 30 people, ranging in age from early 20s to early 50s, most if not all dragged by a friend or loved one who was going to take the stage. I brought my better half and, having heard my act for 12 years, she compassionately began praying for a power outage.

From the mic you could look out and see traffic drive by, which provided the comfort of knowing the world didn’t care. But that was all the relief I got as I learned other wannabe stars, too, tend to cut their teeth on the “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” ditties that I had planned.

You can totally get away with that stuff if you’re the first person up, but being No. 9 suddenly stunk. Best Buy employee “Chad” killed it in the No. 1 spot with all my material, leaving me scrambling through an internal CD catalog for old Bruce nuggets like “Glory Days” and “Pink Cadillac.”

Suddenly, teen nights spent with headphones while cool kids partied elsewhere were a boon.

Anyway, the sound of my thudding heartbeat essentially drowned out performers two through eight, and by the time my name was called an hour or so later, position nine turned out to be completely innocuous. People had lost steam after the first several songs and were busy refreshing their drinks by the time I grabbed the microphone – and within 10 minutes, my one-man show was over.

I ducked into the bathroom and came back prepped for an encore, but by that time the Ricky Martin guy had hit the second verse of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and I was already old news.

So I headed to my Kia instead, and left the windows down while Bruce and I gave the residents along Captiva Drive an impromptu show for the ride home.

Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days…

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The Haunting of ‘Tween Waters Inn

Ghost Stories 'Tween HistoryAs stores begin to haul out their goblins and ghouls, and Halloween decorations, I begin to prepare for one of my favorite times of year! I love history for their stories, and what’s more, I love stories that feel alive. Perhaps that’s why Halloween is one of my most anticipated holiday seasons — for the ghost stories!

‘Tween Waters Inn is steeped in a rich history, with residents dating back more than 100 years. The island itself just oozes the perfect Halloween history, with pirates keeping their prisoners “captive” on the island, hence the name Captiva Island.

And while ‘Tween Waters Inn has never had an official ghost hunter give us the verdict on paranormal activity at the resort, it’s easy to see why the possibility is very real. What began as a collection of fishing cottages, expanded to an epicenter for remote tourists beginning in 1931. Prior to that, the Captiva House restaurant stood as a one-room schoolhouse for children of Captiva’s Pioneers. If you visit today, you’ll see some of the same architecture from that school house still standing.

As you walk through the shaded boardwalk paths of the resort or skim the walls of the Captiva House, it’s not difficult to image the former famous guests of Teddy Roosevelt, Charles and Grace Morrow Lindbergh or J.N. Ding Darling doing the very same, or haunting the halls peacefully today. After all, the resort is known to have inspired artists, authors and countless others — why wouldn’t they want a little “extended” stay in paradise?

Grab your sunhat and walk beach, and you might find Charles Lindbergh haunting the beach itself. There’s something calm ad serene about the ocean that seems to call the ghosts of ‘Tweenies past to the beach, and rumor has it that Mr. Lindbergh used to land his plane right on their shores. Grab a pole and head bayside where the resort has actual photos of Teddy Roosevelt fishing the very same. If you can’t feel his presence then you can surely imagine how it would have been, with so much untouched nature and quiet serenity.

Ghost Stories 'Tween History

And while there’s no gruesome ending for any guests, nor swamp thing peeking out of the mangroves, ‘Tween Waters Inn does have their very own resident white cat who ghosts the perimeters of the property. Like most ghosts, he won’t harm anyone and has been on property for years. If you’re seeking a more “lively” bunch, there’s always the annual Hallo’Tween party, held this year indoors and out.

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What to Do with an Extra Day at ‘Tween Waters Inn

‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa’s current offer to earn one free night when you book three nights got me thinking: What would I do with a whole extra day on Captiva Island.

Well, it did not take me long to fill that day, let me tell you. I have not yet tried the Captiva Water Sports’ new parasailing adventure from the resort, for starters. And I love to paddleboard, but somehow I always end up lolling at the beach or having cocktails by the pool, and I never manage to fit in a paddle into the quiet, wildlife-rich back waters. And why not book a jet ski ride, while I’m at it.

And whereas I have had my favorite standard Relaxation Massage at the spa, I would love some more time for a body scrub, facial, and pedicure. You know, really go for the super pamper works.

I always intend to hit the fitness center, but alas, I’ve actually never been inside. And I hear the yoga classes at the resort are zenful. I need some of that.

So, look at that: Day overfilled, and I haven’t even finished my bucket list. Now I just cannot decide between sushi at Captiva House for dinner or that life-changing shrimp and grits at Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille.

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