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Culinary Gladness Served With A Side Of Sparkling Gulf Beach

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The Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille offers a setting to remember everyday and for every occasion.

In the late afternoon, it’s a warm and rich environment filled with scrumptious smells, light conversation and music. During the day, a wash of sunshine fills the room from the windows located next to the booths with a view of the beach.

At night when things get dark outside, the Crow’s Nest is dedicated to entertaining guests who come from near and far, ready to settle in and share some fun with old and new friends they make. Dinner the night we visited was intentionally before sunset, and the setting was quiet, relaxed and easygoing. The menu offered us all kinds of delightful options: See for yourself the array of choices… Our dinner included the Captiva Favorite: Gulf Shrimp ’N’ Grits, along with a Fresh Grouper Sandwich served on a homemade bun.

Did you see the creative, culinary madness on the menu for yourself? Our only care was to select ‘that one choice’ we wanted to enjoy from so many that sounded so good. From soups to salads, shrimp, grouper, and lobster, ahi tuna, bruschetta, mozzarella or wings, these are all available as appetizers and intended to get your party started.

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All this and a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico.

Munch down on your favorite sandwich served the ‘Tweenie way. Get adventurous with choices like mahi mahi, roasted chicken, a pot pie, the fresh catch of the day, unique pizza, ribs or a ribeye. Then top it off with any of the unique options served by the Crow’s Nest bar.

If you prefer, come for just coffee and dessert because your options for both, we can report, are definitely worth it. Most importantly, take a stroll after you eat down to the beach and enjoy!

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Yoga on the Beach at ‘Tween Waters Inn

I am not a “zen” person. My idea of a stress reliever is a bottle of wine all to my self. But I come to ‘Tween Waters Inn to relax. I unplug from my phone, my computer, my email, and I sit on the beach and soak in the sun.

Despite my tendency to remain as immobile as possible on vacation, my favorite relaxation activity is yoga on the beach. There’s something about the sound of the shells tinkling against the surf as they’re pulled back into the sea that intensifies my calming breath and detoxifies my body.

Instructor Yali Zawady IS “zen.” She’s a yogi at her core — beginning studying yoga as a young child. She instructs beach yoga at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort and Spa every Wednesday and Saturday from 8AM to 9:15AM. All you need is a towel, a little sunscreen and water, and an “open heart.”

Classes are every Wednesday and Saturday, at 8AM and cost $15 per session. Due to the outdoor location, class will be canceled if the temperature is below 55 degrees or in the event of thunder, lightning or rain.  

Young and old, experienced and novice, bendy and stiff, Yali accepts all students willing to try. I took a yoga class in college, so I like to pretend I know a little something about striking a sun salutation, but in reality I’m about as novice as they come. Still, I felt comfortable amongst the newbies and pros that joined me one Saturday morning at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

We began with a little meditation and breathing exercises, followed by some stretching and hatha-vinyasa-style yoga. Mid downward dog, I peeked to my left and witnessed an elderly gentleman try to stretch his booty in the air and I gave a little giggle. I imagine the person to my right was laughing at me too.

For more information about Yoga on the Beach at ‘Tween Waters Inn, visit AmbuYoga.com.

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A Long Month’s Journey into Light

Oh sure, Nov. 28 will be a special occasion for the ‘Tween Waters Inn.

For 2014, it’s the date on which the resort’s tree lighting ceremony takes place, meaning thousands of locals and visitors will be on hand to witness the kickoff of what’s become annual must-see event.

But while all those folks are enjoying the splendor and walking off their Thanksgiving Day dinner table indulgences, don’t be surprised if Jeff Shuff, Angie Lapi and some of their pals are off somewhere trying to grab a nap.

Shuff, you see, is not just the resort’s chief financial officer; and Lapi isn’t just the wife of resort CEO Tony Lapi. The two also combine with maintenance and grounds personnel to work behind the twinkling scenes and make sure the 50,000 or so LED bulbs do what they’re supposed to do when the time comes to flick the switch.

It’s that blend of job and adventure that compelled ‘Tween Waters’ assistant general manager, Natasha Grass, to let me in on exactly what goes into the bash.

“People might be amazed at how much goes into setting up the lighting ceremony as opposed to just how amazing the lighting ceremony is,” she said. “The team here works from now until then to get everything in place and it’s a really interesting thing to watch come together.”

50,000 bulbs later... it's a celebration
50,000 bulbs later… it’s a celebration

Indeed, it’s a cadre of about 15 resort employees whose work for the 2014 show began the day after last year’s event ended. They took down the lights and stored them on site, then retrieved them to restart the process on Nov. 1 – a day less than four weeks from show time.

Individual bulbs are replaced as needed throughout the run-up, and a single system test is run daily until the day of the event, when six run-throughs are executed to minimize the likelihood of malfunction.

This year’s show will begin at 5 p.m., though Grass suggested arrivals at or after that time will necessitate parking off property and having to take a trolley back to the resort grounds.

The lights will go on shortly after sunset—around 5:45 p.m.—and will be accompanied by a fireworks display that’ll last about 20 minutes. Free popcorn, hot chocolate and an outdoor bar service are among the visitor perks, along with a visit from Santa Claus and candy canes for the kids.

By all accounts, it’s an experience not to be missed. But if you do come out and you happen to notice a few tired folks catching a few winks somewhere on the property, try to tip-toe past them quietly.

After all, it’s been a busy month… and they surely could use a rest.

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‘Tween Waters Inn Tree Lighting Ceremony

Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony

Can we do this every year, Mama?” asked my youngest son as we stood on the beach with sand between our toes. It was 2012, the fiery sun had just set and the sky was turning dark — which meant it was finally time for the grand lighting of the ‘Tween Waters Inn Christmas tree! Families were cheering, live music was playing, and kids were dancing right out of their colorful Crocs. The excitement was contagious!

If you’ve never experienced the ‘Tween Waters Inn Tree Lighting Ceremony, it happens each year on the Friday night after Thanksgiving (and it’s not just the huge Christmas tree that officially lights up, it’s all the holiday lights at ‘Tween Waters Inn), you simply won’t ever want to be anywhere else on that evening. Ever.

The entire event has a Disney-like quality with the synchronization of music and lights, the festive atmosphere, stately palms wrapped in green twinkling lights, the jolly man himself (Santa in a golf cart!), and a sea of joyful faces. Oh, and the fireworks! This is why my answer was, “YES, son! We can definitely do this every year!”

Christmas Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony
Be a part of the magic at the annual holiday tree lighting ceremony at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

‘Tween Waters Inn annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will happen on Friday, November 28, 2014. The fun begins at 4pm and culminates at 7pm with their fantastic fireworks finale. This is a free event and it’s open to the public.

If you can’t make it to the Tree Lighting Ceremony, plan to visit any weekend in December to partake of Captiva Holiday Village. They’ll be golf cart parades, a lighted boat parade, sunset arias (live opera) on the beach, caroling, and much more.

‘Tis the season to experience all the sparkling wonders of Captiva and ‘Tween Waters Inn. Hope to see you there!

 

Tween Waters Inn Christmas Holiday
Don’t miss the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at ‘Tween Waters Inn.
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Take A Relaxing, Getaway Bicycle Tour Of Captiva Island

It’s a beautiful sunshiny day ahead and you’ve got some time to enjoy the scenery.

So, now is a good time to head down to the ‘Tween Waters Marina and rent a bike for the day. Pack up your beach-life belongs, maybe a towel and a fresh t-shirt, wear tennis shoes and bring flip flops.

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Check with the front desk, Oasis Pool Bar or Captiva House Restaurant and you can order a picnic lunch that’s ready to travel. Grab some bottled water and you’re off. When you leave, turn right out of the ‘Tween Water Inn driveway entrance. You’ll be on famous, Captiva Drive that runs parallel to the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico water.

The road will turn right again and you’ll be headed toward town… or let’s say, into the heart of the village. To your left you’ll find the Chapel By The Sea and the Captiva Island Historical Society Gallery. On the right you’ll begin to ride along the bay side of Captiva Island. A little further down the road you’ll find grocery shopping at the corner of Andy Rosse Lane, and see other retail storefronts where you may want to stop. Stay on Captiva Drive and you’ll eventually arrive at another beautiful stretch of beach.

The sun rises and sets here the same as everywhere on Captiva Island. Take your time and take it easy, and when you’re ready, head home riding back the way you came. You can’t get lost, and you’ll get just the right amount of exercise, no too much and not too little. There are longer bike tours to take and after this tour you may be ready, or not, to try one… if so, check with the front desk for good information.

It’s true that there’s no place like home… You’ll likely remember this no matter when you get back to the place you affectionately call home while you’re staying here with us. Aww thanks, we love having you at the ‘Tween Waters Resort, too. Enjoy!

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The Old Man and the… Urge to Fish

Maybe it’s a guy thing.

You’re spending some time – perhaps a weekend, maybe a whole week – at a world-class resort whose very seaside existence is geared toward maximizing relaxation and downsizing stress.

But when 6 a.m. on Sunday rolls around, your mind is nonetheless consumed by a desire that commands you to rise from your luxurious bed, don whatever garb is within reach and trek into the darkness to follow a path nobly blazed by men named Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin.

To put it another way, you simply must fish.

And considering you’re on an island in a subtropical climate, why the heck not?

The aptly named ’Tween Waters Inn is within mere steps of available shoreline on all sides, and it was precisely that level of convenience that compelled me to assemble rod, reel, bait and hook for my latest adventure – taking to the nearby depths to plunder myself a tasty Sunday dinner.

Only those who know me will recognize just how daunting a task that was.

Cap'n Mike readies his weapon.
Cap’n Mike readies his weapon.

For full disclosure, I’m not really a fisherman. I love the outdoors and would much rather be near water than concrete, but I’m probably about as skilled an angler as Peyton Manning is an ice-skater.

So with that reality in tow, I again recruited good friend and colleague Michael Korb – a grizzled tackle box-toting veteran by comparison – to join me in my quest to land the big one.

Our early a.m. odyssey began at a local bait shop, where I learned that the fishing world had evolved far past the worm/hook basics I’d been reared on as a kid. Instead, the amiable counterperson instructed, we’d be far better off with a bucketful of live shrimp to entice our quarry, providing we could keep the little buggers still long enough to skewer their insides with a barbed metal shiv.

With trafficked crustaceans in hand, we were off to the roadside beaches of the Sanibel causeway, where advisory websites had suggested duels with snapper, mackerel, tarpon and pompano were in our future. It was heady stuff, and I’ll concede that after my very first cast was rewarded with retrieval of a foot-long pilot fish, I was convinced that an hours-long fracas with a great white was not far behind.

It looked a lot bigger in person... honest.
It looked a lot bigger in person… honest.

But a few dozen fruitless casts later, and with nary a man-eater in sight, we set course for higher ground.

That meant a leisurely drive back across the island to the bridge at Blind Pass – the narrow sliver of water that separates Sanibel’s north tip from Captiva’s south, and connects the vast Gulf of Mexico to the islands’ collective west with the various channels and inlets of Pine Island Sound on their east.

There for the taking, those same websites said, were a smorgasbord of small fish feeding on myriad underwater creatures, and, more importantly to us, the sorts of bigger fish – read: sharks – that would in turn feed on those fish. We took up residence along the jagged outcrops, cast our lines and waited for what remained of the noticeably less frisky bait to do its thing.

And waited, and waited. And waited.

Oh sure, we saw a manatee plod through doing an asthmatic version of the Australian crawl, and we turned our heads to watch the occasional dolphin make an above-water arc in the shallow Gulf waves, but when it came to anything willing to swing by for a quick bite of flaccid shellfish, we were out of luck.

Even If you're sentenced to catch no fish, your view could be a lot worse.
Even If you’re sentenced to catch no fish, your view could be a lot worse.

A shift from waterside rocks to angler-friendly bridge provided little beyond a better view of the fish that were avoiding us, so we waved the surrender flag at 1 p.m., trudged back to the car and proceeded two miles to the resort’s Oasis Pool Bar for the only therapy that can salve a sportsman’s battered ego.

A tall, cold beer. A char-broiled grouper sandwich.

And a reservation for a boat tour that’s captained by someone who might actually have a clue how to catch a fish.

Quick… somebody get me Bill Dance’s cell number.

Prefer a Trip?
The Santiva Saltwater Fishing Team (www.SanibelCaptivaFishing.com) has been operating out of the ‘Tween Waters Inn for 30 years. Senior guide Jim Burnsed, son Jimmy Burnsed and son-in-law Rob McKay offer trips at $100 per hour for up to four anglers, though arrangements can be made for larger parties. Reservations are available at 239-472-1779, and children and pets are welcome.
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7 Signs You’ve Partied Too Hard at Hallo’Tween

Halloween Costume Party Tween Waters Inn

In the upcoming months, there are oodles of events to choose from to get your “party” on. Kicking off the season is the legendary (hey, they don’t call it the “Legendary ‘Tween Waters Inn” for nothing!) Hallo’Tween party. And as this year’s motto goes, you haven’t “Halloweened” until you’ve “Hallo’Tweened.” Take it from an Innsider: these are 7 signs you’ve partied too hard at this year’s bash:

1)   You’re still donned in glitter, makeup, fabric and plaster, and that’s just your head. Hallo’Tween is known for the cleverly clad, raunchily robed and gruesomely garbed costumes.

2)   You woke up singing songs from Deb & the Dynamics’ set list. Recent years’ tradition has Deb & the Dynamics returning to the Hallo’Tween bash to get partygoers up and dancing all night long.

3)   Your feet, legs and arms are killing you. Remember that Hocus Pocus scene where the parents can’t stop dancing? That was totally you last night.

4)   You’ve got $1000 burning a hole in your pocket. Yep, you read that right. The zaniest and best costume clad contestant receives a grand prize of $1000.

Innsider Tip: Make your reservation ASAP to spend the night. After a night of spooktacular fun, you won’t want to drive home.

5)   You saw both the sun set and rise at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Events start at 8PM at ‘Tween Waters Inn, but you caught the sunset while prepping the perfect costume and the sunrise at your personal little after party.

6)   You’re still facedown in your hotel pillow. You booked your hotel room in advance and got a great deal on a Bayside studio, and with check out at 11AM, you’re still hitting the Zzz’s hard.

7)   Your camera roll looks like it was on the set of The Hangover. You might have gone a little crazy with the camera this year, snapping photos of strangers dressed in everything from Pharrell’s hat to a bath pouf. Hey, what’s that tiger doing in your photos?!

Whether you partied too hard, or maybe just right, the memories, or lack thereof, of this year’s party were legen…wait for it…dary. Legendary.

Halloween Hallo’Tween Party
Scariest Costume Wins a Prize
Cash Costume Prize for Halloween Party
Party All Night With Live Music at ‘Tween Waters Inn
A Great Way to Celebrate Halloween
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Fall Fun Around ‘Tween Waters

There is so much happening this month on Captiva and at ‘Tween Waters Inn. First of all, October is the start of the fall season and that brings great rates (like stay two or more nights Sunday through Thursday and get an additional free night)! October is also when the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge has its annual “Ding Darling Days.” It’s an entire week of FREE eco-activities like tram tours, kids crafts, hot dogs, life-size puppets with Heather Henson (Muppets’ creator Jim Henson’s daughter), scavenger hunts, wildlife encounters, and much, much more.

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2014 marks the 25th anniversary of Ding Darling Days at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and ‘Tween Waters is proud to be a sponsor.

The ‘Tween Waters Inn is proud to be a “Great Egret Level” Sponsor of this event – celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! You won’t want to miss it.

Since the 2014 theme for Ding Darling Days is “Let’s Go Outside,” I wanted to share some of my favorite family things to do outside right here at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Of course, you know that you can hang out at the beach, swim in the Gulf, hunt for seashells and frolic at the pool. But here are a few things you might not know about that will get your kids excited to get outdoors, especially in this gorgeous fall weather.

Rentals like canoes, single and double kayaks, and even motorboats are available at the onsite marina. You can paddle in the bay and see all kinds of wildlife, including manatees, especially this time of year. These gentle giants will sometimes swim right alongside your watercraft! Keep your eyes open for dolphins, too. What a thrill!

Onsite rentals for canoes, kayaks, bike and motorboats are right onsite at 'Tween Waters Inn.
Onsite rentals for canoes, kayaks, bike and motorboats are right onsite at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

If you’d rather just sit back and let someone else do all the work, then Native Guides is for you (and me). Give them a call to schedule a few hours of fishing, snorkeling, shelling or a picnic on one of the out-islands—you just tell them what you’re interested in and they’ll make it happen. Best of all, it’s the same price for one person or six. It is truly an unforgettable way to spend time with your family—and oh that fall weather!

From my family to yours, we wish you a happy autumn and we hope to see you around Captiva soon.

 

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Today, Is Kickin’ Back At The Shack Time

The Oasis Bar at 'Tween Waters Inn

If it’s shady and comes with cool drinks it must be The Oasis pool bar. Your time spent at the ‘Tween Waters Inn will likely include a trip or two to the pool. While you’re at the pool be sure to enjoy the tasty, poolside menu items served in a casual style from the bar and at nearby tables. Spot the blue roof and you’ve made it to the right place.

On a recent visit, I enjoyed the best frozen Rum Runner drink I’ve had in many years. My husband and I also shared an order of Fish Tacos that were excellent. If you like Grouper, you’ll find this item a fresh way to serve up some yum. Another favorite item is the Cheeseburger, obviously in paradise, served here, too.

Favorite Spot at The Oasis pool bar

— Near the bar, look for the usually shady, hightop table in the corner. It may become your favorite spot just like it is mine. You see, a popular pastime for local residents in a tropical environment like this one, is simply spending lots of time outdoors soaking in the sunshine, and having a good time enjoying and also ‘shooting the breeze.’

— Before you return to the pool for another dip and some sun, take a short walk into the local area near this table… Do this because you’ll find a creatively crafted, swinging bench located between the cottages to just sit on and relax for awhile.

Bench Swing tucked away amongst the cottages and foliage.

 

Life at the ‘Tween Waters Inn doesn’t get much better than this when you’re spending time at the pool. If you try my recommendations or discover something even better, please be sure to let me know.

Enjoy!

 

 

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America’s Most Romantic Sunset – ‘Tween Waters Inn

Sunset on Captiva Island

Local rumor is, ‘Tween Waters Inn and Captiva Island have the “most romantic sunsets in America” and Travelocity backed up that claim in an article years ago.  Now recently, USA Today named the resort one of the 10 most romantic coastal destinations in the United States, citing the romantic sunsets, white sandy beaches, shops and dining. So, naturally, my husband and I needed to vet this buzz, and soak in the romantic evening rays for ourselves.

We found that Captiva is one of the few local places where visitors can experience a truly unobstructed view of the sunset. Times vary based on season — be prepared for a sunset as early as 5:00PM in the winter, and as late as 8:30PM in the summer. 

INNSIDER TIP: If you’re looking to plan your dinner accommodations around the sunset, be sure to check out the sunset times on weather website like weather.com or wunderground.com

Really, there’s no gear needed to enjoy the painted sky each evening on Captiva, but if you’re looking to pay homage to the sunset and desire to make it an “event,” a blanket to sit on, some bug spray and champagne on ice with some plastic flutes will do nicely. Mathew and I even opened our iTunes on our phones and found a few classics like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and “When the Sun Goes Down.”

Legend has it that right before the sun dips below the water line, there’s a green flash that appears, but when the sun made its descent, there were beautiful oranges, pinks and purples in the sky, but no green in sight for us. It’s no hardship having missed this — it gives us another chance to come back, watch another sunset and look for that legendary green flash again.

I’ve traveled many places, seen plenty of sunsets over water, fields and mountains, but rarely have I seen such an event as a Captiva sunset. Whether you’re struck by the beauty of the calm water and orange ball sinking into the earth, or the various people facing west in tribute to another day complete, there is no doubting Captiva’s claim to romance.

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Sunset on Captiva
Captiva Island Sunset
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