'Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island is the perfect jumping-off point for kayak fishing and other water adventures.

By Ann Marie O'Phelan

Over there! My son excitedly pointed to where the dolphin's fin had surfaced. Only his eyes panned back and forth as he sat motionless in his yellow kayak, awaiting another appearance from the beloved mammal. The early morning sun was shining down on us, and our eyes were glued to the water.

We were floating in Pine Island Sound, and only a narrow stretch of Captiva Island separated us from the Gulf of Mexico. Soon three dolphins danced around us, so I snapped my camera, capturing the dolphins jutting through the surface and my son's huge smile.

We were delighted enough with the dolphins' performance to set down our fishing poles and toss them a few bait fish. Then out of the blue we heard Got one! It was Paul, my trusty fishing-partner-turned-fiance, who was balancing himself in his kayak while playing a tug-a-war with his line.

It's a snook! He hollered out from the shallow waters. We were just offshore, not far from our room at Captiva Island's 'Tween Waters Inn Island Resort and Spa, where we had rented kayaks from the resort's marina. We watched him fight and eventually reel in the coveted game fish (a 20-pounder) right from his kayak.

We could have chartered a boat or even a captain for a fishing trip – after all, one of the world's best tarpon fishing spots happens to be just a few nautical miles north at Boca Grande Pass. But Paul talked us into kayak fishing, promising that we would equally enjoy that peacefulness that only a kayak can offer. And he was right. As if the thrill of the catch and the dolphins' joyous dance weren't enough, we also got to admire a few manatees up-close and watch brown pelicans nose-dive for fish.

Kayak Fishing Gains Ground

In the past few years, kayak fishing has come into its own as a bona fide sport. And it's more sophisticated than you might think – you can rig kayaks with live bait containers, electronic fish finders, rod holders and other fishing luxuries. These days, experienced kayak fishermen can reel in amberjack, wahoo, tarpon and even marlin.

For us beginners (me and my son at least), a couple of throwbacks are enough to satisfy. For Paul and many others, the shallow-water access you get with a kayak makes for a lot of fishing potential, and you naturally want to think big.

'Tween Waters Inn Impresses

All that casting, reeling and paddling left me vying for a massage at the spa in the 'Tween Waters Inn Island Resort and Spa. But I happily settled for a dip in the poolside hot tub while sipping a piña colada from the Oasis Pool Bar.

'Tween Waters Inn is appropriately named – it literally sits "between" the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound (if you stand on your tip-toes you can practically see both sides). In the middle rests this tropical resort, made up of luxuriously styled fishing cottages as well as more economical guest rooms and suites.

Since we had spent the morning fishing over on the Sound side, we decided to spend the afternoon on the Gulf side where we went shelling on the white sugar-sand beach and swimming in the turquoise-blue waters.

Island Dining Delights

The day's adventures built up our appetites, so we headed back to our comfortable room overlooking the Sound to freshen up before dinner at the historic Old Captiva House. This charming restaurant is set in a historic house and offers a menu inspired by "New Florida" food (island-infused seafood as well as classic dishes). The chef served up everything from juicy filet mignon to Caribbean grilled grouper, pecan-crusted mahi-mahi and seared tuna au poivre (menu changes seasonally). For a reasonable additional fee, they also offer to cook up some of your own fresh catch (fish must already be filleted).

From appetizer to entrée, we enjoyed every bite, along with the live piano accompaniment of old-time favorites, like "Moon River."

Other Adventures Call

The next day started off just as sunny and warm as most days in southwest Florida, and after our free continental breakfast buffet we hiked back down to the marina, only this time to rent bikes. And why not? Sanibel Island, with its more than 26 miles of paved bike paths, is only two miles away. Plus, we needed to give our legs a little exercise after yesterday morning's upper body workout.

If you like adventure, there's plenty more to discover about 'Tween Waters Inn Island Resort and Spa. The inn also offers guided fishing trips and even sailing lessons.

Since our families live in other states, we figured these adventures might just be the perfect way to lure them down to visit this part of the Sunshine State. It is, after all, only about 30 miles from Fort Myers' Southwest Florida International Airport – even if it seems worlds away once you're here. And believe me, it does.



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