West of Fort Myer’s, Florida, is a tranquil little city filled with pastel coloured shells. This is Sanibel Island, a popular family getaway that’s filled with birds, wildlife refuges and lots of beaches. Sanibel has the Gulf of Mexico on the west and the Pine Island Sound and San Carlos Bay to the East. It is part of the Cape Coral–Fort Myers Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Sanibel and Captiva formed as a single Island 6,000 years ago and were home to the indigenous Calusa Tribe. The powerful empire of the Calusa soon collapsed upon the arrival of the Europeans and by 1765, the first appearance of a harbour was shown on a map. Stories of pirates, both treacherous and noble, speckle the history of the Islands. By 1832, the first modern settlement was established by the Florida Peninsular Land Company.
There’s a lot of natural beauty to appreciate on the Island. You have the naturalized beaches that are filled with shells of all kinds, sand dollars, sponges and star fish, and which make up for the most popular tourist attractions. You’ll find dolphins and a variety of fish inhabiting the waters and an even greater variety of birds during different seasons. Bird watchers and shell collectors make up the majority of the island's visitors each year. The Island is lush with colourful flowers like bougainvillea throughout the year. If you love nature, you can visit the gardens, the wildlife refuges or just wander through the city. Sanibel Island is also home to a variety of cultural programs, so you can expect concerts, plays and all kinds of performances dotting the calendar. You can get a local fishing license and spend an evening out on the pier. Play golf, tennis, explore the warm waters of Tarpon Bay. Visit the Lighthouse and the Historical Museum and Village if you’re a history buff – the options for sightseeing are limitless.
Essential travel information and Sanibel tips for your visit
- Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated as the weather in Sanibel can be very warm and sunny.
- It’s wise to rent a bicycle and travel around the Island.
- Keep in mind they’re strict about following traffic rules here.
- Travel guides recommend avoiding months inclined to bad weather. Southwest Florida rarely suffers direct strikes by hurricanes, but every 20 or so years it takes a significant hit, and about every 40 years a major one.
- There will be a lot of insects, so bring repellent with DEET.