Sanibel is an island located in southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast and is famous for its beaches that have large amounts of unusual shells that have washed ashore from the Gulf of Mexico. One of America’s premiere vacation destinations, Sanibel is home to some of the world’s best wildlife reserves and beaches, and due to controlled development laws, the island has preserved much of its ecology and nature. Another unique aspect of Sanibel’s charm is that most fast food joints and restaurant chains are banned from here (aside from Subway and Dairy Queen), so visitors enjoy a laidback and restful environment that gives them a break from busy metropolitan life.
One of the most popular activities in Sanibel is shell hunting on Bowman’s Beach—you’ll find many people doing the “Sanibel stoop”, which consists of people walking along the shore with their heads down and their shoulders stooped as they search for shells. There are more than 250 types of shells found on the island, and there is even the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel-Captiva Road, for those interested in learning more. Go shopping along Periwinkle Way and be sure to stop into Bailey’s General Store, which has been open since 1899. Tarpon Bay, located on the island’s north side, is a great place to spend the day and people can rent boats, kayak or canoe out on the expansive bay while viewing more than 200 species of birds. Another must-see is the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the country. Another great place to check out is the Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife, which provides care for more than 4,000 injured, sick and orphaned wildlife varieties. They even offer interactive games at their education center, which include allowing participants to diagnose an animal’s medical issue.
A great day trip is the nearby island of Captiva, which has great dining options and beautiful sunsets. Captive Beach is a popular place for couples to catch the sunset, known for being quieter than the beaches in Sanibel. Miami is a two-and-a-half hour drive east of Sanibel, and is the capital a thriving international city with Cuban influence knowns for its art scene, colorful art deco buildings, and exciting nightlife. Naples is an hour south of Sanibel, well-known for its golf courses, high-end shopping, and miles of beautiful beaches with calm water.
Connected by the causeway bridge to Fort Myers, a majority of the residential homes in Sanibel can be found on the island’s East End. Numerous beach cottages, condos and million-dollar estates are scattered along Middle Gulf and West Gulf Drives, offering stunning views of the ocean and the beach. Periwinkle Way is the main drag, running from Sanibel’s eastern tip to the island’s midpoint at Tarpon Bay Road.
The island offers 22 miles of paths that are shared by cyclists, walkers and runners, so it is extremely pedestrian-friendly. Bike rentals are available at various locations, including Finnimore’s cycle Shop and Billy’s Rentals. Segways are another great way to get around the island, and Segway of Sanibel offers two-hour guided tours of the island.
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