Wake up to a light haze of island pink settling into your bedroom at South Seas Island Resort, just before the sun comes up after last night’s big rainstorm that you greatly enjoyed falling asleep to.
Take a sunrise stroll on the beach behind your cottage. It’s breezy, but not cold enough for anything more than your favorite wrap. Although, you wish you would have packed your hat with the chin strap because it’s windy enough that your hat keeps wanting to blow away.
You uncover a few mollusks on the beach once you start pawing through the sand—casually, of course, because you didn’t bring your shelling bag. You have pockets though, so you allow yourself to walk just a little bit farther down the beach. Who knows what might be tucked amongst the sand?
Okay, it’s been over an hour—you should probably head back—but you’ve found so many bi-valves (still in tact!), fighting conchs, scallops, and slipper shells that you just want to keep going and going and going because you didn’t realize how addicting shelling was until this moment…
Finally get out of your perfect fluffy bed a second time, because anyone that gets up for the sunrise deserves an early morning nap.
Enjoy the breakfast buffet at Harbourside Bar & Grill, where the coffee is strong and the potato hash is not messing around.
Right on time at McCarthy’s Marina for your Captiva Cruises through the islands! You secretly wonder if Andrew McCarthy is the owner of the off-the-grid marina and look around for him, just in case he’s disguised in a bucket hat and flip-flops, but no luck.
YOU SEE YOUR FIRST DOLPHIN OF YOUR WHOLE LIFE! IT IS AMAZING! THEY’RE ALL JUMPING IN THE WAKE OF THE BOAT YOU’RE IN AND GIVING YOU HAPPY SMILES AND JOYFUL LEAPS! They splash you a couple times but you don’t care, you’re too busy snapping the shutter on both of your cameras.
You accept the cold beer offered to you by the captain. It’s almost 11. It’s practically afternoon. Isn’t Jimmy Buffet a part of Sanibel Island culture? He would approve.
You arrive at your first destination—Cayo Costa! You tell the captain about your shelling finds of the morning, but he tells you to prepare yourself because Cayo Costa is one of the best places in the world for shelling. There’s a science to why it’s so densely packed—the hooked-shape of the island acts like a scoop, pulling the shells from every wave right in to the beach.
You’ve made friends with a marine biologist on the beach who’s teaching you all the things you didn’t know about shells. Everyone on Sanibel seems to be into shelling.
You arrive at Cabbage Key, and ah, yes—your Jimmy Buffett suspicions are confirmed. You eat lunch at the place he wrote "Cheeseburger in Paradise" about, and the owner, Rob, is bopping around making sure everyone’s happy. He doesn’t quite make it to your table, but you don’t mind admiring him and his golden tan from afar.
You’re back at South Seas Island Resort just in time for your parasailing trip—you’re not nervous, you’ve been looking forward to it, but you forgot how fast speedboats go. Did anyone bring Dramamine…
The crew at Sunny Island Adventures is full of jokesters trying to make you laugh as they strap you into the parachute harness that’ll take you 500 feet above the ocean. You appreciate it, because this is a tense moment—parasailing is really happening—but you appreciate them trying, so you laugh and laugh and laugh at their jokes.
The take-off was anticlimactic. Things are calm. It’s quiet in the sky. You’ve got this. The wind in your hair, the dolphins leaping below…you’re kind of living the dream. You hope desperately to see a sea turtle cruising through the waves.
Photo: My Life As A Travel Movie
Okay, you looked down for too long. You shouldn’t have tried to get a good photo by swinging around in your harness. Things are starting to get a little dizzy and you’re pretty much ready for the ride to be over.
The crew is pulling you in and actually, you’re sad the ride is coming to an end, but also you’re pretty glad to be back at sea level. Until you’re not, because the boat ride is getting pretty choppy and you’ve never been seasick before and you don’t want to start today.
The whole ride back was a daze. You pancake onto the grass as soon as you’re off the dock. You’re too weak to even pick up your phone to Google quick cures for motion sickness. Parasailing: amazing. Motion sickness: unnnffff…
Your best friend finally figures out putting pressure on the inside of your wrist helps alleviate the symptoms. You stand up for the first time in half an hour after you thought you’d be prostrate for the rest of eternity.
Things are looking up now and you realize you’re hungry again—a good sign. The pizza and ice cream place (best combination ever?) at the resort is open, so you meet up with your buddies there…after a quick run through the waterslide.
You’re pretty stoked about dinner at Gramma Dot's, so you brainstorm ways to bide your time to make sure you’re hungry again. Kayaking sounds fun, but you’re pretty much done with boats for today, so you might save the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge for tomorrow…
You’re awake again. When did you fall asleep? You get the feeling accidental naps in southwest Floridian paradise tend to be pretty common…
You’re in your best island dinner garb (a maxi dress and flat sandals) after a drive out to iconic Sanibel restaurant, Gramma Dot's. You’re definitely down for the surf ‘n’ turf platter after a day on Sanibel Island that’s was shockingly low on seafood…you resolve to change that tomorrow.
You say yes to a another piña colada because you’re in Florida and who’s counting? Jimmy Buffet?
Your driver takes you and your bestie back to Captiva, but you tell him to swing a left when you hear live music and suddenly you’re at the Key Lime Bistro, watching some island retirees cut the rug and you’re not too far off from joining them.
The rain has returned and everyone dives for cover during a momentary monsoon. The first shelter you see is the straw hut covering the live band’s stage, so suddenly, you’re dancing along with the musicians while everyone else is tucked inside the bar. How exclusive! You’re basically Sanibel & Captiva Island royalty at this point.
Photo: Traveling Newlyweds
You and your group decide to take the party back to campus, but when you arrive back at South Seas you remember it’s Sunday and the bar is probably closed for the night. Something inside you says you’re secretly grateful because you hit a party wall on the drive back, and an image of your fluffy white bed has flashed through your mind…
11: 45 P.M.
You cheers your best friend with a glass of water to another day in paradise, and the fact that you get to wake up and do it again tomorrow…although this time, probably not quite at the crack of dawn.
…you’re awake again. Who can resist a southwest Florida sunrise?
Thank you to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for sponsoring this post.