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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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I Spy Wildlife on Captiva and Sanibel

Do your kids love animals? You just won’t believe all the wildlife you can see on Captiva and Sanibel, even right onsite at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Here are some of my family’s favorites along with a few tips on where you’re likely to see them:

Snowy Egrets

These snowy, white birds have bright yellow feet and love to walk the shoreline. You’ll also see them on fishing piers, docks, or anywhere they can steal a quick meal.

Manatees

Look for perfect swirls in the water from their wide, paddle tails, or spy their whiskered noses breathing above the waterline. Spy them at the onsite marina or while kayaking. In winter, hundreds gather at Manatee Park.

Ospreys

See that big bunch of sticks, high above the wooden pathway near the ‘Tween Waters front desk? It’s an osprey nest! Look for them along San-Cap Road, too. These birds of prey are skilled fisherman and carry off their catch in their talons. A pair lives at Sanibel Lighthouse, listen for their screechy chirps.

Gopher Tortoises

In Florida, gopher tortoises are a threatened species, so spotting one is exciting. They love walking near the road, so be alert. You can help one cross the street if you see that it’s in danger. Watch this video to learn more.

Marsh Rabbits

Believe it or not, these brown, cotton tail bunnies are good swimmers. Do the four-mile Wildlife Drive at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge (by car or bike) in the morning or at sunset and you’ll see them roadside.

Alligators

Head to Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling to see this Florida must-see. Look for a dark snout (and some of their back) sticking out of the water, and swimming slowly. Gators love sunning themselves on the water’s edge; rangers will rope off this area with yellow tape. Keep your distance.

Dolphins

Frolicking and jumping, these mammals are magical! Look for them at the onsite marina or swimming right off the beach. Or, take a dolphin tour and see them up close.

Sea Turtles

Loggerheads are most common, and late spring to October, they come here to nest. Females crawl up the beach at night, lay eggs, cover them, and return to sea. In 60-75 days, hatchlings emerge. If you see a big turtle at night, observe from a distance and don’t shine a light. You can also spy tracks in the morning (see photo)! So far this year, 163 nests on Captiva and 504 on Sanibel have been recorded. Nests are marked with sticks and yellow tape. Please do not approach (but you can take photos)!

 

I hope you get to see all of these island favorites, and more. Oh, and look for bright pink Roseate Spoonbills while you’re here, too. (They hang out on Wildlife Drive at low tide.)

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Top 5 Reasons I Love ‘Tween Waters Inn

Since celebrating Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about love. More specifically, how much I love spending time at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Sure, the miles of uncrowded beach (and gorgeous seashells) would top anyone’s list. But here are the Top 5 Things I Love About ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort.

The sunsets

It’s a nightly sunset celebration. Fellow guests gather on the shore and watch as the sun sinks into the Gulf. Sunsets here are spectacular! We bring towels and sit right by the water – front row. We always look for the famous green flash (we’ve yet to see it)!

 

Heated pool year-round

The pool at ‘Tween Waters Inn is thermo-heated so it’s the ideal temperature – winter, spring, summer or fall. While I enjoy just floating around on a pool noodle, I love watching enthusiastic families from places like New York and Chicago – they’re so happy to be swimming in the winter!

 

Hot stone massage

I love being pampered at The Spa at ‘Tween Waters and their hot stone massage is my absolute favorite treatment. It feels so darn good. It’s hard tell the difference between the hot stones and the masseuse’s hands. Ahhh.

 

Walk to dinner

I love being able to walk to the onsite restaurants. I especially love the shrimp and grits at Crow’s Nest for dinner. I order it every time we visit. The grits are so creamy and the chef piles on the shrimp and chorizo. Comfort food at its best.

 

The wildlife

Being able to walk over to the docks and see dolphins and manatees in the marina is amazing! The dolphins even chase fish and splash around like crazy. The pelicans, osprey, egrets and herons always make me happy, too. Listen for the osprey calling for their mates.

What do you love best about ‘Tween Waters Inn? Tweet us! And, register to win one of 85 vacations!

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Sunrise Walks at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.
Beautiful shells found on my morning walk on Captiva Island.

It’s no secret that moms don’t get much time for themselves, so I wanted to share how to sneak in some free therapy while you’re staying at ‘Tween Waters Inn with your family. These magical moments of solidarity happen early in the morning but are so worth getting out of bed for. Before the sun rises, slip into your shorts and water shoes and head to the beach. Behold the beauty! Stars are still twinkling in the pre-dawn sky, the beach has no footprints but yours, and the seashells are waiting for you to scoop them up. You can walk left or right, it matters not. You could potentially walk for miles. (One morning, I walked two miles to Blind Pass and found a rare lion’s paw shell on the high tide line!

The early bird gets the lion's paw seashell!
The early bird gets the lion’s paw seashell!

Sunrise walks are not only an easy way to sneak in some exercise, but are simply good for the soul. And for those who are nature-lovers, keep your eyes and ears open! You can see all kinds of birds including ospreys, egrets and herons; dolphins hunting for their breakfast of baitfish; and the pink hues that paint the sky are spectacular.

You'll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.
You’ll love having the beach to yourself in the early morning on Captiva.

If you’re on the hunt for manatees, walk to the marina. They tend to hang out there, especially in the winter months. The winter months also bring in more seashells, if that’s possible! I recommend getting a mesh, shelling bag to hold all of your treasures. You can purchase one at the marina or any local grocery store. I hope you get to experience a sunrise walk at least once while you visit. If you do, post your photos to our Facebook page! I’d love to see your morning memories.

You never know what you'll see on your sunrise walk.
You never know what you’ll see on your sunrise walk.
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