Located on the tip of Captiva Island in southwest Florida, the South Seas Island Resort has weathered hurricanes, an influx of tourists, and a recent renovation to preserve its well-earned reputation as an exclusive island destination.
The 330-acre complex is the former site of a copra and linden plantation started by Clarence Chadwick, an inventor and itinerant farmer. In 1924, Chadwick owned 400 acres on the north end of Captiva and built several houses as accommodation for his workers. At one point, his plantation was the largest 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 workers’ houses into a viable resort. Today, many of its towering coconut palms still stand, framing the resort and providing a lush tropical welcome to visitors. Accommodations are distributed throughout the grounds in low-rise buildings with hotel rooms, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom suites, and private homes. Because the resort occupies the entire north end of Captiva, a free trolley travels back and forth through the mangrove forests that dot the property, as well as into town at designated times.
The 2 1/2 miles of sugary beach, steps from homes and condos within the complex, are the defining feature of South Seas. Strolling along the shell-strewn beach is a peaceful escape for even the most weary of travelers. The beach was renovated after 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 in a West Indian style with bamboo and teak furnishings, plush bedding, and spacious bathrooms. The pool area now features two new lagoon-style pools with a cabana complex and large sun deck, fountains, and hot tub / spa. The complex includes 18 outdoor heated pools in total, spread over the different accommodation villages, as well as the Beach Villas.
Manatee are a common sight to be had near the elegant marina facing the South Seas. The yacht harbor serves as a starting point for scenic day cruises to Cabbage Key and Useppa, as well as shelling, dolphin watching, and other boat excursions. Boating enthusiasts can reach the resort by water, as the marina accommodates boats up to 120 feet.
Perhaps the best kept secret on the South Seas is its magnificent tennis facilities. Services include daily clinics for all levels, one-on-one private lessons with an accomplished professional, endurance workshops, and clinics that provide instruction on how to play doubles. The complex has 19 courts in total, four of which are illuminated for playing at night. The carefully designed golf course completes the country club experience, but retains the island’s secluded and tranquil feel. A recent New York Times travel and leisure article called the South Seas golf course “one of the most scenic 9 holes” in the world. After a vigorous round of golf, guests can dine at one of the hotel’s three restaurants, including room service delivered to the condos, or take advantage of the many offerings in town and nearby Sanibel.
While South Seas has always catered to families, its recent update included an expansion of its children’s programs and facilities. The kids’ club theme parties and other educational camps are divided into programs for teens and children ages 4-12. Past programs have included shell hikes, water games, pirate hunting, and kayaking programs, among others.
While Captiva is famous for its beaches and shelling, its unspoiled wildlife has provided lasting comfort for many visitors. Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote her famous “Gifts from the Sea” while on vacation on Captiva. Captiva is one of the few remaining regions where rare birds such as opsrey, bald eagle and blue herons can be seen 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 cannot normally see in such an intimate setting. Miles of winding bike and jogging trails allow visitors to experience Captiva’s sheer beauty at a languid pace.
While many delighted guests have described the South Seas as seemingly “the end of the world,” the recently redesigned resort has retained its unspoiled hideaway status while offering new levels of amenities and services for families of all ages.