Live From the Islands

How Do I Get out on the Water?
A visit to the islands is incomplete without getting out on the water. Several options exist; a few simple questions will help you decide which way to go: Do you prefer privacy or being in groups? Do you want to do something active or more relaxing? Would you rather be in charge or let someone else do the thinking? Keep your responses in mind as you read on.
The islands of Southwest Florida have become increasingly popular for canoeists and kayakers. Tarpon Bay Marina, strategically located at the end of Tarpon Bay Road, and adjacent to the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge, offers both types of boats to paddlers. Guided tours are available, or you may follow marked 'trails' into the refuge. 941-472-8900.
Professional kayak instructor Brian Houston gives lessons at 'Tween Waters Inn on Captiva, and both kayak and canoe rentals are available there. 941-472-5161. Just up the road, at McCarthy's Marina in Captiva's 'village' area, Wildside Adventures offers several types of kayaks for rental. Owner Greg LeBlanc leads a memorable full-moon kayak excursion five nights a month in addition to guiding daytime trips. Independent types will enjoy the paddle to nearby Buck Key (extremely close to 'Tween Waters, somewhat farther from McCarthy's), an uninhabited mangrove island with trails and a secluded hurricane hole. This form of boating also provides an unobtrusive way to glimpse bayside abodes.
An aerial view might help you decide what to do next. Look for Andy Rosse Lane in Captiva's 'village.' The friendly staff at Yolo Watersports will fly you 1,200 feet above the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico in a parasail. Serene, safe, and breathtakingly beautiful, parasailing makes for great photo opportunities. If wet and wild is more your thing, Yolo will set you up with your own Waverunner. If you've never tried this fast-paced water-based enter- tainment, youÍll be surprised just how thrilling it is. Not sure if you should? Consider that Yolo is an acronym for 'You Only Live Once!' 941-472-9656.
Three charter sailboats ply the waters of the barrier islands, leaving passengers relaxed and amazed by the beauty as well as the silence. The redhulled sloop Adventure, at South Seas Plantation since 1976, takes parties of up to six on half-day, full-day, and sunset sails for passengers. 941-472-4386. Likewise with New Moon, sailing from 'Tween Waters Inn. 941-395-1782. Capt. David Frank sails from Jensen's Twin Palms on his large catamaran, Forever Restless. 941-850-0195.
Fishermen never need coercing. Surf fishing is good here; apparently, so is bridge fishing at Blind Pass. Sanibel's large fishing pier beckons happy anglers to the east end of the island. But those of you who like to drown your bait away from shore have several options. Tarpon Bay Marina rents small electric-powered fishing boats for use in the bay, as well as hosting guided fishing trips. Skippers may rent larger powerboats at The Boat House at Sanibel Marina, just off Periwinkle Way, east of the Causeway, 941-472-2531; Adventures in Paradise at Port Sanibel Marina on Port Comfort Road, off Summerlin Road, one mile from the Sanibel Causeway, 941-472-8443; Jensen's Twin Palms Marina on Captiva, 941-472-5800; and Club Nautico at South Seas Plantation, 941-472-7507. Castaways Marina at Blind Pass, 941-472-1112, rents small johnboats with 15-hp motors. Live bait is available at all four marinas, as are, of course, tall tales.
Hundreds of anglers swear by professional guides. These savvy watermen, most of whom are longtime islanders, will help you hook up with the finest of the finned. Reservations are required. The Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center has a wealth of related brochures. Some local guides are fly fishermen and fly-cast instructors. For information, call The Bait Box, 941-472-1618; Billy's Bait and Tackle on the east end of Sanibel, 941-472-6996; Castaways Marina at Blind Pass, 941-472-1112; Jensen's Twin Palms Marina, 941-472-5800; McCarthy's Marina, 941-472-5200; Sanibel Light Tackle Outfitters, 941-472-2002; Sanibel Marina, 941-472-2723; South Seas Plantation, 941-472-5111; 'Tween Waters Marina, 941-472-5161; or The Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce Welcome Center on Causeway Road, 941-472-1080.
The out islands are visited by several local excursion boats. Board Captiva Cruises' Lady Chadwick for a morning nature cruise, a lunch trip to funky Cabbage Key or exclusive Useppa Island, or a sunset cruise. 941-472-5300. Sanibel Marina's Stars and Stripes departs daily from the island's east end, cruising near the historic ferry landing, Sanibel Lighthouse, and more. 941-472-2531. Adventures in Paradise rounds out the excursion boat category with several types of trips throughout the day; although its sightseeing vessel departs from just off-island, it provides trolley pick-up from several Sanibel accommodations. 941-472-8443.
Whichever method you choose to get out on the water, you win. A new perspective on seaside living awaits, for an island is as much the waters that surround it as the sand from which it's made.
- Compiled by Libby Boren McMillan