As I’ve discussed before, I’ve never really thought of myself as a “resort” type of person. I like to rent apartments or stay in small hotels or guest houses where I can meet the owner. But as the kids get older and our life gets busier I’ve started to see the virtues of the occasional stay in a place where someone will bring me a drink while I watch the kids play. Especially if they are playing in a lovely pool that’s surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs. And maybe I’m looking at a palm tree too, while they play, and ordering a plate full of lemongrass chicken. In short, I’ve started to understand that if the kids are happy and I’m relaxed, I actually feel like I’m on a vacation. Enter places like the Pink Shell Resort.
The Pink Shell is tucked at the end of Estero Boulevard in Fort Myers Beach, which is a small town on a barrier island off the mainland coast in between Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. The town itself is full of funky little cottages (and restaurants like the Heavenly Biscuit) and also the type of shops that are ubiquitous in a setting like this, selling t-shirts and flip flops and beach balls and sunscreen. You can also get soft pretzels and ice cream and corn dogs and eat them while you squeak the sand between your toes.
But, as I mentioned, the Pink Shell is perched at the end of the main drag in town and faces out to the Gulf of Mexico and Sanibel. As such it is a little removed without being inconvenient, close enough to the heart of things that you can easily fetch anything you forgot, but not so much so that you’ll be disturbed by anyone coming home late after a few too many margaritas.
We stayed in the main building of the resort, a two-bedroom unit in the White Sand Villas, which would easily be large enough for a multigenerational stay. In addition to the two bedrooms, we had two full bathrooms, a large living/dining area (with a fold-out sleeper sofa) and a full kitchen. The master bath was lovely – large, and light filled with a huge tub. But the best feature of the villa had to be the sweeping view of the Gulf of Mexico, a view which afforded us the chance to watch a pod of dolphins frolicking past on our first morning there.
Included in the room were all the usual amenities, and I’d like to provide a shout-out to the resort for free high-speed Internet access with no fuss. It was spacious, comfortable, and quiet, even on Saturday night when two weddings were taking place at the resort.
Things I liked about the Pink Shell (in no particular order):
The lovely beach, just steps from the pool, where Tommy and Matt played tether ball until the sun went down;
The onion rings served poolside with sculptural flair and a delicious array of dipping sauces;
The friendly bartender (every staff person we interacted with was friendly actually) who made excellent margaritas for me and huge milkshakes for the boys and then let them play grown up and drink them at the bar;
The pink-and-white theme, consistent right on down to the beach towels and the sunsets;
The Octopool, which isn’t too big or too deep and has a zero-entry area on one side (Best part? At night the octopus’ eyes light up.); and
The fact that there is sand on the floor of the elevator and no one seems to care.
The food at The Pink Shell is good. We ate at the bar by the pool one night and at JoJo’s the next – because the boys liked the resort so much that they didn’t want to leave and go anywhere else for dinner. The menu is the same for both places and isn’t super innovative, but it is heavy on the seafood as it should be, and everything we had was well prepared (I especially liked the coconut shrimp). And they definitely get points for displaying the children’s menu in a Viewfinder.
The buffet breakfast is ample and satisfying (again, no surprises, but everything good) and is served in a dining room with great Gulf views. And the shop in the main lobby sells decent coffee in the morning, along with just about anything else you’ve forgotten and absolutely need. If I were here for a long weekend with my in-laws, as I definitely would like to be in the future, I think we’d stock up on some groceries in town and make use of our kitchen while also enjoying snacks and meals by the pool.
We had a brief stay and didn’t get to check out some of the other activities offered by the resort like parasailing or Dolphin Adventure-Eco Tours. There is also a spa on the premises, although it was closed for renovations during our stay, so I didn’t get to sample it (purely in the interest of my readers and scientific research of course).
Our only (slightly) negative experience at the Pink Shell had to do with the resort’s Kids Kamp (and no, the negative isn’t that they spell camp with a “k”). On Friday night the programming was great – a hermit crab derby and a “dive-in” movie where the kids could watch a film while floating in the pool. When we checked in we had received a list of other activities offered for kids and were really too busy to take advantage of any of the daytime stuff, but when Tommy saw that the Saturday evening entertainment was something called “Games Around the World” he begged to be allowed to play, so we drove all the way back from Sanibel to leave both boys. It turned out that no one else had signed their children up and so the “games” were mostly crafts supervised by the young woman working there coupled with a quick trip out to the beach to collect shells. She was perfectly nice and Teddy loved it, but Tommy felt let down. I’m sure when the resort is busier this probably doesn’t happen as often, but it would have been nice if I had been told when I made the reservation that basically I was just paying to have a babysitter for the boys, which I didn’t really want.
But this was a blip in an otherwise very positive stay and I would definitely return to The Pink Shell. I’d love to bring grandparents and children and camp out by the Octopool, swimming and playing cards. And actually, when I think of it, it’s that quality that would bring me back – the fact that everything is comfortable and low key and friendly that I just wanted to hang out the entire time we were there. It’s a resort that understands the importance of relaxation without seeming like it’s trying too hard. And that’s enough to make a resort convert out of me.