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Sorry for putting you on the spot and I hope for responses from others too but I feel that you are very informative so I hope that you don't mind me asking...

I have never been to that side of florida and I am planning a trip for a simple wedding ceremony/family vacation. Would you suggest Sanibel/Captiva or Anna Maria? There's only 4 of us traveling (bride, groom and 2 kids; ages 10 & 13). Are there any piers suitable for fishing and dolphin cruises? Is there a B&B with a great water view and garden area that you can suggest for the ceremony (the bigger hotels don't do smaller weddings). Is there any "must do's" that you can suggetion? Also, do you recommend traveling in Feb. or April?

I did look at the Twilight Cafe webpage. It looks like a great place for an after ceremony dinner to serve as a reception.

I appreciate your time and respect your answers. A sincere thanks!

The Bakery
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1. Re: Tourmaline?

The closest Sanibel comes to a B&B are the cottage places and some of the small inns, like Island Inn. There is a B&B on Captiva, but it's on one of the few commercial streets and in all fairness, I don't recommend it.

Sanibel has a fishing pier that is usually a very good fishing spot. Surf casting is popular up around Blind Pass and at moany of the public beach access spots, like Lighthouse beach.

I can't think of a better island for kids as Sanibel is very family oriented and so are the accommodations. The condo complexes are very well maintained and while the quality of each unit varies, most are very nice.

Beaches are public below the high tide lines, so you can marry anywhere on the beach. Small inns and cottages don't have maid service - they are often self-catering and if there is main service it's usually just towel service and make the beds. Sheets are changed every 3 days, but in self catering, you're on your own.

Take a look at Phister Cottage at the Island Inn. It has one bedroom with a queen and the second with 2 twins, and 1 bath a living room and kitchen and a screened porch with a Gulf view - pefect you and the kids. www.islandinnsanibel.com/phister.htm The inn does have a graden, but I don't believe it's extensive. Big gardens aren't that popular on Sanibel.

On Captiva, Jensen's on the Gulf is very luxe and a drop dead beautiful spot - and priced accordingly. The Jensen family has outstanding rep for treating their guests well. They have modest bayside cottages and a marina. If you call and speak with them ask if they allow fishing off their docks. Captiva is so small it's only 1 city block gulf to bay there.

Another option would be a villa rental on Captiva. For a family of 4 there are plenty of options. Some of the more dramatic ones have nice grounds, but they do run high. Some without pools have lovely gardens instead, but it's up to the landscaper to tend them. That ones of the reasons not many folks have then. Hard to get folks all the way out on Captiva to do that kind of stuff.

Song of the Sea and Seaside Inn, both with Sanibelcollection.com are smaller places on Sanibel, but the rooms are pretty small - 'cozy' on hotel speak. Overall Seaside is considered pretty good, but service can be iffy all over Sanibel at times. Folks notice it more in places like these as they are not self-catering.

Old Town Sanibel, an area on the east end where the ferry used to dock, plays host to several off beach including Tarpon Tale, which has a good repeat business and the owners have a rep for good service. Downside is they don't have twin beds in any room. The Lighthouse and Sea Shell units can be 2 bedrooms.

Tarpon Tale is a member of Superior Small Lodging, a group of historic and small inns and cottages. Also in that group are Forty Fifteen on West Gulf, Seahorse Cottages near Tarpon Tale in Old Sanibel - and there is a gazebo there overlooking the Sanibel Marina www.seahorsecottages.com/album1.htm if that's an interest - and other. See - www.ssl-leeislandcoast.com/sanibel.htm

Not all places allow children.

Activities - Sanibel has 24 miles of bike paths, the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, ice cream palors at strategic points, good coffee, and decent food. It's quiet and safe and not just street after street of houses. And NO highrises on either island. Captiva is mosly residential without the conservations spaces that Sanibel has, but is also a tiny island and very quiet. Sanibel fans often find it 'too quiet', but it's my favorite. Even I, however, spend many of my days at the shops and activities on Sanibel when I'm down on vacation. Both have canoe and kayak rentals, fishing guides, etc. Captiva Cruises out of McCarthy's on Captiva go to Cayo Costa and various other islands in the area and Captiva has water taxi service to Useppa and Cabbage Keys if you'd like to stop for lunch or dinner. Jensen's and McCarthy's are the places to check that out and ask about fishing guides or private charters. Yolo Watersports has parasailing for the more adventurous. Go to www.sanibel-captiva.org for lots more into or just read the Go List of things to do. Go to Sanibel Overview and scroll down the main page and you'll see an area called Go Lists. I created 4. One on things to do, one on restaurants - which is current - and two on shelling. lol

As for Anna Maria, well, I haven't been but I was looking. One of Sanibel's regulars went this spring and was very disappointed. They actually drove all the way down to Sanibel for a day. The islands are that addictive. Sanibel and Captiva have something most of Florida's barrier islands lack - direct car access via bridge and strict building codes that stop large chain hotels and highrises. In addition 60% of Sanibel is conservation land that will never be developed. Add the bike paths on Sanibel [none on Captiva, but they're talking about it] and a laid back family atmosphere and it's tought to beat. Sarasota does have many attractions and lots of restaurants in the Anna Maria/Bradenton/Sarasota area, so it has much in its favor. Just two very different types of islands. It doesn't cater to outdoor family activities as much as Sanibel, but you'd better ask the LE on Sarasota. She's good and can give you a better idea about Anna Maria than I can.

Red tide and red drift algae are persistant pest all along the Gulf coast. Right now Anna Maria is getting hit hard, earlier this year Captiva was a mess as well as parts of Sanibel, Ft myers Beach, Bonita and Naples. Red Tide can make you sick, but red drift algae is more of an annoyance. Both are natural and more of an issue in summer.

Feb is a peak season month - but I'd take late April myself. The weather is near perfect then and after Easter the rates go down fast at most places. Feb can be lovely - or cold-ish. It's a bit more problematic.

Hope you find something you like. The websites above should help you a lot!

The Bakery
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2. Re: Tourmaline?

PS - You can thank Sue for the Twilight Cafe. She and I have each tried different places and I like the Mad Hatter up by Blind Pass, which is for sale, and she likes Twilight Cafe. Neither of us has been to both. ;-) Pays to listen to others. lol

Chicago, Illinois
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3. Re: Tourmaline?

Hard to follow Tourmaline...I never cease to be amazed at the breadth of information is able to provide!!

Maybe this one is in Tourmaline's list somewhere, but if not, also take a look at: www.captivaislandinn.com

I have NOT been there, but checked it out once online for a friend and I recall they have a gazebo by the pool and mentioned something about doing weddings as well. Looks charming....

4. Re: Tourmaline?

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