Completely Captivating: Vacationing in North Captiva Island, FL

Looking for a vacation destination that is stylishly off-the-grid but not entirely separate from civilization? North Captiva Island is the perfect place. 

In late July I had the opportunity to travel to North Captiva Island, FL, with some amazing friends. This wasn’t my first visit and I can surely write that it won’t be my last. I previously visited the island six years ago and was in desperate need of a North Captiva Island reset.

My vacation started with a short and peaceful ferry ride across the Pine Island Sound. One of the unique things about North Captiva Island is the lack of cars. Golf carts are the main method of transportation on the island dirt roads. It almost felt like a tribute to The Villages, a retirement community next to my hometown where many of the residents drive golf carts instead of cars.

Riding around on a six-seater golf cart is not only fun (or maybe dangerous – depends on who is driving!) time, but it is also a special way to see the tropical foliage, blooming hibiscus flowers, and brightly painted vacation houses. Keep an eye out for gopher tortoises as they cross the road. The houses are almost as vibrant as the island itself. Each one has a splash of tropical color and a catchy name. We stayed in a blue house named Manatee Manor. Having been inside several of the houses, I can safely say they are quirky and inviting – one of them even had an old elevator!

The sunset on a boat ride through Pine Island Sound.

We saw over eight manatees on our trip. If you aren’t familiar with manatees, they are sweet and gentle ocean mammals that frequent Florida’s coastline. You can often find them lingering around marinas in search of fresh water. On the last day of our trip, we saw dolphins, sea urchins, and starfish.

If you are planning to vacation in North Captiva, I strongly recommend bringing your own boat (or renting one). One of our favorite things to do was to go island hopping. We rode the pontoon boat (a luxurious, relaxed boat style) to Cabbage Key, Cayo Costa, Captiva Island, and Boca Grande. One day, we grabbed lunch at the historic Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant, which offers quaint island charm. As a Floridian, I would classify the restaurant as a tourist trap. The prices are a little higher than a normal bar and grille, but it was a cute stop nonetheless. Cayo Costa is a remote barrier island with lush greenery and an abundance of wildlife including shorebirds, gopher tortoises, raccoons, bobcats, and even feral pigs. I recommend anchoring on Cayo Costa’s shore and lounging beachside or floating on a tube in the pristine blue waters.  This is also a perfect place to search for seashells.

If you don’t have a boat, don’t worry. North Captiva Island has plenty of beautiful beaches! Manatee Manor was a beachfront property, allowing us private beach access, but there are multiple public beaches around the four-mile-long island. Bring a chair, an umbrella, a book, and you’re set!

Captiva Island, not to be confused with North Captiva Island, is only a short boat ride away. It is home to several island restaurants, shops, and bars – some with live music. I strongly recommend having dinner at the Bubble Room, which is a bizarre and enchanting three-story restaurant. The Bubble Room is based on Old Hollywood, Christmas, and everything fantastical. The food and drinks there are amazing! If you’re claustrophobic, I suggest walking through the restaurant before committing to dine there. The rooms and seating are very tight, but each one has its own unique and dazzling theme. The Bubble Room is a must-see!

Em’s Adventure: Making new friends in beautiful places. North Captiva Island is the perfect place to unplug and focus on what is most important: family and friends. The most beautiful thing about vacation is that no matter where you go, the memories made and the laughter shared among friends and family is what you will remember most. I am so grateful for the wonderful people I stayed with and the new friends I made. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget!

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