Nestled on the tip of Captiva Island in Southwest Florida, the South Seas Island Resort has handily endured hurricanes, an influx of vacationers, and a recent renovation to preserve its well-earned reputation as an exclusive island destination.
The 330-acre resort is the former site of a copra and key lime plantation started by Clarence Chadwick, an inventor and itinerant farmer. By 1924, Chadwick owned 400 acres on the northern tip of Captiva and built a number of homes as quarters for his workers. At one time, his plantation was the largest key lime producer in the world. In 1930, Chadwick grew tired of the business and worked with his wife and brother to turn the settlement of worker cottages into a viable resort. Today, many of his towering coconut palms still stand, framing the resort and providing a lush, tropical welcome to visitors. Accommodations are spread throughout the grounds in low-rise buildings featuring hotel rooms, 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom suites and private homes. Because the resort takes up the entire northern tip of Captiva, a free trolley shuttles back and forth through the mangrove forests dotting the property as well as into town at designated times.
The 2 1/2 miles of sugary beach — steps away from homes and condominiums within the resort — is South Seas’ defining feature. Strolling the shell-strewn beach is a tranquil escape for even the weariest of travelers. The beach was refreshed following the devastation of Hurricane Charlie in 2005. In fact, the entire resort recently underwent a $140 million renovation. Rooms — from standard hotel rooms to one,-two, and three bedroom beach villas and private homes — were newly decorated with a West Indies feel with bamboo and teak furniture, lavish bedding and spacious bathrooms. The pool area now feature two new lagoon-style pools with cabana complex and an expansive sun deck, fountains and Jacuzzi/spa. The resort includes 18 heated outdoor pools in total, scattered throughout the different accommodation villages as well as the Beach Villas.
Manatees are a common sight frolicking near the elegant marina fronting South Seas. The Yacht Harbour serves as a launching point for scenic day cruises to Cabbage Key and Useppa as well as shelling, dolphin watching and other boating excursions. Boating enthusiasts can arrive at the resort by water as the marina accommodates vessels up to 120 feet.
Perhaps South Seas’ best kept secret is its superb tennis facilities. Services include daily clinics for all levels, individual private lessons with an accomplished pro, endurance workshops, and clinics providing instruction on how to play doubles. The resort boasts 19 courts in all, four of which are flood-lit for evening play. The carefully crafted golf course completes the country club experience, yet preserves the secluded, tranquil feel of the island. A recent New York Times travel and leisure piece dubbed the South Seas golf course “one of the most picturesque 9-holers” anywhere. After a vigorous round of golf, guests can eat at one of three restaurants on the premises, including room service delivered to condos, or take advantage of the many offerings in town and nearby Sanibel.
While South Seas has always catered to families, its recent upgrade included an expansion to its children’s programs and facilities. Kids club theme parties and other educational camps are broken out into programs for teens and children ages 4-12. Past programs have included shell walks, water games, pirate hunts, and kayak programs, among others.
While Captiva is famous for its beaches and shelling, its unspoiled wildlife has provided enduring comfort to a number of visitors. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote her famous “Gifts from the Sea,” while vacationing on Captiva. Captiva is one of the few regions left where you can observe rare birds such as opsrey, bald eagle, and blue herons in their natural habitat. The nearby wildlife refuge is home to more than 300 species of birds, 50 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 30 types of animals — species that a visitor might not ordinarily get to see in such an intimate setting. The miles of winding bike and jogging paths allow visitors to experience Captiva’s raw beauty at a languid pace.
While many charmed guests have described South Seas as seemingly “the end of the world,” the newly restyled resort has preserved its status as an unspoiled haven while offering new levels of amenities and services for families of all ages.