We didn’t know Sanibel Island even existed until our friends, Becky and Paul told us about their vacations to Captiva Island, Florida, located just past Sanibel Island. They couldn’t say enough great things about it though, which explains their once or twice per year annual visits. So, we were convinced we just had to see it for ourselves.
Sanibel Island measures roughly 12 miles long and five miles across at its widest point. Captiva Island is smaller at less than 5 miles long and a 1/2-mile wide. Both are accessible from Fort Myers by the Sanibel Causeway Bridge. At a bridge toll of $6 and steep beach parking fees, they are not frequented by Floridians as often as other destinations- just the way the locals like it. So, it is not as touristy here like, say, Daytona Beach or Orlando. Rather, the vibe is low key and relaxing. This is where we are staying: www.seahorsecottages.com ; a very low key place in a great location near the beach.
There are so many reasons to visit Sanibel Island; especially if you are a beachcomber. Sanibel Island ranks number one on the continent for shelling and we could see why! We literally saw piles of shells as we walked along the beach at sunset, on the evening of our arrival. Due to its east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end, it acts as a ladle, scooping up all the shells that the Gulf imports from the Caribbean and other southern seas. The abundance and variety of shells draws serious shellers from all over the world.
Birders are also drawn to Sanibel, because of the abundance and variety of gorgeous birds that wade in marshes and cruise the shorelines. In our first day alone, we saw everything from two varieties of each of pelicans, herons, and egrets, to ospreys and the bright pink Roseate Spoonbill. And, on the beach, there were dozens of willets, plovers and sandpipers.
Even if you ignore the shells and birds, the beaches here are gorgeous! And, that’s before I even get into what is beyond the shore. Last evening, we saw our first bottlenosed dolphins frolicking about just 50 yards out. From what we hear, there will be plenty more of them to see. But, we really hope to see manatees, too, known to frequent this area.
There is also the 6,400 acres of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the natural showpiece of Sanibel Island. After my swim at the Sanibel Recreation Center (a wonderful facility!), we visited the refuge today. We took a guided tram ride and thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the area and the wildlife we saw, including a variety of birds and even an alligator catching some rays in the shallow water right near the road.
Tomorrow, we will get our kayaks out on the water, so Bruce can fish for Redfish, Speckled Trout, Tripletail, Snapper, Cobia, and/or Snook. He plans to mostly catch and release, but I’ll try to snap a photo or two first.
Our first impression of Sanibel? We’re hooked (no pun intended)!