Linda and Larry Becker, of St. Joseph, went looking for a wintertime touch of home and found it at Captiva Beach Resort, on Siesta Key in Sarasota County, Florida.
“Siesta Key is the most beautiful beach in the world…but Silver Beach in Michigan is pretty outstanding, also. I go to the beach here each day for moon set and sunrise just as I do at Silver Beach,” said Linda, who also described the subtle differences. “It’s spectacular here. There is quartz sand you can walk on and it never gets hot. The water here is warmer, too. So you can go barefoot walking through the water and dance around in the morning. It’s outstanding.”
The Beckers have been coming to the Captiva Beach Resort for five years, and this year decided to stay for three months.
“We’ve already booked in for next year, too,” she said while wearing a bright orange Siesta Key sweatshirt. “It’s paradise. You can walk to restaurants and they have yoga classes on the beach each week. You can watch dolphins passing as you go through your poses.”
“My wife likes to walk the beach; I like to ride. I’ve driven the bike all the way to Key West,” said Larry. Siesta Key’s Crescent Beach is miles long. Resort guests gather on the sand to watch the sun set over the warm water.
Patrick Shine is chief amazement officer of The Hospitality Advisor, the group which renovated the retro-Florida, art deco-style Captiva Beach Resort recently. “We are a boutique hotel with 19 suites – each has a kitchenette. It’s very laid-back with plenty of activities nearby, including on-site bocce ball and a heated swimming pool.”
One member of the housekeeping staff, a popular, friendly woman nicknamed “Big Show,” said she meets many visitors from Michigan. “They are all very nice people. I have a lot of respect for Michigan people.”
“We know Michigan people love Sarasota County,” said Britney Guertin, of visitSarasota.com. “We’re 35 miles of coastline and beautiful barrier islands an hour south of Tampa and two hours from Orlando.”
Jennifer Phillips Wilson, a fundraiser from Grand Rapids, recently moved to Sarasota…permanently. “I love living here,” she said, as does Gary Kompothecras, the owner of Captiva Beach Resort. “I was a lifeguard in New York as a kid and always wanted to live near the beach. I then worked in the stock market but when I discovered Siesta Key in 1983 and walked out on this beautiful beach and have never left,” said Kompothecras, who lives in a home on the beach and has purchased the nearby Crescent Club, which he describes as an historic local “dive bar.” “The bar served free hot dogs there for decades so we’ve continued that tradition.” (East Lansing Steve Wickens owns a condo across the street on the beach.)
Fishing and sightseeing charters in the Gulf of Mexico are a local tradition, too.
“Pound for pound snapper are the most fun to fish for. People like to catch grouper, too, because they are very big,” said Captain Josh Pritchett, of SiestaKation.com. He takes up to six people, beginners or experts, 20-30 miles out. “All you need to bring is sunscreen.”
“I don’t work for a living I run a boat. It’s the dream job,” said Captain Kevin Hagerty, of FunBoatTours.com, who takes leisure guests out on eco-cruises to see the dolphins play or watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand. “We get tons of Michigan people here. I see lots of U of M and MSU logo shirts.” In fact the MSU rowing team trains at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park’s 400-acre lake and regatta center, where Douglas Jessmer, who once worked at the Detroit News, is communications manager.
Sarasota proper has plenty of sophisticated cultural activities, including the jaw-dropping, 16-acre Ringling Museum of Art, and dining options including Fleming’s Steakhouse, Rodizio Brazilian Grill, and Andrea’s – serving the art of Italian food and wine – including Chef Andrea’s “Mama’s Sunday Pasta:” rigatoni with short rib, sausage and pancetta he learned to make at family dinners in Italy’s Piedmont region. All attractions and restaurants are near the Comfort Inn and Suites, which is just off I-75. While I-75 runs from Michigan to Sarasota, there are plenty of flight options into airports in Sarasota, according to airport director Fredrick Piccolo, plus Tampa, Fort Meyers, Punta Gorda, St. Petersburg, and Orlando.
Log on to VisitSarasota.com for information and to make plans.
Contact Travel Writer Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com His radio program may be heard weekdays at MiBigShow.com or in Lansing on WJIM am 1240 from 9-noon. His newest book “I Call Him Mr. President” with George HW Bush is at Amazon.com