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The Minimalist’s Way to Tap into the Nostalgia of a Sanibel and Captiva Vacation

Social distancing meets old-school Sunshine State charm at these coastal cottages.

Updated:

September 16, 2020
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Sanibel
For many Floridians and travelers, Sanibel’s beaches come with a big blast of nostalgia. The Beaches of Ft. Myers and Sanibel

It used to be that you couldn’t turn on HGTV without being bombarded with commercials for Tiny House, Big Living, but as the mainstream minimalist home trend lost steam, people simply preferred their homes flipped or flopped. Still, the idea of small, simple living was no passing fad, and people all over the world continue to do their best to live small, reduce their footprints and focus on appreciating the things that matter most. That is certainly the case for travelers.

“Cottagecore” is a tricky aesthetic to define, but at the heart of it is a desire to rid ourselves of daily grind nuisances like emails, phone calls and Zoom meetings galore. Instead, people can escape to a nostalgic existence that emphasizes natural beauty and simple pleasures over modern extravagance and luxury. After all, luxury is a subjective concept. Whereas one traveler may appreciate an overwater spa, another would rather spend the day watching birds. To each his own.

When we think of the beaches of Ft. Myers and Sanibel, Florida, we typically imagine the classic Sunshine State family vacation, with picture-perfect beaches and hotel pool bars with cocktail menus longer than your towel. But in a time when people are more focused on social distancing and isolation, we can all appreciate a concept like Cottagecore and what it teaches us about appreciating the little things that make a vacation so special—most notably our closest friends and loved ones.

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In Sanibel and Captiva, there are three special, under-the-radar properties that capture the essence of minimalist travel while also offering maximalist enjoyment.

Castaway Cottages

Castaway Cottages
Nature lovers can slip in and out of their beachside cottages whether enjoying the sand or taking day trips to the wildlife refuge. Castaway Cottages

One look at this property’s live web cam will make you pray to the travel gods for the ability to teleport, but you’ll actually have to stay in one of the property’s cottages to enjoy the experience of being whisked away to a classic piece of Florida paradise. Located on Blind Pass—a tiny piece of land that separates Pine Island Sound from the Gulf—Castaway Cottages is a family-friendly property (dogs are also welcome) that features the Castaway Marina with boat slips, canoe and kayak rentals and free ramp use for guests.

Of course, the most alluring cottages are those located right on Blind Pass Beach, and they range from one- to three-bedrooms so couples, small families or the solo beach bum can hunker down and enjoy the little things this resort does so well.

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‘Tween Waters Island Resort

'Tween Waters Island Resort
Legend has it that Charles Lindbergh occasionally landed his plane on the beach when visiting ‘Tween Waters. It is not recommended that guests do this. ‘Tween Waters Island Resort

A sister property to Castaways Cottages, ‘Tween Waters Island Resort offers resort suites and beach and bay view studios, but it’s the Seaside Cottages that will give your Florida vacation a dose of history. Several of the cottages are named for famous visitors, including Anne and Charles Lindbergh, who were frequent guests. Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling used to leave little doodles in the guest registry, but his greater gift was the nearby J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is heaven for birdwatchers.

The Seaside Cottages can accommodate four to eight guests, depending on the selection, and the private entrances and kitchenettes allow guests to enjoy peaceful evenings away from crowds and big parties. Fortunately, for guests who still want some of the best aspects of a resort experience, there are two restaurants and bars on property, as well as The Spa at ‘Tween Waters.

Cabbage Key Inn

Dollhouse
Once a children’s playhouse, the Dollhouse is now one of the region’s most unique honeymoon suites. Cabbage Key Inn

For the travelers who are extremely serious about taking a break from the hustle and bustle, Cabbage Key is accessible only by boat. Set on roughly 100 acres and surrounded by gorgeous Florida vegetation, Cabbage Key Inn boasts eight cottages that range from summer home to quaint and romantic. The Snook and Harborview Cottages are spacious and offer multiple bedrooms, making them perfect for families, while the recurring guest favorite Cabbage Patch Cottage offers two bedrooms and wraparound porch for enjoying beautiful sunsets and fine company.

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Guests seeking that feeling of disconnect from the surrounding world will likely want to check out the Dollhouse Cottage, which was built as a playhouse for the owner’s children in the early 1930s. With one bedroom, screened porch and a private dock that looks out onto Pine Island Sound, this “honeymoon suite” is about as exclusive as it gets when it comes to living Florida’s cottage life.

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