Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nascrab Races on Sanibel Provide Great Fun For the Light of Heart

Tween Waters Inn on Captiva has a most unusual form of entertainment on Monday and Thursday nights. The Crow's Nest Restaurant features a crab race at 6 and 9 p.m. This Nascrab competition is a 20 year old island tradition where each member of the audience who wants to participate (and pays their $2.00) gets to choose a crab and name it, urging it on to win with hoots and whistles as well a round of applause.

Of course, this is done with a lot joking (some of the language not real wholesome) around and even some irritating derision from the announcer of the race. So if you don't come with a little sense of humor and your $2.00 you won't be able to enjoy the evening. Keeping in mind that half of the monies go to a charity (United Way) helps to keep the evening a little more purposeful, but there are some who don't mind the derision or getting sprayed with a water bottle or even losing the race. And for those who win, three winners in total, they are able to keep half the winnings.

There are several "heats" during the night and a presentation of awards at the end. And, oh yes, there's also a winner's circle where photographs are taken.

OK, so it's not the Kentucky Derby, but it is something typically islandy and the price of admission is not going to hold anyone back!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Islands in the Gulf: Sanibel's Little Sisters

Cabbage Key and Useppa Islands have their own followings, the former more easily visited for a stay over. But the difference between the 2 little islands is dramatic.

Cabbage Key, tiny, funky and pretty much uninhabited offers a taste of olde Florida.
Cabbage Key was a private island retreat for the Rinehart family from 1929 to 1944 when it was purchased by Larry and Jan Stults. Larry and Jan Stults opened up the charming island hideaway to the public. In the years since, it has ceased to be a "totally secluded" retreat, as it has grown in popularity, thanks in part, to the ultimate promoter of "South Florida laid-back lifestyle," Jimmy Buffett, whose song, Cheeseburger in Paradise, is said to have been inspired by his favorite dish at the Cabbage Key Inn during his frequent visits to the island.
You can visit for the day and enjoy that cheeseburger at the Inn or go for the more locally inspired dishes on the menu, such as peel-and-eat Gulf shrimp, grilled mahi-mahi and, of course, the ever-present slice of Florida lifestyle, Key-lime pie. But if you can spare a weekend from your trip to Sanibel, consider a real island getaway at the historic Cabbage Key Inn or the 7 cottages on the little island.

Useppa, perhaps even smaller than Cabbage Key, is pristine and does not offer an overnight stay unless you own a piece of the valuable real estate. It is a tiny tropical gem with lovely cottages and a beautiful Inn gracing the shores.

A private island, the visitor to Useppa only gets an infrequent and short lived glimpse by journeying to the Island for a lunch, look and learn. There, in the tiny museum, one can see history played out in the various exhibits and artifacts.

Continuously inhabited for ten thousand years, Useppa was home to nomadic peoples who roamed in search of food in prehistoric times. About ten thousand years ago, the Calusa civilization arose to become one of the most sophisticated native societies to have evolved in North America.

Centuries later, the waters around Useppa and the surrounding barrier islands are popularly thought to have been populated by fierce pirates seeking bounty and treasures. In one of the area's most important myths, legend has it that in the late 1700s, a Spanish pirate named Jose Gaspar kidnapped and imprisoned a Spanish princess named Joseffa de Mayorga. Gaspar the Pirate is said to have favored Joseffa over all the many women he had captured in his ocean conquests. When his attempts to capture Joseffa's heart were met with contempt, Gaspar used Useppa Island to imprison the proud princess, and the isle came to be known as "Joseffa's Island." Over many ensuing years, legend says that the changing local dialects gradually morphed "Joseffa" into "Useppa," giving the island it's unique name today.

Over the years, the island was purchased and developed by Barron G. Collier and utilized as a base for tarpon fishing and for entertaining the rich and famous. The island was later abandoned and used by the U.S. government as a base for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

All of this, truth or fiction, is fascinating, but not necessary to enjoying the islands. They are magical little places regardless of the veracity of the creation of Jimmy Buffet's music or the pirate myth.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Best Kitchen On Sanibel Could Be Your Own

We all know that there are dozens of good restaurants on Sanibel Island. Some are fancier than others, and some are better than others, but no one is going to go back home saying that there was no good food to be found on their Sanibel vacation.

But the best chef on the Island could turn out to be you!

The greatest number of visitors to Sanibel choose self catering accommodations. In fact, one of reasons that travel guests want a condo or house, rather than an inn or hotel room, is to have the ability to cook and eat in as desired.

Now, visitors to the island have it easier than ever.

Both of the larger grocery stores on Sanibel, Bailey's and Jerry's, have terrific inventories of all kinds of foods from basic staples to gourmet selections. And now they offer the added convenience of allowing you to call in your order or order on line. You can pick it up or have it delivered to your lodging. And they go beyond delivering. They will actually put away your groceries even before you arrive, so you can walk in the door and have your cupboards brimming. Would you like a cold beer after that hot climb up the stairs with all your luggage? It's right there in your own refrigerator!

As one would imagine, the delivery and put away services are at additional cost, but if you truly want a stress and responsibility free vacation, this is a great way to begin one.

Both stores offer recipes on line for healthy and hearty main dishes and tantalizing desserts and Jerry's offers coupons on many store items.

Jerry's website has meal planning on the home page and Bailey's website offers a long list of gluten free and organic foods to be found in the store as well as recipes for gluten free meals.

While most vacationers are not going to make elaborate meals, the option to cook in and eat exactly what you want is one more reason a vacation rental is so very appetizing!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take the Frustration out of Vacation Planning!

Everything is starting to fall into place for your vacation. Your boss approved your dates, you picked the ideal destination, the budget has been set and you already started the dreaded search for the perfect bathing suit. Next, you sit down at your computer and immediately realize you have no idea what to do first. You start fondly remembering the days of real live travel agents located in the very spot you wanted to go. Frustration starts setting in and you wonder if all the hassle will be worth it.
You're not alone! The frustration factor associated with vacation planning is no uncommon these days. The Internet can be a double edged sword; information at your finger tips, but so much that it is difficult to sift through. Most rental companies offer online booking engines and highly encourage potential guests to use them. Although this process sounds simple and convenient it can make the search more grueling. Many long for the day of speaking with a real person and when it comes to booking your vacation the personal touch is important. Below are a few simple tips to help put the fun back in the vacation planning process!
1. Chamber of Commerce: Start by visiting the Chamber of Commerce's website. Not only is it a wealth of information on the destination but is also provides links for all local members.
2. Trust the locals: When booking accommodations it is important to get advice from the people who know the area best. Be sure, whenever possible, that you are dealing with someone who is located in the spot you want to visit and who has seen the accommodations you are considering.
3. Make a list: Before you start your search make a list of your must haves in an accommodation. This will help your reservation specialist narrow down the available choices as well as make sure you get everything you want out of your vacation. Some criteria to consider are type of view, number of bedrooms and on site amenities.
4. Work your budget: Know in advance what you want to spend and convey this to your reservation specialist. Contrary to popular belief this is not tantamount to showing your hand in a game of poker. Rather it will save you time and prevent disappointment because a professional will only recommend accommodations within your price range. Plus, since reservation specialists are customer service oriented they will help get the most bang for your buck.
5. Ask the right questions: Once you find an accommodation company that you trust be sure to get all the necessary information up front. Getting details such as check-in/check-out times, reservation policies/procedures and specifics about your unit will help keep vacation planning stress to a minimum. Lastly, make sure you ask what is included with the unit. For example, will you need to bring beach towels or a hair dryer.
We hope these pointers lead to a stress free vacation....from start to finish!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sanibel Island Offers Schools Without Walls

At a time when vacations have to be justified in the family budget, Sanibel Island's format for learning is just one more attraction for a beautiful resort island.
One distinguishing characteristic of the island is the ability to learn about nature in a variety of ways. One can learn on their own to be sure, but there are many more interesting ways to take lessons on Sanibel.
For those interested in getting a handle on the environmental issues affecting marine habitats - a matter of vital importance to anyone who eats seafood and is concerned about sustainability - this part of Florida is becoming a must see destination. Regardless of your idea of what a vacation is, the ability to get an up close and personal view of this unique environment is priceless.
Sanibel has beautiful wildlife refuges and ecologically minded outdoor outfitters that provide world-class birding, kayaking and shelling opportunities.
And quite recently, marine biologist Bruce Neill and his wife, Evelyn Neill, founded the innovative Sanibel Sea School to fill a gap in the ecotourism world: educating kids through fun, hands-on activities about the importance of preserving the ecosystem.
The school room for the Sanibel Sea School is the sea itself, the Gulf of Mexico.
Also of enormous instructional value is the Center for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (C.R.O.W.)
The primary mission of C.R.O.W. is the rescue, care, rehabilitation and eventual release back to the wild of sick, injured and orphaned native wildlife. Inherent in this mission is the education of adults and children to insure their peaceful coexistence with their wild neighbors.
C.R.O.W. provides educational opportunities for students from schools across the United States and other nations by allowing them to participate in the wildlife rehabilitation process while introducing them to both Western and Eastern medical traditions.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is dedicated to preserving natural resources and wildlife habitat on and around Sanibel and Captiva islands. SCCF manages over 1300 acres of land on the islands (and owns an additional 500 acres on nearby Pine Island).
The SCCF Marine Laboratory actively conducts research in areas including sea grasses, mangroves, harmful algal blooms, fish population and shellfish restoration. SCCF's RECON (River, Estuary and Coastal Observing Network) network of eight in-water sensors provides real-time, hourly readings of key water quality parameters - spanning a 90-mile area - which are available on their site. Their weather station provides current data from their station on Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel.
SCCF offers a wide array of educational programs for people of all ages, from beach walks to trail walks, boat tours, wading trips and kayak tours plus classroom based activities. And, their educational staff works closely with area schools.
Whether you are seeking adventure, relaxation or an educational experience Sanibel offers the perfect backdrop for a well rounded vacation experience!