Island Living in Florida
Sanibel and Captiva are located near Fort Myers, Florida. While Fort Myers is a beautiful beach, it has a much faster paced atmosphere than Sanibel and Captiva. Once across the bridge to the Islands, life becomes calm. It can truly be a world unto it’s own. The lush tropical greenery surrounds the islands and creates a very relaxing environment. The “islands” have many pristine public beaches to choose from. Each is distinct in environment yet all of them have some type of restroom facility and parking ($2 per hour). Bowman’s Beach has ample parking for crowds, outside showers and changing rooms. Alligators and other wildlife can be seen along the long walking path to the beach. Beautiful sunrises can be photographed from the bridge leading to the beach.
World Class Bird Watching
Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve is known around the world for it’s migratory birds. Driving along the 4.25-mile stretch of the gravel road, one can see a variety of seasonal birds. White Pelicans can be seen in the winter and Roseate Spoonbills are seen year round. Bird guide pamphlets are given out at the visitor center and at the beginning of the drive. Mangrove trees line the drive and alligators can be seen throughout especially at dawn and dusk.
World Class Shelling
The unique east-west position and shape of the island allow for shells to naturally wash up and collect along the beaches. The Bailey – Matthews Shell Museum is located on Sanibel Island, and it is dedicated to the preservation and research of shells as is the rest of the island which supports many special conservation programs.
There are ample bike trails throughout the island and designated lanes along the main road on Sanibel. Several local shops rent various kinds of bikes for people of all ages and skill levels. Kayaking and canoeing are also very popular sports on Sanibel. Inexpensive rentals are available at resorts and through Tarpon Bay, which is part of Ding Darling. There are many places to fish on Sanibel. Nonresidents need a license.
When Island fever sets in, there are many options to explore more of nature with boat trips to neighboring islands. Cayo Costa State Park has great shelling and is a close boat trip from Sanibel. Other unique trips include a visit to Usseppa Island, which is membership only and Cabbage Key Island, which is open to the public. Cabbage Key is a small island with a restaurant and bar. It is famous for the dollar bills which cover the interior of the building and because legend has it that Jimmy Buffett wrote his “Cheeseburgers in Paradise” song after being inspired by a visit to the island restaurant.
Sanibel and Captiva have almost everything on the “islands” for a complete vacation or even as a permanent residence. The arts, restaurants, clubs and shopping are plentiful. People are relaxed and courteous. The “islands” are safe and clean which makes for a worry-free lifestyle. And that is what island living should be all about.