A popular vacation destination, Sanibel is an island that is located right off the Florida coast, in the Gulf of Mexico. Because of the 1974 Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan that slowed the development of the city to preserve the natural ecology of Sanibel, the island is a beauty. The beaches are amazing. With ecology being the main focus of the city, most buildings are no taller than two stories so the views you’ll get almost wherever you stay at any point of the island will be astounding.
There are no new chain restaurants or fast food restaurants either. You will find a Subway and a Dairy Queen, but only because they have been there a very long time. Instead of capitalism and commercialism, you’ll find an island community that is relaxed and has an appreciation for nature.
Sanibel is linked to Fort Myers via a causeway bridge. Permanent residents can generally be found on the east side of the island. Periwinkle Way takes travelers from the eastern part of Sanibel to the middle of the island, where it runs into Tarpon Bay Road. You’ll find a lot of condos, cottages and massive mansions along West Gulf and Middle Gulf drives. These are prime locations to stay at because the view of the ocean and the beach is incredible.
If you are visiting Sanibel, there are five things that you must do while you are there.
Try The Sanibel Stoop
If you are on the beach at all, you’ll see people engaged in the Sanibel Stoop, a game of looking down at the sand and trying to spot shells. Because of the island’s location, there are often amazing shells to be found on the beaches. These include whelks, scallops, and coquinas, but there are hundreds of different ones to collect. There are also sand dollars, but most people want to find junonias. If you are interested in shells, check out the Baily-Matthews Shell Museum where you can find out more.
Travel By Segway Or Bike
Sanibel has 22 miles of paths that cyclists, walkers and joggers venture onto each day. If you are visiting the island, rent a Segway or a bicycle and check out these paths yourself. There is a lot to see; there are a number of stores on Periwinkle Way, including a general store that has been on the island since 1899. The beaches are, of course, beautiful, and there is also a Nature Center and a Wildlife Refuge.
There are several places to get bikes, including Tarpon Bay Explorers, Finnimore’s Cycle Shop, and Billy’s Rentals. The owner of Billy’s Rentals also owns Segway of Sanibel, where you can set up a guided tour that lasts several hours.
Visit The Refuge
If you visit just one place, The J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the one sight you don’t want to miss. There are a couple of ways to experience it – you can make your way through the eight mile loop on Wildlife Drive by either bike or car. There are also walking trails that you could take instead. Indigo Trail is four miles, Wulfert Key Trail is a quarter of a mile and takes you to a spot where you can look at the sound, and Shell Mount Trail is a quarter of a mile as well. If you are interested in looking at nature, don’t forget about Bailey Tract. It is one hundred acres and includes wetlands where alligators, turtles, armadillos, bobcats and otters all live.
Enjoy A Boat Ride
Head north to Tarpon Bay, where you can canoe, travel by pontoon boat, or kayak. If you are so inclined, you can even try a stand up paddleboard! There are several places in the area where you can rent a boat. You can also rent bikes or fishing equipment, if you are interested in some other type of activity.
Are you nervous about heading out on your own? No problem. There are guided tours for both canoes and kayaks available. You can also head out on a pontoon boat cruise; these are available in the morning, afternoon and evening, so you have a variety of choices.
The bay is home to both manatees and dolphins. In addition, there are so many different types of birds in the area that you will be amazed at all the wildlife you encounter. For example, you may spot a heron, egret, pelican, or even cormorant.
Check Out The Wildlife Rehabilitation Facility
Sanibel seems like an off the grid island in some ways, but there is a lot happening behind the scenes. CROW, The Clinic For Rehabilitation of Wildlife, takes care of thousands of wildlife every year. There is a hospital in the facility where both veterinarians and volunteers work. There is also an education center, where visitors can play interactive games. For example, one game allows the player to figure out what malady an animal is suffering from. In addition, visitors can take a tour of the hospital.
There is so much to see and do in Sanibel Island, Florida. Check out the MustDo Visitor Guide for Sanibel for more tips and tricks to make the most of your visit there. Safe travels and enjoy every moment.