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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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Rainy Day Guide to Captiva and Sanibel

You’re on a beach vacation – so what happens when it rains? Thunderstorms usually blow in fast and leave just as quickly on these barrier islands, but if the rain continues to fall, you can still have a great time with your kids. Here’s your Rainy Day Guide to Fun on Captiva and Sanibel:

In-room Movies

At ‘Tween Waters Inn, you can watch Pay-Per-View movies right in your room. You’ll find a variety of titles including new releases.

 

Island Cinema

First-run movies are shown in two theaters using state-of-the-art projection. Seats are super comfy but the space is small so they frequently sell out. Movies start late afternoon and early evening. Go early.

 

J.N. Ding Darling Visitor & Education Center

This is a family favorite. Many exhibits are hands-on (create an animal rubbing, press buttons and make things light up, touch bones, solve a mystery, and much more). Best of all, it’s FREE. Open every day at 9 am.

 

Wildlife Drive

For $5 per vehicle, explore a 4-mile winding road through the J.N. Ding Darling Refuge. (For $12 cash, buy a yearly pass.) You may see alligators, spoonbills, and manatees…from the comfort of your car. Closed on Fridays. Download the Ding Darling app for educational fun.

 

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

With live tank talks at 11:30 am and 3:30 pm, and activities like a shell scavenger hunt, arts & crafts and Shell Bingo, this is a must-do, rain or shine. Don’t miss the life-size giant squid model (like you could miss that). Open every day.

Be Puzzled

Here are 1,000 reasons to stay inside. There’s a rather infamous jigsaw puzzle of “Sanibel & Captiva Islands” that you can purchase in the Osprey Gift Shop.

 

Public Library

Captiva has a public library around the corner from ‘Tween Waters Inn, but the one on Sanibel has a large children’s area complete with a rowboat (the S.L. Readmore). There is something for every age, including toddler time and craft day.

I hope your vacation is filled with sunshine and seashells, but if the skies open up and shower you with ‘liquid sunshine’, I hope you’ll enjoy some of my favorite rainy day island activities.

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Take a Walk, See the World

Orange Bird of Paradise from South Africa. Bougainvillea from Brazil. Yellow Trumpet from Paraguay. You can take a botanical trip around the world at ‘Tween Waters Inn and you don’t need a passport, just a comfy pair of shoes (or flip flops). 

Read moreTake a Walk, See the World

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Coffees, Ice Cream, Smoothies & More at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop

This is Amin, one of the baristas at 'Tween's Beans Coffee Shop.
This is Amin, one of the baristas at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

Last weekend, I met my brother Jeff and his family at ‘Tween Waters Inn for a little rest and relaxation. We were catching up over cheeseburgers at the Oasis Pool Bar (sitting at that hidden high top table mentioned in Michele Anderson’s blog), enjoying the warm, March weather when the afternoon sleepies started to set in. The cure? A walk across the pool deck to ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

Walk on over for daily happy hour and more at 'Tween's Beans Coffee Shop.
Walk on over for daily happy hour and more at ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop.

This is so much more than the place to pick up and return your pool towels. Think of it as your window of great opportunity. The menu features about 40 choices of milkshakes, fruit smoothies, and illy Italian Gourmet Coffees and Teas. And for those of us adults who prefer a little mo in our Jo, your friendly barista can kick it up with a shot of your favorite top shelf liqueur. (Frangelica for me, please.)

My son Devon and his cousins get an afternoon pick-me-up at 'Tween's Beans.
The cousins get an afternoon pick-me-up at ‘Tween’s Beans.

For the kids or kids at heart, sip a frozen Banana Split, a Burst O’Berry or a Cookie Monster (made with ice cream, Oreos, and chocolate syrup). Baristas Chelsey and Amin will take great care of you and are more than happy to make you a custom creation – just ask.

Did someone say Happy Hour? You bet. Every day from 3:30-5:30, you’ll find ‘Tween’s Beans drink specials. You’ll also find an assortment of ice cream treats, along with shirts, hats, beach toys, and those Tervis tumblers that I love so much. (Seriously, they are the ideal souvenir – they’re indestructible and they’re guaranteed for life!) So, stop by ‘Tween’s Beans Coffee Shop, and see what fun you can stir up.

My brother Jeff and his family snagged the corner table at Oasis Pool Bar for lunch at 'Tween Waters Inn.
My brother Jeff snagged the corner table at Oasis Pool Bar.
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How to Keep Cool with Hot Family Fun at ‘Tween Waters Inn

'Tween Waters Inn Captiva Island Pool Hotel

It’s summertime! For our family, that means it’s time for Michael and I to pack up the kids, and several bottles of sunscreen, and head to the ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa. With its location on a barrier island that jets into the Gulf, the average high temperature is 85°F, but come June, July and August, that number creeps up to about 90°. Although the Gulf breezes keep things comfortable, there are plenty of ways to keep your cool around the resort.

Poolside, Gulf side, bay side – what’s your pleasure? After hitting the free breakfast buffet, my boys Dustin and Devon beg us to take them over to the beach to swim and hunt for shells. The Gulf of Mexico is warm and welcoming in summer and depending on the wind, you could find yourself jumping waves or floating on shimmering water as smooth as glass. Many times, we’ve seen dolphins right off shore. Love that!

If your gang is more adventurous, you can rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks right onsite and paddle on the bayside. You might just find yourself alongside a manatee, or three.

Fresh water fans can head to the Olympic-sized pool that just happens to have a full-service pool bar and grill at the deep end. Here’s an Innsider tip: purchase a ‘Tween Waters Tervis tumbler at the resort and have it filled at the pool bar with your favorite frozen concoction for free. Devon prefers a strawberry daiquiri, virgin of course. Tervis tumblers (non-breakable, guaranteed-for-life drinkware) make the perfect souvenir. They’re easy to pack, lightweight and you’ll use them forever.

The newest addition to the pool deck is the shaded toddler wading pool. Your little ones can splash for hours without fear of sunburn. Now that’s a bright idea.

Sunny regards,

Jill~

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