Living in Florida, you kind of take the beach for granted. After all, there’s so much coastline, hence a lot of beach! I love living in Florida, yet I’m not a die hard beachcomber. I never have been one to sit for hours in the sun and bake. But I do enjoy walking on the beach or sitting under the protection of an umbrella or cabana listening to the surf and gazing on the beautiful blue water.
There are so many places in Florida I haven’t yet been, but I certainly plan to do a lot more exploring and blogging about the wonderful places to visit in this great state of Florida. Of the places I have been, there is one place in particular that I love so much I never tire of going there. And that is Sanibel Island.
Sanibel is a small crescent-shaped island on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just west of Ft. Myers. I first visited there almost 13 years ago, but it’s such a wonderfully peaceful beach destination, I keep going back. Sanibel Island is a short four-hour drive from my home, so it’s a great place to spend a long weekend, or a long week.
Sanibel Island has a rich and colorful history. It is believed that Ponce de Leon discovered the island in 1513 on his way to find the Fountain of Youth. He named his discovery Santa Isybella after Queen Isabella. In the 1800s, the Gulf Coast barrier islands became known as “The Buccaneer Coast,” because pirates were attracted to the area. One notorious pirate in particular, Jose Gaspar, is rumored to have buried his stolen treasure on Sanibel. Then, to house his female prisoners that he kept for ransom, he built a prison called Isle de los Captivas, hence the name of Sanibel’s “sister” island, Captiva.
There are no more pirates or prisoners on Sanibel or Captiva. There are also no traffic lights, high rise condos or sprawling shopping malls. In fact, much of the island is a wildlife refuge.
In 1935, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling visited Sanibel Island. He fell in love with the area and campaigned to get federal protection for the island’s fragile ecosystem. About ten years later, more than 6,000 acres of mangrove forest and wetlands became the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. You can explore the refuge by biking, hiking, canoeing, kayaking or on the guided tram. Here you’ll find dolphins, manatees, alligators, ospreys, herons, egrets, pelicans, almost 400 different species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
In addition to being a famous wildlife refuge, Sanibel Island is also famous for shelling. The beaches are abundant with “treasures from the sea.” Because people are often seen bending down as they look for seashells, this posture has become known as the “Sanibel Stoop.”
Sanibel Island has something for everyone, every recreation imaginable: fishing, golfing, tennis, boating, biking (over 22 miles of bike paths), canoeing, kayaking, water skiing and windsurfing. And of course there are a variety of great restaurants. (I’ll be posting on some of them in weeks to come.) And many charming shops, boutiques and art galleries.
So, if you live in Florida, on the Gulf Coast, or anywhere in the world, Sanibel Island is definitely a place worth visiting. You may find you love it there as much as I do.
Dates of Visit: January 2000 & 2002, October 2012
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