Whether you’ve lived in the city your entire life or are just now experiencing your first rotation of New York City seasons, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the best way to spend a winter in the city is to hop on a plane and head somewhere sunny. Most New Yorkers have their go-to snowbird retreat—a place where the sun shines bright, the kids are easily entertained, and the vibe is stress-free.
South Seas Island Resort is all of that multiplied by a thousand. The 330-acre tropical all-inclusive resort has 2.5 miles of white-sand beaches with views of the Gulf of Mexico and is located on Captiva Island, just off the coast of Fort Meyers, Florida. It is beloved by New York parents for its family-friendly activities, expansive amenities, and Instagrammable views, and though you can visit all year round and expect an out-of-this-world island experience, it is at peak perfection in the winter, when you can lay on the beach watching some dolphins swim by your lounge chair instead of bundling your kids up in hats and coats to prepare for the chilly morning trek to school.
Now, I could wax poetic about the views and the gorgeous property for days, especially because I was fortunate enough to visit the property after Hurricane Irma bombarded Florida and it still looked as perfect as it does in pictures, but what is even more important to note about South Seas is how there is something for every type of person to enjoy there—a key factor in any family’s consideration of an all-inclusive resort. Sure, it’s great to have sunny skies and crystal clear waters, but how on earth will you keep a 7-year-old and their 10-year-old sibling entertained without losing your sanity on vacation?
Thankfully, the South Seas staff has all of that figured out for you. More active kids will love island hopping on wave runners, exploring in a rented kayak from Sunny Island Adventures, or fishing. The intellectual kids have the option of participating in ScoutAbout, a scavenger hunt around the island that sends kids out to look for signs with facts about the local plants and wildlife while collecting discovery bands, or attending Sanibel Sea School, a non-profit organization that offers sea-based education programs for kids to explore Captiva Island and discover marine conservation. And let’s not forget about the kids who just want to chill out, because they have 20 pools (two of which sit right on the bay side of the resort, offering stunning views of the bay, passing sailboats, and even some dolphin and manatee), the H2WHOA! Waterslides, staff-hosted games, 2.5 miles of beach that are perfect for shelling (hunting for the most pristine seashells they’ll ever see, with over 250 types of shells on the island), and other more relaxing activities to keep them happy throughout their vacation. Skully’s Family Interactive Center will surely act as an activity hub for your family, thanks to their arcade and activities such as kite making, crab racing, lawn games, kids’ night out, and more.
While the kids are exploring the resort, parents can enjoy poolside food and drink service, 3 bars (including the Crooked Snook Tiki Bar at the pool and the Sunset Beach Bar on the beach), tennis, 9-hole par-27 golfing with gorgeous views of the Gulf at The Dune Gold & Tennis Club, painting and photography classes, a fitness center, Ambu Yoga, a yoga studio on property offering a variety of classes and beachside yoga, Kay Casperson Spa & Lifestyle Boutique, as well as water sports, shopping, and a Starbucks (for those who can’t lose all of the comforts of home!). Once everyone has enjoyed crossing things off of their own personal vacation bucket lists, there are plenty of fun things for families to do together, like enjoying the 20 miles of bike paths, guided kayak, wave runner, and boat tours, dolphin watch and wildlife cruises, sailing classes with Colgate Offshore Sailing School, South Seas’ Go! Fish catch and release fishing program, and Sunset Celebrations, a family-friendly evening party on the beach featuring live music and a sunset ritual of wishing on shells and throwing them into the Gulf.
All of the relaxing, wave running, and exploring is sure to get you and your kiddos hungry, and the resort’s 8 various restaurants are perfect for families with adventurous eaters and picky eaters alike. Families can enjoy quick lunches and snacks at Ships Store or Captiva Provision Company, the resort’s two delis that offer sandwiches, salads, fresh fruit, and more. Late night diners or adults-only diners will enjoy Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill, which serves up a Caribbean-inspired menu with local specialties like Lime Panko Crusted Fish Sandwiches and is known for their mojito. If you’re looking for family-friendly waterside dining, South Seas has two restaurants that you are sure to visit multiple times during your trip. Harbourside Bar & Grill, located in the marina, has gorgeous views of the harbor and parked yachts, and may even offer your kids a manatee sighting while they enjoy traditional breakfast fare, a breakfast buffet, fresh Gulf seafood, and a decadent dessert menu. If you can’t seem to peel yourself away from the pool, stop by The Pointe, which offers views of the pool and the bay as well as sandwiches, salads, burgers, vegetarian-friendly options, and delicious adult beverages for parents. For an after dinner treat, stop by Scoops & Slices, a 1950’s themed diner offering ice cream, gluten-free frozen yogurt, pizza, and a floor-to-ceiling candy wall that is sure to delight the kids.
Once the sun has set, the resort gets pretty quiet, and families can enjoy the silence that is impossible to experience at home in one of the resorts 471 rooms, offering both harborside and Gulf views that are equally as stunning. Upon entering one of South Seas’ luxurious Harbourside Guestrooms, guests are greeted to balconies with seating for ideal morning coffee views, comfy beds, flat screen TVs, a refrigerator, and expansive bathrooms with a tub that is perfect for a relaxing night in. You and the kids can see dolphin, manatee, any of the 230 species of birds found on the island, and other wildlife in their natural habitat, as they are often visible from your balcony and close enough to snap a picture.
Families looking to enjoy a longer stay or are looking for more of the home-away-from-home vibe should opt for one of the condominiums, ranging from 850-3,400-sq-ft in size and offering one- to three-bedrooms, living rooms, full kitchens, and private screened balconies adjacent to the beach or marina.
With all of the high-quality amenities, activities, and accommodations offered by South Seas, it will be hard to find a reason to leave, but eventually you’ll have to pull your kids away from the pool, wave goodbye to the Gulf, and fly back home to the snow-covered streets and freezing temperatures. But don’t worry, because when the first snowflakes descend on NYC next winter, South Seas will still be there waiting for you.