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Old 01-22-2013, 12:42 PM   #1
minnie4me
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OT:gulf coast vacation

Has anyone recently stayed at either the Hilton, Clearwater Beach Resort or South Seas Island Resort...
looking for a resort on the gulf for summer vacation
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Old 01-22-2013, 10:13 PM   #2
akadada
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Captiva is great. Southseas is a tad pricey but if you're okay with that, it's hard to beat. Limited options for resorts, southseas is probably the better of them. We always rent a condo from a rental agency like kingfisher. More bang for the buck. Stay ocean side if can in the summer, you'll need the ocean breeze to stay comfortable outside.
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Old 01-24-2013, 04:47 AM   #3
swilshire
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It has been a few years since we stayed there, but we had a very nice week at South Seas. Captiva is a terrific location. The difference between it and Clearwater is night and day.

I like them both, but Clearwater is much busier and more touristy. Nice sand and you can walk a long way out in shallow water.

Captiva's water can be rougher, so that might be an issue if you have small children who like to play in the water. Captiva has more of a resorty feel.

Definitely hot in the summer. We stayed on Sanibel once in July and said never again. OK if you spend a lot of time in or around the water, though.

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Old 01-24-2013, 12:48 PM   #4
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I am thinking that the South Seas resort would be our best option in the Gulf area. My only concern is that it seems to be lacking a "kids club" or somewhere our 10 yr old can hang and learn with kids his own age. We have never gone on a vacation that hasn't involved a theme park or a cruise ship with our son, so I am wondering if he will get bored poolside after a few days. I guess we could drive up to Tampa to Legoland or Busch Gardens if we wanted for a day.
Our other consideration is the Omni resort Amelia Island (Atlantic). I am sure the beach isn't as beautiful, but the hotel is under renovation now, so it would be somewhat "new", plus they have a dedicated kids program.
I've got to make a decision asap and book.
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Old 01-24-2013, 06:29 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by minnie4me View Post
I am thinking that the South Seas resort would be our best option in the Gulf area. My only concern is that it seems to be lacking a "kids club" or somewhere our 10 yr old can hang and learn with kids his own age. We have never gone on a vacation that hasn't involved a theme park or a cruise ship with our son, so I am wondering if he will get bored poolside after a few days. I guess we could drive up to Tampa to Legoland or Busch Gardens if we wanted for a day.
Our other consideration is the Omni resort Amelia Island (Atlantic). I am sure the beach isn't as beautiful, but the hotel is under renovation now, so it would be somewhat "new", plus they have a dedicated kids program.
I've got to make a decision asap and book.
It would be a LONG drive to either Busch Gardens or Legoland. I wouldn't waste a beach day for either. Encourage your son to bring a good book (OK, I know he'll probably bring something electronic) and let him amuse himself.

South Seas is a large resort. They run a shuttle from section to section. When we were there in December, Santa was the driver.

I like Amelia Island also, but am not familiar with the Omni. Not really a lot of action on the island in general. We walked the beach. Saw lots of people flying kites.

Sheila
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:14 PM   #6
minnie4me
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Sheila,
DS would bring a book and something electronic, we both know which would get more attention.
How long is the drive to Tampa?
Which airport would I want to try and fly into?
Do they have campfires on the beach, or "dive-in" movies? Is there a mini golf close by? Looking for some quality family time things to do, and, is there a spa? Mom and Dad need a little personal time on this adventure
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:38 PM   #7
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We have stayed twice on Captiva, once at South Seas and once at some little place. Loved both, although obviously South Seas has much more to offer. To me Captiva and/or Sanibel Island (also one trip there) are both very good venues for a relaxed, quiet vacation. Chillin', shell hunting, good restaurants, etc. If you are looking for activities...wrong place.

Ft. Myers Beach, St Pete Beach, Clearwater Beach, as others have mentioned, are much more developed.

Two other nice areas are Siesta Key (Sarasota) and Marco Island.

Sarasota is between Ft Myers (Sanibel, Captiva, etc) and Tampa. Really nice town, really nice St. Armand's Circle area on the beach, and some good to legendary restaurants. (Dinner at Columbia, dessert at Kilwins is tough to replicate -- except at Celebration!). Very relaxing beach areas, but with sophisticated dining and shopping. Nice middle ground.

Marco Island (south of Naples, which is 40-50 miles south of Ft. Myers) is again a more developed area -- but considerably more upscale than Clearwater. Good to very good restaurants, typical beautiful Gulf beaches -- very nice. Far from Tampa, but driveable to the real Everglades (70 miles to Shark Valley).

All of those are on the Central to South Gulf Coast of Florida.

However, there is another very good Gulf Coast vacation area -- the Florida Panhandle in the Northwestern sliver of our state. The Destin, Panama City and surrounding areas of the Panhandle are very popular vacation spots. I am not familiar with those, but they draw tons of visitors every year.
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Old 01-24-2013, 08:47 PM   #8
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According to Mapquest, From Captiva, Busch Gardens is 3 hours 5 min, 172 miles. 3 hrs 11 min, 150 miles to Legoland.

I'd go for whichever airport had the best fares, but I've flown often into Fort Myers. Sarasota is usually expensive, but once I found a decent fare into there for my children to join us. Tampa might have the best fares. Fares to Orlando are often cheapest of all. You could fly into there and spend a couple of nights doing something your son would enjoy. Then drive down to Captiva.

We spent one night in Orlando on our way home from the beach in January. We have Platinum Busch passes and stopped at a Disney outlet, then spent an evening at Sea World. DS14 was happy with the detour.

I don't recall any planned activities like you mention at the resort, but it has been a few years. The HGVC at Sea World in Orlando has dive-in movies.

Don't remember any mini-golf either. The Ding Darling Natural Area is interesting. You could always drive over to Fort Myers Beach one day where there are more touristy things. Can't remember how much the toll to get back onto Sanibel runs.

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Old 01-24-2013, 09:11 PM   #9
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love going out to Captiva/South Seas. They have a little arcade at South Seas and a weekly events calendar that describes all of the family & kids activities. There are also boat & watercraft rentals.The kids are usually pretty exhausted from playing in the pool/waves all day and are happy to just crash in the evening. It is not a fast-paced place. Zoomers is a new "amusement park" on the way out to sanibel. They have go-carts, mini golf etc... I do remember them offering some drop-off kids activities in the evening. I'd call and ask to speak to the activities coordinator. She can give you info for your specific week. We love it & plan to go back this summer.

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Old 01-24-2013, 09:26 PM   #10
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Also--Sanibel sea school is a fantastic program for kids during the day. All kids love it!
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Old 01-24-2013, 11:24 PM   #11
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We go every year to Captiva usually early summer or late fall. We go to Disney probably every year to every other year. . . they are night and day if you want to find any resemblance in resort life. Southseas is, in my opinion, the closest to a resort experience, but boring compared to almost any Disney style resort, for kids. We don't stay there because I think it's overrated and unnecessarily expensive, especially since you can find a bunch of great places for 20% to 50% cheaper on the island that are just as nice. If you go to Sanibel, savings are even better, but Sanibel is too crowded for my taste and the sunsets are no where near as fulfilling. . .I'm admittedly spoiled.

But the resort, or the island for that matter, is not boring if your kid can be cool with a beach, amazing shelling, ridiculously good fishing, exploring nature (Ding Darling), sailing, kite surfing at the East end of Sanibel (maybe too young?), kayaking, parachutes, sea turtles, alligators in the reserve, birds, lots of kids on the beach. Dolphins abound usually every morning. As a parent, I can't imagine a more exciting environment for a kid to explore and a parent to relax. Kids approve. My daughter likes Captiva more than Disney. Although it's a close one...

The restaurants on Sanibel are overall better than the relatively few on Captiva, but Captiva is way more relaxing, and if you know which places to go, Captiva has it all. Be sure to stop at Target or some grocery store and stock up before you cross the bridge. Once on Sanibel, you'll pay about 10% - 40% more for groceries and about half the variety.

The ocean is best to swim when calm. In the summer, you will experience more churn, which means chances for rougher water. Although you could also have a whole week of calm, perfect water.

I do not let my kids swim during rough water not because of it being overly rough. Riptide or >3' waves are the only time I'd normally care. Rather because of sharks, which are abundant. . . Now that's said not to scare you, because sharks are everywhere along ALL of the Florida coast, and t they have absolutely no interest in biting or attacking humans and in clear water, will go a mile out of the way to avoid you, but in rough water, they don't see you and can bump. . . I fish every day off the beach and also the sound there and see sharks all of the time. They are super spooky of humans, so clear water no worries, but I've watched them in rough water get within a few feet of unaware swimmers. . . anyway, if there was one thing that's a turnoff, it would be rough water. That said if you go to Southseas, no big deal, many pools, all nice.

Anyway, I love Captiva and happy to opine further if needed.
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Old 01-29-2013, 08:20 PM   #12
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Just booked South Seas !! Thanks for all the input !! Can't wait for summer
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