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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Eco-Tourism in Florida: Treasure Island

Treasure Island Florida got its name in just the way you would expect…depending on which story you believe. Some speculate a French pirate buried real treasure, which was lost forever during the 1848 Hurricane, Gale, which split the land into smaller islands. Others say a group of clever property owners buried, then “discovered”, fake treasure, to boost land value. Regardless, the island is appropriately named, featuring memorable beaches, sunsets, dining and lodging, all of which locals work hard to preserve.

EPIC Efforts

The Environmental Preservation Initiative for our Communities, or EPIC, encourages businesses to adapt sustainable practices like recycling, using energy efficient equipment and following guidelines to protect turtle hatchlings from nighttime lighting that may guide them away from the ocean.  The EPIC program is fairly new and is currently working on their “Ocean Friendly Bar and Restaurant” campaign. “This campaign will be voluntary to participants and intends to educate businesses on reduction of disposable plastic, liquid and environmentally abrasive waste along with inform businesses of energy efficient uses of electricity and turtle friendly lighting,” states the Treasure Island Chamber of Commerce. “EPIC intends to instill a year round program focused on clean air, clean water, clean energy and the preservation of the Gulf Beaches and surrounding communities.”

Photo by Karyn Wofford

Gulf Eats

Personally, I get into the seafood state of mind while vacationing at the beach. With Treasure island’s new initiatives, many restaurants are becoming more appealing to eco-travelers.

Shrimpy’s Blues Bistro is one of those “blink and you miss it” locations that is situated alongside several businesses with identical styled signs. Luckily, a large pirate figurine sits right outside the door, welcoming you to try some of the best seafood around. The interior is small, but eclectic and filled with character, exactly what you’d expect from an authentic seafood joint.

Shrimpy’s uses organic, wild-caught seafood and other local ingredients from the gulf in their dishes. They also serve up solid breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Typically, I’m a health nut and skip the fried stuff, but the Ipswitch Clam Po’boy with horseradish mashed potatoes was calling my name. Lightly fried with little detectable grease, the enormous portion of clams was served on a soft-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside roll with mayo, pickles and lettuce. The Apalachicola Oyster Po’boy was just as large and paired perfectly with the Seafood Gumbo. If you’re adventurous with your food, try out the Surfer Quesadilla, loaded with scallops and cheeses.  Shrimpy’s will forever be a Treasure Island tradition for us.

Caddy’s On the Beach offers a completely different experience, and urges guests to enjoy the sunset at their open air seafood restaurant. Situated directly on the beach, you can sip on super-strong rum runners while the waves nip your feet in your complimentary lounge chair. With tables in the sand or inside, the choice is yours.

Photo by Karyn Wofford

I have to mention Caddy’s killer sauce, which was made with real stuff, not junk. Definitely dip everything in that heavenly concoction. The Pink Cadillac Seafood Chowder was the highlight of the meal for me, filled with lobster, clams and crab in a creamy base. The fried calamari came in at a close second with authentic, chunky tomato marinara dipping sauce. For the indecisive, the Shrimp Galore basket allows you to enjoy Caddy’s prized shrimp three ways; fried, grilled and blackened.

I was a huge fan of the relaxed environment at Caddy’s that aims to be accommodating for all ages. It was just a fun place to be.

Photo by Karyn Wofford

Where We Stayed

Sunset Vistas Beachfront Suites is on the path to becoming part of the Florida Green Lodging Program, which recognizes hotels and resorts for maintaining certain standards of sustainability. The resort already features energy efficient appliances, recycling efforts and beach preservation initiatives.

Sunset Vistas is perfect for an extended stay, with large suites that could easily be split between two families. Full size kitchens with granite counter tops, spacious bedrooms with balconies, Jacuzzis, washer and dryer as well as full size dining and living areas are some of the spectacular features of the ocean front location.

In addition to a beautiful full size swimming pool, a smaller, gradual entry pool with tiny fountains is available for the little ones. Since we were traveling with our two and three year-old nieces, having an area like this brought a lot of peace of mind.

While we only ate breakfast at Sunset’s onsite café, the French toast was absolutely fantastic. My only suggestion would be that natural syrup variations be provided. Coffee, eggs, fruit, cereal and breads are available at reasonable prices.

A True Gem

If the pirate themed street décor or history doesn’t suck you in, maybe the bustling restaurant scene or clean, preserved beaches will. The area has enough tourist activity, while not being overcrowded or an obnoxious party town. Authentic beach shops, retro hotels, luxurious eco-resorts, sand castle contests, sustainable seafood…the treasures on this island are yours for the taking.

Karyn WoffordKaryn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.