Travel // The Gulf Coast {Florida Part Two - Captiva Island and Miami}

May 10, 2018

Part Two {and the very final part} of our beachy week in Florida, starting with a day trip to Sanibel & Captiva islands - possibly two of my most magical islands in the world!

You can read Part One here, talking about where we stayed on Marco Island - our base for the week on the Gulf Coast. We'd visited Sanibel and Captiva before, they're about half way up the coast - around a 1.5 hour drive from Marco but totally worth it for a day in paradise. The bridge above is the first sign that you've almost arrived, you pay a toll to cross onto Sanibel island and then keep driving until you reach Captiva. 

Sanibel is gorgeous, full of people cycling, little shell shops, boutique hotels, villas and dreamy beaches. But then you reach Captiva which is a real hidden gem. It's definitely a little more effort to reach it but once you're there, you'll be rewarded and it's less busy than Sanibel.

Captiva is tiny, pretty much one long strip of beach along one side, little boat harbours along the other and some picture perfect beach houses in the middle. There's one main street, with a general store - which is adorable, a chapel by the sea, a coffee shop, a boat company and a couple of restaurants. The roads are lined with shells at either side and there are a million palm trees. 

Our first stop was Jensen's boat yard, it was such a beautiful still morning and we were on the look out for manatees. Right on cue, one stuck his nose up out the water as we stepped onto the jetty!

You really can't believe you're in Florida, or America at all really when on Captiva. Captivating Captiva... 

Pelican fly by.

One of the best things about going away with your parents? Mum is always on hand to take photos! We didn't have to ask a stranger allll week!

We parked up {parking can be tricky as it's so small so go early, there's one main car park which costs 20 bucks a day, or a boat yard which is 10 dollars but once they're full, they're full} and wheeled our beach gear {chairs, umbrellas and picnic supplies} down to the beach for the day. 

It's a really beautiful beach, not the best for shells, but perfect for a day of swimming and sunbathing. And after our picnic, we wandered along for an ice cream. You have to try Queenie's ice cream, the lady who owns it lives on Captiva. The toasted coconut flavour on a hot day was heaven.

I really want to look into staying in one of these beach houses on Captiva for a few days the next time we think about visiting. I assume that some must be for hire rather than all privately owned? You wouldn't want a full week on Captiva as it really is so tiny and remote, but a couple of days would be a real tonic.

This house please!

Bag from Sunshine & Shade

Ok no wait, *this* beach house! With the best sunset views. We wish we could have stayed for sunset but we still had a 2 hour drive back.

The end of a happy, sandy beach day. I love that feeling of walking to the car in your towel - only on holiday.

Until next time Captiva! I hope in another 5 years it will still be exactly the same. Such a charming little island.

Oh! And stopping for fuel on the way home on Sanibel {you can go into the gas station in your swim gear, it's that kind of place} I discovered white chocolate M&Ms for the first time. My new favourite!!!

We love to BBQ when on holiday - especially when we're with my Dad the BBQ king. After dinner, if we weren't out at a restaurant, we'd wander out for an evening walk. The skies in Marco Island looked like a watercolour every evening. I must have taken a million photos.

Most mornings on Marco Island, after having breakfast, we'd cycle to the beach early for a long walk along with a little shelling. Tiger Tail Beach is definitely our favourite and because you have to either cross a shallow lagoon to reach it, or walk a long way around, it's so quiet and peaceful.

An empty beach full of shells that stretches for miles. By the time we'd walked to the end and back we'd already done our 10,000 steps for the day! Crazy. 

If you go right to the end, you'll be in prime sand-dollar hunting territory. And people walk away with huge handfuls {don't worry, it's only live shelling that's not allowed}. 

I loved those mornings so much, even my Dad got into the beach combing by the end of the week!

Testing out my new rose-gold saltwaters! {online here}

- One of our other visits to Lee Be fish for lunch.

It was the perfect mix of day trips out but equally a few afternoons by the pool at the villa soaking up the Floridan sunshine.

My Mum was really keen to go on a boat trip whilst we were on Marco and so we googled some tours via Tripadvisor and found Dreamlander boat trips. It wasn't bad value for the four of us, and we had the boat to ourselves for the afternoon with a captain. We went for the 3 hour tour that took us to a small sand bar island and promised sightings of dolphins.  

It was lovely to be out on the water and we were happy spotting the odd dolphin... 

We pulled up to a beach that felt like a deserted cast away island. 

Adding a few more sand dollars to the collection.

We spotted a big group of manatees which are normally really hard to spot on Marco.

But then came the real highlight of the trip. The captain managed to find a pod of playful dolphins and by driving the boat really fast {in a drive by he called it!}, the dolphins followed to swim and jump in the wake! 

It was just the most incredible experience. We were all cheering and whooping to encourage them and their bellies all turned pink, which Captain Brandon told us meant they were having fun. I think there were five of them in total, darting around, jumping through the surf. I think we were all a little lost for words after. We definitely won't forget it.

I've never been so close to them in the wild to see their faces as close as we did. Our Captain made the afternoon so much fun, it was such a great trip. 

That evening, with the trip rapidly coming to an end, we had dinner at the Sunset Grille on South Beach {blackened fish with sweet potato fries, mmn} then walked to Beebe's Ice cream for probably the best ice cream of the trip and then sat on the beach to watch the sunset. I just kept saying, I had the best afternoon {with the dolphins}, the best dinner, the best ice cream and now the best evening and sunset. We were all pinching ourselves that evening, the stars aligned and everything was just SO good. 

Barefoot on the sand waiting for the sun to set. Sunsets are big events on this coast and especially at weekends you'll find big crowds coming to gather and watch.

Mum & Dad <3.

Predictably, we spent our last day on Marco doing pretty much the same as the last. An early beach walk, some time at the villa arranging our sand dollars, one last BBQ and then an evening bike ride for the 'set {as my Dad now calls sunsets ha}. I could have lived those days on repeat forever and ever.

Our last sunset was the best of the whole trip.

Watching the giant orange ball set behind the beach grass.

And then melting into the ocean. A sunset that makes you so grateful for so many things. I'd be lying if I said that some of us didn't have tears in our eyes after.

And then, just like that, it was our last day! We had to be up and out of the villa quite early so we squeezed our cases shut and packed up the car as we were off to Miami! We'd booked our flights home from Miami as it's a lot closer to Marco Island than Orlando and it meant a cool drive through the everglades, gator and panther spotting the whole journey.

One last mini trip! Our flight wasn't until the evening and we recently acquired Soho House membership so jumped at the chance to spend a day at Soho before flying home. Being a Monday as well it was also half price food & drink for lunch - happy days indeed.

Soho Beach House will definitely take some beating surrounded by lush palms and being right on a private stretch of beach. It was the perfect end to an incredible trip, and we maxed out here leaving it as long as we possibly could before admitting defeat and heading to the airport. 

If we'd have thought about, I possibly would have added a night on here before flying back. We'd only ever spent a few hours in Miami before and that was right in the centre of South Beach, we didn't have the best memories from it. But Soho and this area of Miami completely changed our opinions.  

A tropical Soho style paradise!

I have this thing with tiles... 

... and lobster spaghetti! 

Just missing my Brother here in this photo {he'd flown home after Orlando :( }. I'm so grateful for such a fun filled couple of weeks with these guys.

Are you sure we have to leave? Dragging ourselves away was tough. But luckily, there was plenty for us to look forward to back home. All good trips come to an end but I always adore putting these blog posts together to look back on all the photos and memories. 

Florida has given California some serious competition... I really hope to go back in a couple of years or so. Such an easy living, easy visiting kind of place with so much to do. Next time I'd like to visit, or stay around Sarasota and maybe visit Siesta Key too. 

Have you been?

R <3 xx 

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  1. I love all your pics, your trip shows that there is defiantly more to florida than theme parks and hustle and bustle xxx


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