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West West Inn, a Pool With a View

As a guest of ‘Tween Waters, you have access to amenities at their sister properties, including the West Wind Inn on Sanibel. And the pool deck at the West Wind Inn is a family favorite. Wait till you see the views! Their pool area is just steps from the Gulf of Mexico, overlooking 500’ of private beach. And while it’s not nearly as big as the pool at ‘Tween Waters, it is plenty spacious, and it’s heated so you can swim year-round. Towels are provided, as are bathrooms, and you’ll find plenty of loungers, and tables with umbrellas.

The tables with shady umbrellas come in handy if you want to eat lunch poolside, which you can, because their Upper Deck Pool Bar serves food and drinks starting at 11 a.m. As its name suggests, the Upper Deck Pool Bar is elevated, overlooking the pool and the Gulf. If you thought the views from the pool were great, wait till you step up to order food and drinks. Wow! Last time we were there, we saw dolphins jumping out of the water as if they were putting on a show at SeaWorld. What a sight! There we were, sipping virgin piña coladas, watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins doing flips, over and over – and we had a clear, elevated view of the entire performance. It was the most memorable lunch I think we’ve ever had. Ever.

I hope your family enjoys spending time poolside at West Wind Inn as much as we do. Note that the Upper Deck Pool Bar is open to the public, but to use the pool, you must be a guest or a guest of one of the sister properties.

  Family at West Wind Inn pool.
My niece and sons at the West Wind Inn pool.

View of the gulf from West Wind Inn pool.
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Educational Family Fun

Want to sneak some education into your family’s summer vacation? There are lots of places just minutes from ‘Tween Waters Inn where you can take your family for a dose of knowledge – and fun!

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum– From 1pm-2pm every day, you’ll find a different adventure: Scavenger Hunt Sundays, Shell Collection Mondays, Fossil Dig Tuesdays…plus guided beach walks and live tank talks.

Big Arts– Explore their art galleries or see a live performance by local groups as well as first-class national touring events. ‘Tween Waters is a Platinum Club Co-Sponsor of Big Arts.

 Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife–  CROW is a unique place for older kids to learn about native and migratory animals in the area. Sign up for Wildlife Walks and much more.

 SCCF Nature Center– Learn about the snowy plover in their Education Center and meander along miles of trails that cut through the quiet heart of the island. Check out the SCCF calendar of events.

Visitor & Education Center at J.N. Ding Darling– Entry is free at this fantastic venue filled with interactive displays, programs, exhibits, and a Nature Gift Store. Kids of all ages will be entertained.

Wildlife Drive at J.N. Ding Darling– For only $5 a car, your family can look for roseate spoonbills and other colorful birds, manatees, alligators, raccoons, snakes, fish, and lots of other creatures on a four-mile drive through a gorgeous nature reserve. Note that Wildlife Drive is closed on Fridays.

I hope you love exploring these family friendly places as much as we have, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer.

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Free VIP Amenities and Discounts

As a frugal mom, I feel it’s my job to find the best prices for my family, especially when it comes to vacations. After all, going away even for a few days can be a major expense. I always look online for coupon codes and included free extras, and then I found this deal – when you BOOK DIRECT with ‘Tween Waters, you get the guaranteed best rate – AND a long list of freebies! It’s true! And, the included freebies are things your family can actually enjoy. Plus, when you book direct, you’ll avoid paying a daily resort fee. That can be quite the savings. Look at everything you get when you call ‘Tween Waters or go online to book your reservation:

  • Free Bikes
  • Free Kayaks
  • Free Tennis
  • Free Pickle Ball
  • Free Use of Rackets
  • Free Beach Volleyball
  • Free Shuffleboard
  • Free Cornhole
  • Free Bocce Ball
  • Free Fitness Center
  • Free Standard Wi-Fi
  • Free Parking
  • Free Local Paper

And did I mention, no resort fee? You’ll get a coupon book that could save you hundreds more. Get discounts on meals, beverages, spa treatments, activities like parasailing, clothing, and more. Take it from one frugal mom to another, Book Direct at www.Tween-Waters.com or call 800-223-5865 and get the most from your vacation dollars.

One more Innsider Tip: At check in, when they hand you the coupon book, put it in your purse or pocket right away. You’ll want it handy so you can save every chance you get!

 

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Rain or Shine, Girls’ Reunion

What happens when three old friends from high school find each other on Facebook? A get-together reunion at ‘Tween Waters is planned, of course! This recently happened to me and two of my dear friends, Holly and Tina, whom I hadn’t seen in 20+ years.

For our stay, I booked us a gulfview suite with two queen beds, which was plenty spacious, even with loads of baggage. From our balcony, we could see the beach, and the onsite restaurants were just steps away.

The only drawback of our weekend was the weather! You can never control summer thunder storms in Florida, but we definitely were the recipients of a weekend washout. But a little rain (OK, a LOT of rain) couldn’t dampen our spirits. Storms bring up seashells, so we shelled in the rain, got manicures in the spa, and our Girls-Night-In was the best! We ordered a couple movies (aka Chick Flicks) to watch on the suite TV, and got dinners to go from Captiva House (we got one last taste before they closed till the fall for remodeling). So, there we were, curled up on the couch drinking champagne, eating seafood lasagna and key lime pie, watching 50 Shades Darker…yeah, it was awesome!

Spending a rainy weekend with these two ladies was an absolute blessing. Time has changed us all physically, yet at the core, we are the same fun-loving girls from yesteryear. On a side note, between us, we have 9 children – it’s no wonder we’ve lost of minds!

Next time, we’re hoping to lounge by the pool, sip piña coladas, and soak in some sun. Until then, we’ll be on Facebook.

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National Seashell Day 2018

It’s fast approaching – National Seashell Day. This shellabration started in 2016 and it always falls on the first day of summer, which this year, is June 21, 2018.

As an avid sheller, this holiday makes me very happy. I don’t need a holiday to go seashell hunting, but since there IS a holiday, well, that’s a great reason to visit ‘Tween Waters and get out on their world-class shelling beach! You can even book shelling charters onsite at the marina.

Need a few tips to make the most of your shellebration? I’m your girl. I passed my exams with flying colors and am officially a Shelling Ambassador for the Bailey-Mathews National Seashell Museum. If you haven’t been, make it one of the first places you visit while on island. You’ll learn so much – and it’s just a few minutes from ‘Tween Waters.

  • Best time to shell: One hour before low tide till an hour after. Look online for the tide times for the days that you’ll be visiting or visit the onsite marina.
  • Where to look for shells: Walk the high tide line. If you can, walk in the water, too. Many shells don’t make it up to shore and are resting just a few feet away.
  • The moon matters: A full moon and a new moon make for a greater tidal event, which brings more shells.
  • The rules: In Lee County, it’s illegal to take ‘live’ shells, so if there’s a critter in a shell that you’ve found, gently put it back. (I always have my phone with me in a waterproof case so I can take a photo of the live shells I’ve found.)

I hope to see you on the beach for National Seashell Day! What a great way to kick off summer!

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

 

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Hot Chicks, Cool Dudes: it’s Turtle Season!

Did you know the temperature of a sea turtle’s nest determines whether the hatchlings will be male or female? A warmer nest produces mostly females, a cooler nest produces mostly males (hence the headline).

Turtle nesting season starts on the west coast of Florida on May 1st (although the SCCF starts counting nests April 15th.) Here are some facts from last year’s season:

  • 189 Loggerhead nests on Captiva
  • 650 Loggerhead nests on Sanibel
  • 2 Green turtle nests on Captiva
  • 34 Green nests on Sanibel

Leatherback turtle nests are a rare event.

If you take your kids for a late-night beach walk while at ‘Tween Waters, you may spy a sea turtle crawling out of the water, or back to sea after laying her eggs. If you do, don’t approach her or shine light in her direction. They spook easily. The best thing to do is quietly admire the glorious gift you’ve been given to witness something so amazing.

Fun fact: To lay their eggs, female turtles return to the same beach where they were hatched!

Want to help sea turtles? Before leaving the beach, flatten any sand castles, fill in any holes, and remove toys and chairs. These are all obstacles for a crawling turtle or hatchling. You can also check for dangers, like trash or fishing line, and dispose of it properly.

Since hatchlings use their instincts to crawl toward moonlight on the water, any other light can be hazardous. At ‘Tween Waters, we do our part by reminding you to keep curtains closed at night, dimming balcony lights, and keeping lights away from the beach.

So remember, from May to October, it’s “Lights Out for Sea Turtles.”

Happy Turtle Season!

During sea turtle nesting season, keep porch lights out and blinds closed at night (they need to find moonlight on the water, not false light on shore).
Sea turtle tracks and a marked nest.
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Baseball and the Beach

One of the highlights of a springtime visit to ‘Tween Waters is the opportunity to not only enjoy the beautiful beaches and warm sunshine, but also the chance to catch some exciting baseball games. Baseball fans know that many professional MLB teams descend on Florida for their spring training; it’s known as The Grapefruit League. There are two major league teams that happen to call neighboring Fort Myers home each spring, and it’s an easy drive from ‘Tween Waters.

 

There are games scheduled almost daily, and fans are encouraged to come catch fly balls, get autographs, cheer on the rookies and the seasoned stars, and take advantage of the unique opportunity to get unparalleled access to favorite players. It is a baseball fan’s dream-come-true! Plus, the weather is fantastic (think high temperatures of about 77˚ Fahrenheit and lows in the upper 50s.)  If you want to check out some games, you can get your tickets at the gate or order them in advance at floridagrapefruitleague.com.

 

And what’s better after a baseball game? How about returning to ‘Tween Waters for a refreshing plunge in the pool and a tasty grouper sandwich (or a kosher beef hotdog!) at the Oasis Pool Bar & Grille? If you’re not into baseball, but are in the sporting mood, there are lots of activities you can enjoy onsite, like biking, paddle boarding, beach volleyball, tennis, and more.

 

Then, as the sun begins to set on yet another perfect spring day, stroll over to the beach to catch a world-famous Captiva sunset. No baseball glove required.

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Winter, Captiva-Style, at ‘Tween Waters Inn

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I have to agree. Winter on Captiva is fantastic. The weather is delightful, the shells are plentiful, and there are lots of ways to celebrate the season.

Snow Party at ‘Tween Waters

Every Friday and Saturday at 6pm from Dec 1, 2017 – Jan 27, 2018, bring the family and enjoy our tropical version of a Snow Party – no coats or mittens required! Enjoy all of the snow, and none of the cold.

Frozen drinks poolside

In need of something cold? Head to the Oasis Pool Bar and order your favorite frozen concoction. There are also frozen treats for the kids, and if you purchase a Tervis tumbler while you’re here with the ‘Tween Waters logo, you’ll get a coupon for a free piña colada.

Snowy Egrets

The yellow feet of this small white heron make them easy to identify. Look for these slender and elegant white birds at the marina, dancing along the shore at the beach, and at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

Brightening Vitamin C Facial

Be merry and bright all season with this special vitamin rich facial at the Spa at ‘Tween Waters Inn. This 50-minute treatment can even out your skin tone and lighten discoloration.

Ice Cold Sushi

Tuesday through Saturday evenings, Captiva House Seafood Restaurant offers fresh, creative sushi. My son’s favorite is the “Sanibel Island” roll with tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, crab, spicy mayo, and eel sauce. Yum!

Sand Angels

Ever tried making the Captiva version of a snow angel? It’s easy! Or, channel your inner “Frozen” characters and build a Frozen castle at the beach. (And try not to sing, “Let It Go” too many times – unless your kids ask you to.)

Cool Live Web Cam

This is so cool! Check out the live Beach Cam at ‘Tween Waters Inn! Log on and you’ll see Santa’s sleigh and other holiday decorations in the foreground – and the shimmering Gulf of Mexico in the background. What a sight!

From my family to yours, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy 2018.

Snowy egret by Vicki Hacker

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A Winter Wonderland for Manatees

One of my favorite things about a winter vacation at Tween Waters Inn, besides the beautiful weather, is the influx of manatees. When temperatures dip to the north, the manatees head south looking for warmer water. Here’s a quick guide of where to find them and what to look for.

 

How to spot manatees

Look for round swirl patterns in the water. The swirl is caused when their large paddle tail moves up and down.

Scan the water for dark masses. Manatees usually surface for air every 3-5 minutes, but can stay down as long as 20 minutes. You might also see their snout and whiskers poking above the water’s surface.

 

Where manatees hang out

The marina at Tween Waters Inn is a fantastic place to see manatees (and dolphins)! They tend to hang out by the docks and by the mangroves to the right of the kayak rentals. <Innsider TIP: If you have a bayside room at Tween Waters Inn, you can often see manatees from your balcony/lanai!>

Manatee Park in Fort Myers is another great location. The power plant next door pumps out warm water so the manatees gather in droves. It’s quite a sight, and it’s a nice drive from the resort.

J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is only a few minutes away and in addition to manatees, you can see all kinds of birds and an assortment of wildlife, including gators and otters.

 

Manatee laws

‘Look but don’t touch’ when it comes to manatees. If you’re kayaking or paddle boarding, try not to cruise over top of a submerged manatee; you never know when they’ll resurface. They might pop up right beside you though, and that’s ok! Just admire and enjoy your good fortune.

See you at the docks with fingers crossed!

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Stargazer the Seahorse

Have you met Stargazer? This five-foot tall beauty is always smiling, and greets everyone who enters the lobby at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Stargazer is actually a seahorse, maybe you’ve seen her (or him?), even taken a photo, but do you know its colorful history?

A seahorse on a mission

Starting out as a white fiberglass statue, Stargazer was one of 40 seahorses ‘born’ in Wisconsin and created for a fundraiser called “A Seahorse Dream,” to benefit the building of a new children’s hospital in Ft Myers.

Citizens and businesses ‘sponsored’ the seahorses, each hand-painted by a Florida artist. ‘Tween Waters Inn was a Gold sponsor, and the artist that brought their seahorse to life was Cathie Zurich-Wus.

 And breathe life into the seahorse, she did! Bright shades of pink and blue were chosen for their childlike vibrancy – and ability to promote joy – like the whimsical creatures on a carousel. To achieve such brilliancy, Cathie painted Stargazer three times, using house paint, which is very difficult to work with. Swarovsky crystals make her eyes sparkle and clear ornaments resemble bubbles from the sea. Once completed (in only two weeks!), it was clear-coated at an auto-body shop. Who knew?

Is Stargazer a boy or girl?

Cathie says the choice is in the eye of the beholder, and the pink and blue support whatever your choice. (I think she’s a girl, but my husband thinks he’s a boy.)

Where did the name come from?

Because Captiva is an ideal place to serenely gaze upon the stars, away from harsh city lights, in paradise, Cathie named him Stargazer. Stars can lead you through dark waters, and Stargazer is always there to calm fears.

Stargazer’s mission – complete

‘A Seahorse Dream’ raised more than $380,000 and the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida opened in May of this year. It took more than six years and $200 million to complete.

We hope you never need to go, but if you do, look for Stargazer’s royal brother and sister in the lobby – a King and Queen seahorse, complete with sparkling crowns, also painted by Cathie Zurich-Wus.

And next time you’re at ‘Tween Waters Inn, please come introduce your children to Stargazer!

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