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All in the family

By Staff | Dec 6, 2017

Josh Stewart (far right) with his family. PHOTO PROVIDED

Adventures in Paradise began as a family-run business 31 years ago. Flash forward three decades later, the company is still run by the Stewart family.

Josh Stewart, co-owner of Adventures in Paradise, moved here with his family when he was eight months old in 1986. Stewart is the youngest of three sons.

Craig and Evelyn, Stewart’s parents, and the owners of Adventures in Paradise, were living in Annapolis, Maryland, before they moved to Sanibel.

“(My parents) weren’t too keen on the cold weather. My dad came down to Florida on a business trip, he was in Naples, he was looking for a home. Then a real estate agent said ‘Well why don’t you check out Sanibel?’ As legend has it, he said he was on the island for 45 minutes and then got on the pay phone at the 7-11 (on Periwinkle Way) and called my mom and said ‘I’ve found it.’ He told her to pack her bags.” Stewart said. “My mom and my two toddler brothers had to dig themselves out of the house from the snow. That was pretty poetic.”

Stewart studied business at Florida Gulf Coast University. However, he has helped his parents out with the family business since he was 10. In 2009, he became co-owner.

Originally, Adventures in Paradise started out as a beach rental company. Stewart’s family rented everything from waverunners to snorkel gear.

“We were in all sorts of locations. Everywhere from Casa Ybel Resort to the Sanibel Harbour Marriott, Naples, Key Biscayne and Orlando. We were at those locations for a long time. As the kids got older, my dad didn’t want to be on the road quite as much so he sold off a few of those businesses and more or less, brought it back to Sanibel,” Stewart said.

The family eventually purchased a ferry and started offering backwater fishing trips and sunset and dolphin cruises.

“We’ve been doing those ever since,” Stewart said.

In 1994, Stewart said his family was approached by RLR Investments to help operate their Port Sanibel Marina.

“My dad did that for about 20 years,” Stewart said. “In the meantime, we purchased two other boats and stuck with the meat of the business which is the boat tours.”

In addition to the cruises, Stewart’s family also offers trolley tours and rentals, private charters and dining excursions. For the cruises, a marine biologist is always on board. Many of their marine biologists are comprised of students from Florida Gulf Coast University.

“We really want to (create) an inviting atmosphere for the trips but also educate them on the area and the wildlife so everybody gets that understanding of what’s going on,” Stewart said.

In 2009, the Stewart family opened up Adventures in Paradise Outfitters at 2019 Periwinkle Way. The store sells apparel, accessories and gifts.

“We wanted to do something special for the island. We created a ‘coming home to’ shop. The store has been a lot of fun. We have a lot of good brands you can’t find anywhere. The island’s different, so we wanted to be different,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that the business’ success over the years has stemmed from his family and their strong belief in what they do as a company.

“We’ve got a great product and we really want to everyone to know how awesome the area is and what better way to do it than bring them out on the water,” Stewart said.