A classic Gulf Coast Florida resort adds new villas, a fun pool and other contemporary amenities to appeal to today's families.
When I was told the Pink Shell Beach Resort had an ‘Octopool,’ I didn’t just ask what an Octopool was. I wanted to be surprised. After all, as a travel writer, I’ve seen my share of exotic, tropical pools. What could possibly stand out from all the rest?
Naturally, upon arrival at Fort Myer’s newly renovated classic, my first foray was to check out the pool– and an ‘Octopool’ it definitely is.
A large, free-form pool, its center is covered by an enormous faux coral-encrusted rock archway guarded by a huge –yes– Octopus, all purpley red, spotted, bulging black illuminated eyes and long, twisting arms spreading all over the rock, which sprays refreshing fountains of water at all who swim under it. Besides the octopus, the pool also hosts whimsical ersatz conch shells on pillars, foot-wide sunfish swimming on faux sea grass and other sea-like apparitions. While the created items are new, they lend a nostalgic feeling for the old Florida. The effect is playful, yet stylish, and adds to the lively, family-oriented pool ambiance. For those who prefer a quieter pool, there are two other options– sans octopus, sunfish and other sea creatures.
For more than 50 years, the Pink Shell has been an icon of the Fort Myers Beach tradition, offering a quaint gulf-front, family-friendly experience. Its cozy cottages were far from luxurious, however, and their rustic charms, along with the furnishings, were beginning to wear thin. In 1998, The Boykin Lodging Company bought the Pink Shell and began masterminding a multi-million-dollar transformation which not only drastically changed the Pink Shell, but seems destined to change the entire mentality of heretofore rather value-minded Fort Myers Beach.
Luxe New Beachfront Villas
The new 12-acre Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa celebrated its grand opening in March 2004, debuting its centerpiece nine-story, 92-unit luxe one and two-bedroom White Sands Villas along with its Caribbean-like Octopool, designed by the same folks who did Atlantis in the Bahamas. The cozy cabins were actually moved to another town and sold as homes. The existing Sanibel View Villas and Beach Villas were just refurbished and updated.
The two remaining buildings that have not been touched (located between Sanibel View and White Sand Villas) were torn down soon after and Captiva Villas took their place. Completed in 2007, the Captiva Villas consists of 43 luxury one-bedroom units, as well as an upscale restaurant. Upon completion of the entire renovation, there are three swimming pools on property.
White Sand Villas are large (up to 1,300-square-feet), well-furnished apartments with completely equipped, granite-countertop kitchens, oversized baths featuring marble appointments, huge tubs (in all but a few units), glass-enclosed showers, washers and dryers, VCRs (movie rentals available), two televisions, two phones and large, screened balconies with encompassing views of the Gulf. Storage space is ample. The villas are the kind of units that make families feel like they’d rather stay than go home.
Luxe New Recreation Facilities
The Pink Shell also has two tennis courts, one open-air restaurant, a marina with 200-foot fishing pier, shops and two pool bars. The 6,000-square-foot spa, Aquagene, is located in the White Sand Villas, with 12 treatment rooms and a full menu of services.
Pink Shell’s KiddsKampp morning program offers supervised activities for children 4-12 years, from 9am to 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an additional charge of $35, lunch included (no sibling discount.) Pink Shell’s KiddsKampp also offers a Kidds Night Out on Saturdays from 5:30pm to 8:30pm with a charge of $35 per child. Themed activities such as ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘Yucky Gooey Kampp’ are planned. Other recreational activities around the resort are offered each day for all guests, including such events as making seashell picture frames, ice cream buffets and poolside bingo. The recreation center rents out kids’ fishing poles, movies and board games. Special holiday events and activities are presented as well, such as Easter-egg dying and Christmas stocking-decorating, on a seasonal basis.
Fronting 1,500 feet of truly white-sand beach, the property is located on the northern tip of Estero Island, just a 15-minute stroll from lively Fort Myers Beach and the town pier, from which dozens of folks fish each day. The water here is extremely gentle, with no undertow, more like a lake than the ocean. Watch for stingrays in the summertime, however, as well as for daily rains.
The resort’s beach concession rents waverunners, paddleboats, Aquacycles, kayaks, power and sailboats, and arranges for parasailing and other excursions. We greatly enjoyed the WaveRunner Guided Dolphin Adventure Tour, during which we ventured over to Lovers Key State Park in a caravan of Yamaha WaveRunners, exploring the back bays and islands of the area and, like 90% of participants, saw dolphins cavorting right around us – as well as a meandering sea turtle. While a bit pricey ($115 per person, $20 each additional passenger for two hours), we felt it well worth the cost.
Families who want to learn to sail should try the family sailing courses with the certified Colgate Offshore Sailing School.
Out and About the Region
Families can also visit the famed shelling beaches of nearby Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and tour the new Great Calusa Blueway, a 90-mile stretch of gentle kayaking and canoeing trails through estuaries, mangroves, coastal bays and coves, teaming with wildlife and vegetation.
Another family outing could be a visit to the Edison and Ford winter estates in Fort Myers, house museums filled with fascinating relics from both of the brilliant men. In addition to their carefully maintained residences, you can see their huge laboratories and gorgeous tropical gardens, including a 400-acre banyan tree!
Evenings, families can stroll or drive over to the “Times Square” downtown area of Fort Myers, just off the town beach. Consisting of the usual touristy shops and casual restaurants and fast food outlets, Times Square is pretty tame compared to other beach resorts– very little hard-core tackiness here. Several blocks long, it’s a place you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring.
In this region, sunset cruises are popular; try Planet Ocean (run by a land-locked Coloradoan) for a very educational, ecological tour to a remote island used as evening accommodation by thousands of sea birds of various species. For more elegant dining, head over the bridge to the city of Fort Myers, or drive over to nearby Sanibel, which has several excellent restaurants.
The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa is located at 275 Estero Blvd. in Fort Myers Beach, Florida 33931. You can contact your travel agent or the resort directly (239/463-6181, 888/222-7465; http://www.pinkshell.com/) for information and bookings. Pink Shell’s summer rates start at $179/N double occupancy. Winter Rates start at $204/N. Several seasonal packages are available as well.
Resort Report Card
|The Pink Shell Beach Resort and Spa
|275 Estero Boulevard
Fort Myers Beach
|$$ – $$$
|Choice of Activities:
|Quality of Amenities:
|Families can even rent bikes at the resort, giving them another way to explore Fort Myers.
|Founded by a local family over 50 years ago, this resort is a Florida tradition for many families.
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