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Picnics, puffer fish and Eric Milton: A new captain meets the high seas

As spring break destinations go, it’s a hard one to beat.

And though some instinctively link the term with Daytona and Miami Beach, the Sunshine State’s southwest coast offers an experience that’s light on debauchery and heavy on chill.

Unless, of course, you’ve never steered a boat before.

The latter was true for me on a recent Sunday, when I loaded the newly-minted 9-year-old (Ryan), the perpetually accommodating wife (Danielle) and the nearest thing I could find to an accomplished seaman (screenwriting ace Michael Korb) into the trusty Kia for a trip to the Tween Waters Inn.

Upon arrival, the task was simply to keep said trio safe as I sought adventure while taking a maiden voyage as captain of a craft chartered through the Inn’s marina.

The property offers skippers of all stripes a chance to take to myriad waterways – bay, river and gulf among them — at the helm of vessels ranging from 19 to 25 feet. Arrangements can be made by calling (239) 472-6336 or visiting a marina-based representative from Beach Bums Boat Rentals, and all that’s needed to get underway is the requisite state paperwork.

Boat operators who were born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, must have a Florida Boating Safety Education Identification Card or a NASBLA-approved safe boating license to operate a motorboat in Florida. Temporary certificates are obtainable in about an hour onsite, or can be acquired prior to arrival by visiting www.boatus.org/free/#state, www.boat-ed.com/florida or www.boatus.org/florida.

Given that my past captaining experience hadn’t strayed far beyond rubber rafts in backyard pools, I chose the 19-foot Palm Beach model and its 115-horsepower engine and immediately sought the aforementioned Mr. Korb – and his Fort Myers waterfront property street cred – to help ensure the adventure wouldn’t end with an emergency room, a holding cell or an uncharted desert isle.

Toward that end, and armed with sufficient food, drinks and sundries for a three-hour tour, we set off for a back-and-forth trek to Picnic Island, a man-made seven-acre tract that was created by dredging near the confluence of Pine Island Sound, Matlacha Pass and the Caloosahatchee River.

It’s clearly visible and probably an invigorating swim from the bridges connecting Sanibel Island to the Lee County mainland, but Captiva’s orientation a bit more to the northwest requires a leisurely eight-mile trip that we covered in 45 minutes over glistening and (thankfully) chop-free conditions.

There are no docks, but our boat was easily anchored just a few steps from shore — allowing chairs, towels and umbrellas to be quickly transported. The island’s north side provides a shallow wading area while the south is more wooded, and the entire expanse can be covered on foot in no more than half an hour alongside a generally uninterested menagerie of pelicans, ibis, anhingas and herons.

True to his standing as the trip’s lone Florida native, Ryan chose to stick by the water, where he giddily assembled an entourage of puffer fish, hermit crabs and conch shells, then staked out the boat’s bow for the trip home as the crew’s self-appointed – albeit ultimately unsuccessful — “dolphin spotter.”

As it turned out, the most majestic sighting on the return leg was a palatial home owned by ex-big league pitcher Eric Milton, who must’ve shelled out some of the $47.3 million he earned in an 11-year career (a cool $531,966.28 for each of 89 wins) for a prime spot along the Southwest Florida water.

Seeing how one of his old Cincinnati Reds jerseys still hangs lazily in my wife’s closet – exactly 10 years after his final inglorious game with my favorite team – it’s pretty much a lock that we’ll be stopping by for drinks the next time we’re in the neighborhood.

I figure he owes us at least that much.

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Relax Completely In One Of 19 Vintage Cottages

rotation-4-300x300Do something just a little different this trip and delight yourself in a new way at ‘Tween Waters Inn.

Thinking back over the years, my time spent staying in a cottage almost anywhere was a treat! The ‘Tween Waters cottages are all one-of-a-kind. Originally constructed in the 1930’s, they are fully refurbished and individually appointed to ensure a special, beachfront holiday for all of the guests who stay in them today.

The setting, poised between the Gulf of Mexico beach on Captiva Island on one side and the serene, back bay boating waters on the other, enhances their cottage charm even more. Imagine… Nice huh?!

There are nineteen different cottages, painted in cheerful, tropical colors dotted around the resort. The size and room layouts range from one room to three bedroom and they have beautiful baths and convenient kitchen amenities. Some have screened in porches, others have sunny decks and they have all the comforts of a cottage home you will love.

  • Consider the Osprey two bedroom, the Heron one bedroom or the Pelican one bedroom overlooking the beachside of the resort with a view of the Gulf and just steps away from the sand. There are three, gulf front cottage groups that are perfect for multiple parties, too.
  • The Jasmine one bedroom or the Tarpon three bedroom are located on the east side of the resort where they look over the back bay waters and the picturesque, ‘Tween Waters Marina.
  • Sitting be’tween the water on either side, you’ll find the shadiest cottages that are also closest to the pool. They share a lush courtyard, outdoor love seat swing, and they are named for the tropical plants and trees that make this spot around the resort so special: the Frangipani, Bougainvillea, Orchid, and Jasmine.

Visit this link to view an Interactive Map of ‘Tween Waters Inn that offer the names, size, location and photos for each cottage.

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After you check them all out, you’ll see for yourself how delightful and different staying in one of the cottages will be on your next trip. Make your reservations early for the historically popular and world-famous cottage you prefer!

I can tell you without a doubt, I will. Summertime in Florida is the perfect time for a shady cottage near the pool or one that is only steps from the beach and salty water. Most importantly, get ready to enjoy…

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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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