Staying Green in Florida – Marina Village ResortJune 28, 2011 No Comments
We could spend – and did – a great deal of time touring the beautiful sandy beaches of Florida, and seeking out some green lodging – accommodations that offer environmentally sound lodging. We found ourselves with a plethora of excellent choices. After all, Florida began a green lodging initiative in 2004 through the Department of Environmental Protection in the state. With tourism one of Florida’s biggest money makers, the state was in the forefront of establishing inclusive criteria for environmentally friendly hotels and resorts. Over eighty three million people visited Florida and stayed in resorts last year – making the environmental impact on the state profound. So it was only natural that Florida would want to protect the environment that’s drawing this economic waterfall to the state in the first place.
A sister property to the Bellasera Resort in Naples, the Marina Village Resort caught our eye on line when we considered a return to the spacious Bellasera Resort. The Marina Village is located waterfront in Cape Coral, about ninety minutes north of Naples, and closer to attractions such as the JN Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Pine Island Sound, a barrier island; and Gaspiralla Island State Park with its beautifully restored Boca Grande Lighthouse originally built in 1890. This barrier island offers excellent snorkling and a lovely, calm beach for small swimmers. We loved the shady picnic spots and the uncrowded, soft, long beaches perfect for sand castle building.
And we found the perfect stay for enjoying these barrier islands at the Marina Village. The towering resort has a great pool with marina views, and from the rooms, all with excellent ample balconies, you can see vast views of the Caloosahatchee River, the placid San Carlos Bay and the alluring Gulf of Mexico. There’s a strong boating community here, and one can rent kayaks, take fishing trips, or simply stroll the docks, which our kids truly enjoyed. We also liked lunching outdoors at the casual Nauti Mermaid after a return from an early morning shell gathering trip to the barrier islands.
From a green standpoint, sensors regulate the air conditioning and automatically shut it off if you leave the sliding glass doors open on your lanai. The crisp towels and sheets are kept that way in an on site laundry equipped with an ozone generator that keeps the linens white without using very much hot water – and without using bleaching chemicals. With energy star appliances in the commodious suites and photo-cells regulating exterior lighting, an easy-to-use recycling program for guests and staff, and grounds planted with native plants and minimal irrigation, the hotel has an excellent green pedigree and a persuasive social conscious.
Best of all, another sort of green – spending money – stayed in our pockets. The one bedroom suite gave us a beautiful river view at a moderate price, and plenty of space for our family to spread out. And to cook – it’s difficult at times to find accommodations that allow us to do our laundry, make our meals, and experience a resort atmosphere. Too often the resort luxuries of pool and spa come with both a higher price tag and a smaller room. It’s the rare spot that allows me to make a vegan tofu scramble for breakfast on a state of the art range I wish I had at home, and offer me towel service and a comfortable lounger pool side with a marina view. Right on site, the Silver King Market and Deli offered pre-made sandwiches that appealed to both the carnivores and vegans in our tribe, and supplied plenty of stock for our fridge and in-suite meals.
And if you’re bringing the family pet along with the family – this is also one of the few resorts that welcomes Fido and Fluffy in elegant style.
Our favorite beach trip in this part of Florida took us to a perfect mile of smooth white sand enjoyed by fishermen and shell gathers alike. This completely undeveloped piece of Florida beach front property is a state park known as Stump Pass Beach on the corner of Manasota Key barrier island. The beach is quiet and family oriented, and an easy hiking trail fascinated our kids as it led through five different eco systems. We took a pause for lunch at a blissfully shady picnic spot along the trail — the very white sand here and Florida’s sun glare can send you hunting for shade – do be sure your tots are carefully slathered with sun screen. We were delighted with our state Ranger led nature walk. Our ranger pointed out least terns and egrets. Turtle walks are also available when the gopher tortoises that frequent this beach are around, and we were told that manatees are also viewable in summer months.
Heading inside for a bit, we trekked further north by forty minutes for a docent led tour of a former sugar plantation. This stop took us to Gamble Plantation Historic State, once the residence of Major Robert Gamble and the refuge of the Confederate Secretary of State after the Civil War. It’s the only plantation house in South Florida, furnished elegantly in the style of mid-19th century era plantation.
As interesting as we found this historical tour, we were eager to return to our own luxurious suite, throw open the lanai door, watch the twilight fall over the river, and cook up some veggie burgers on our energy-saving range.