Hurricane-ravaged resort set to reopen

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Florida’s South Seas Island Resort is under new ownership and ready for a $140 million ‘rebirth’

Florida’s South Seas Island Resort is under new ownership and ready for a $140 million ‘rebirth’

South Seas Island Resort returned in March with its grand reopening after a 2-1/2-year, $140 million recovery from Hurricane Charley.

The 330-acre resort on north CaptivaIsland was in Charley’s path as it came ashore at Punta Gorda on Florida’s west coast in August 2004. The hurricane’s 160-mph winds leveled more than 3,000 trees at South Seas and left the resort in ruins.

South Sea’s new owners, LXR Luxury Resorts, an affiliate of the Blackstone Group, announced a partial re-opening a year ago while rebuilding continued, but spokeswoman Kristin Vocelle, of The Zimmerman Agency, says all accommodations and amenities are expected to be finished by March for what South Seas is calling a “rebirth” of the 35-year-old resort.

South Seas visitors have a choice of 579 guestrooms, cottages or villas — plus some luxury homes — on both the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound. Gulfside a $14 million renourishment has restored 2-1/2 miles of white sand beach that — pre-Charley — won the Travelocity Web site award for most romantic beach.

Soundside, two marinas — the YachtHarbour with 2,100 feet of face dock for yachts up to 130 feet, and Bayside Marina for boats to 25 feet — are back up and running, and a launch ramp is available for trailerable boats.

Steve and Doris Colgate’s OffshoreSailingSchool, a tenant since 1975, returned to South Seas a year ago, says CEO Doris Colgate. “When you have 330 acres, that’s a lot to put back together,” she says. “They’ve done a really good job.”

The Colgates teach sailing, cruising, performance racing, women’s sailing, power cruising, family cruising and corporate racing at South Seas. They also run classes out of the less exclusive Pink Shell Resort & Spa at Fort MyersBeach.

South Seas just finished a $4 million upgrade of its Chip Powell-designed 9-hole Captiva Gulf Club, Vocelle says, and it has 19 tennis courts, 11 pools, and teen and kids’ clubs.

The resort is expected to finish a lagoon-style pool at the island’s north tip and a spa and fitness center before the grand opening. Restaurants number four now, including a new Starbucks and Harbourside Bar & Grille, which replaces Captain Al’s at the marina, Vocelle says.

Fishing charters and sailing and personal watercraft rentals are available, as are guided kayak tours of a wildlife sanctuary that encompasses half the resort, according to South Seas.

As a historical note, hurricanes devastated the island in 1921 and again in 1926, driving off its original homesteaders. Clarence Bennett Chadwick bought a big piece of the island in 1927 and turned it into a successful key lime plantation. He sold the plantation to a hotel company in 1942, paving the way for eventual development of the South Seas Plantation resort, now the South Seas Island Resort.

“A lot of families and couples have been coming here for years,” says Vocelle. “They’re happy and excited that it’s back up and running, and so is the whole community.”

For information, call South Seas Island Resort at (877) 205-1293 or visit www.southseas.com .