Places To Go: Sanibel Island

The very first adventures of my life took place on Sanibel Island, Florida, the island just off the coast from Fort Meyers, Florida. I took my first plane ride when I was only one year old to get to the island. I spent a week every fall playing on the island’s idyllic beaches and touring the island until I was twelve. I’m looking to make a return trip soon.

Sanibel Island beach
A Sanibel Island beach

The island’s chamber of commerce advertise the island (along with Captiva Island) as “perfect choice for your vacation whether you are looking for a romantic getaway, a family trip or a nature vacation.” This basically translates to mean that Sanibel is a getaway for primarily relaxation. It is home to many retirees besides the couples and families.

Here are a few highlights:

The shells: Sanibel Island has been named one of the capitals of the world for shelling. It is the home of the “Sanibel stoop”, the nickname for what people looking for shells do for hours: stoop over to sift through the innumerable varieties of shells washed up on the beach. In the hotel I stayed at as a child an illustration on the wall depicted a whole cartoon-family of Sanibel visitors, all doing the Sanibel stoop.

Sanibel Stoop
Beachcombers do the “Sanibel stoop”

The lighthouse: the Sanibel Lighthouse stands at Point Ybel. You can tour the grounds around the lighthouse. There is also the Lighthouse Cafe, “Home of the World’s Best Breakfast”. I remember having blueberry pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice for breakfast, a huge treat. The restaurant is on Periwinkle Way, a street name that truly shows the appeal of the island.

The wildlife: Sanibel is home to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. At the refuge, you can see alligators, egrets, anhingas, herons, and all sorts of other animals. Seeing it all would take more than one short vacation. Out of the refuge, Sanibel is also home to dolphins, manatees, and creatures like horseshoe crabs, sea cucumbers, and sand-dollars.

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge birds
Birds at J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge

The pirates: Sanibel has a legacy of being the home of pirates. Pirates like Lafitte, Blackbeard, Black Caesar, and Gasparilla all made camps along the Florida coast, on islands like Sanibel, Captiva, Marco, Boca Grand, Cayo Costa, and Pine Island. I was obsessed with pirates as a girl and bought book after book about their looting of Florida.

So, if any of these things (sun, beaches, history, shelling, exploring) of interest to you, check out Sanibel Island. It sparked a lust for adventure in me that has lasted me a lifetime.

Has anyone else been to Sanibel? What stood out to you most on your trip?


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