Residents of Florida’s North Captiva Island are rightfully proud. It’s not just one of the Gulf Coast’s youngest islands, it is also one the smartest developed islands. So it’s not exclusively expensive and silly and it’s not wildly abandoned either. From Barnacle’s Island Resort we get guests from all over the continent, even all over the world. But some of them show up, by boat, from other Gulf Coast Islands.
Here’s the complete list of Gulf Coast Florida islands they come from!
1) Anna Maria Island, sometimes called Anna Maria Key, is 20 minutes or so from Bradenton. Seven miles of white sand beaches make it seem more like a spot in the heart of the Caribbean, but Anna is also well known for excellent dining and thoughtful development.
2) Boca Grande – Upscale with lots of trendy restaurants, shops and boutiques, Boca Grande is highly recommended in the off-season, because high season is crowded. That said, it’s crowded for some good reasons.
3) Caladesi Island and nearby Honeymooon Island, are easily some of the most beautiful islands – and beautiful beach experiences anywhere. Just a few miles from Clearwater Beach, the island is a lot less crowded and mostly covered by a state park.
4) Captiva Island – Maybe obviously, most of the folks visiting North Capitiva Island from other islands are coming from Captiva Island. We used to be one island, after all. But Captiva Island used to be part of Sanibel Island (see below), and folks have had to adjust. In any case, visiting both (all three?) islands during the same trip is highly recommended.
5) Cayo Costa & Cabbage Key – Natural and strung with nature trails Cayo Costa State Park is a big advantage to travelers looking for kayaking, fishing, birding and photography. The seafood is renowned and it’s a nice break from Florida’s Atlantic Coast.
6) Cedar Key – Just a little north of Tampa, Cedar Key is laid back and luxurious, with lots of homes and businesses still perched high up on stilts. Lots of local history is complemented by the local National Wildlife Refuge, but folks come for the clam chowder and the area’s considerable charm.
7) Dog Island – Remember, the Canary Islands are named for dogs too. The little birds were named for the islands, not the other way around. Our own Florida Dog Island is hardly over developed, and in many cases a little too rough for all but the most adventure seeking and “willing to rough it” travelers. There are a few hotels and a few year-round residents, about five miles off the panhandle coast, near Carabelle.
8) Lido Key – Just off the Sarasota coast, Lido Key is a year round destination with the full service resorts and accompanying infrastructure. It’s also a burgeoning eco-tourism location with lots to offer in terms of kayaking and exploring the mangroves and similar coastal areas.
9) Longboat Key – Also near Sarasota, Longboat Key is a golf and retirement community with lots of tennis, dining and shopping, in addition to its considerable coast. Beaches are among the whitest on the Gulf.
10) Manasota Key – Similarly, this stretch of Sarasota real estate is primarily a residential community, but some support for visitors can be had in the local hotels and B&Bs.
11) Marco Island –Off the Everglades, near Naples, Marco is the biggest of the Ten Thousand Islands, and arguably the most beautiful. Tropical year round, there’s a lot to see and do.
12 ) Okaloosa Island/Santa Rosa – Both are major barrier islands far up the coast near Pensacola. That said, they offer a terrific stretch of natural sea shore and protected (and very beautiful) beaches. The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Beach is still well regarded for a very traditional vacation.
13) Pass-A-Grille – Off the wonderful coast of St. Petersburg, Pass-A-Grille is quirky and offers a chic, slightly more upscale island for the curious and the island weary. There’s always something different and something new, and beaches are well-worth an afternoon or two.
14) Pine Island – Much more in our own neck of the woods, Pine Island is best known for charming and curious Matlacha and for the galleries, sea food shops and fishing businesses that set out each morning. It’s an easy boat trip from North Captiva too.
15) Sanibel Island – Also off the Fort Myers coast, Sanibel is one of the best known and most popular islands – especially for gathering seashells. It’s probably even more popular with wintering birds.
16) St. George Island – Always one of the highest rated vacation spots, St. George is undoubtedly one of the most popular family vacation islands, and with that, it’s surprisingly uncrowded most of the year. It’s also way north, off the panhandle, and a few hour’s drive from Tallahassee.
17) Siesta Key – Moving again, far to the south, Siesta Key is one of the greatest things about Sarasota. Chic, stylish and as much Caribbean as part of the Gulf, the waters off the coast of this eight-mile island are pure turquoise, crystal clear and offer everything you need for snorkeling, and aquatic sports to last all season.
18) Ten Thousand Islands – Folks can argue over an exact count. Some of the tiny islets here will probably never count as proper islands. As mentioned above, Marco Island is the home base from which most visitors start out for the other islands, and there is a world of watery experience in and outside the many mangroves, swamps and, where there’s enough island, forests.
19) Useppa Island – Useppa, has been a vacation haunt for better than a hundred years, with some of the biggest (and most exclusive) luxury resorts on the Gulf. Still frequented by some the oldest and best connected, it’s also worth a visit from North Captiva Island or one of the other nearby islands with charter services.
20) North Captiva Island – That’s a pretty good list, but in the end, we need to plus North Captiva once more, as the center of it all, and while you can’t reach every island from North Captiva in just one trip, it might be good fun to try.