You can't beat the views while dining at Thistle Lodge — Photo courtesy of Casa Ybel Resort
To get the story of one of the most historic beachfront resorts in the Fort Myers area, you’ll have to go back to the late 1800s. That’s when former missionary George Barnes homesteaded nearly 500 acres on Sanibel, building the island's first church, a cottage that evolved into the first inn and eventually the award-winning Casa Ybel Resort.
When one of the missionary’s daughters married a resort guest, the two built a Victorian home on the property, naming it Thistle Lodge. Celebrities and dignitaries the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford visited the lodge.
Recreated in 1979, today it's home to a beloved restaurant for both resort guests and locals.
Rutherford Wine Company bottles a private label for Casa Ybel's Thistle Lodge — Photo courtesy of Casa Ybel Resort
Diners not only love the view of the beach from its big windows, but also the the partnership between Thistle Lodge and winemakers at Rutherford Wine Company in Napa Valley, Calif.; they’ve created a private label Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio.
The rest of the wine list spans the globe, offering valuable tasting notes and affordable pricing.
One menu item not to miss is the Lobster and Lump Crab “Diver” Scallops. In this signature dish, scallops are topped with lobster and crab, encrusted and baked. The dish is finished with a citrus buerre blanc and served with baby field greens and jasmine rice.
The Pecan Seared Salmon is another hit.
Pecan Seared Salmon is a popular dish at Thistle Lodge — Photo courtesy of Casa Ybel Resort
While the menu leans heavily on seafood, the lodge serves succulent steaks, hand carved in house, along with an herb-crusted lamb and a veal tenderloin in a smoked pomodoro romesco.
Besides at Thistle Lodge, guests can dine around the pool bar at Coconuts. The smell of the grill is hard to resist, as the resort has a popular grilling station every weekend and almost every day during season (winter and spring).
As for the rest of the resort, managers are constantly upgrading its amenities and accommodations. The one- and two- bedroom suites are spacious and well equipped. Their screened lanais face the water, creating the perfect space for your morning coffee or evening cocktails.
New this season are upgraded kitchens in all of the units.
“Some of the same people have been coming here for decades, so we are always trying to enhance their experience,” says Casa Ybel’s General Manager Froilan Ramirez.
Thistle Lodge was a historic gathering place for dignitaries and celebrities during Sanibel's development — Photo courtesy of Casa Ybel Resort
Casa Ybel has it all; it's perfect for romance, while still accommodating to families. The Kids Club offers daily themes and activities that range form lizard hunting to arts and crafts. The resort even offers babysitting services to allow parents a date night.
If you must do some work during your vacation, the resort Wi-Fi has been shored up enough to reach the beach, for your office under an umbrella.
Other amenities include tennis and basketball courts, along with clinics to improve your skills. Less strenuous activities include horseshoe and croquet, to name a few.
However, some of the best things to do are on the beach. Casa Ybel’s striking, white-sand beach is full of shells and beautiful blue water. It's also host to some of the most amazing sunsets you’ll ever see.
The grounds here are gorgeously landscaped, providing a calm, inviting atmosphere. Many guests like the fact that Casa Ybel is slightly off the beaten path, yet still a quick bike ride to shopping, nature preserves and other sites.
One getaway here, and you'll understand why visitors return year after year.