half of the island is nature preserve, including 5,000+ acres known
as the world famous J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife
Refuge. You can tour it by bicycle, car or by kayak, or you can
ride the tram around its five-mile nature drive.
Bay Explorers for canoe and kayak rentals with access to the
refuge. To learn more about "Ding" Darling, visit dingdarling.org.
If your travels bring you here in October, set aside time for Ding
Darling Days from the 20th to the 26th this year. It's a week
of concentrated nature study and celebration in this extraordinarily
pristine wildlife setting. If you've missed this year's event, there
always is next year. The web site is updated annually.
The kayak trails in Tarpon Bay
are part of the Great Calusa
Blueway, a markered kayak and canoe trail maintained by the
Lee County tourism organization. It stretches from the Imperial
River in Bonita Springs all the way north past Matlacha to Charlotte
Harbor. A spur to the west runs along the causeway, Sanibel Island
and Captiva Island. Keep an eye open for announcements about the
annual Great Calusa Blueway Festival.
Restaurants range from friendly and funky to white table cloth formal,
although there are more of the former than the latter. We like breakfast
at the Island Cow
on Periwinkle Way and the Lighthouse
Cafe at the lighthouse end of the island. Also, if you are staying
at West Wind Inn, the Normandie
Seaside Pub serves a hearty breakfast. Grandma
Dot's is fun for lunch, especially if you like hanging around boats.
It's at the Sanibel Marina.
Dinner is a hoot at the Lazy
Flamingo. For something more formal, we like Thistle
or Sweet Melissa's.
For mid-island Sanibel dining, try Doc
Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, (named for the main character
in Randy Wayne White novels - he's part owner) off San-Cap Road,
George's Corner Grill at the corner of Tarpon Bay Road and Periwinkle
way, and the Blue Giraffe
in Periwinkle Place. Now, a new restuarnt has opened in the old
(but renovated) McT's. It's named Sanibel Fish House and is a companion
to other Fish House Restaurants at Bonita Beach and Fort Myers Beach.
I have eaten at the Bonita Beach restaurant and it was very good
food and good value. We'll see what the future brings to the Sanibel
On Captiva, there are the very
islandy, Key Lime Bistro, very funky is the nearby R.C. Otters,
the more sedate Sunshine Seafood Cafe, and the Mexi-Western menu
of Cantina Captiva , all under the same Captiva
Island Inn management. Then there is the venerable Mucky
Duck, with great sunsets daily and the bayside Green
- please - and take home a treasure
For shopping, Sanibel Island
and its sister island, Captiva, offer several chic shopping centers
and some down-right funky free-standing shops. Everything from art
by island artists to T-shirts and souvenirs are available for you
to take home something to spark memories of your visit. Since these
change from season to season, you might want to check out the Chamber
of Commerce web page.
There are two major grocery stores
on Sanibel: Bailey's, which includes a hardware store, and Jerry's,
which is located in an upstairs center, famous for its caged parrots
in the forecourt. Jerry's is on Periwinkle Way at Casa Ybel Road.
Bailey's is in the shopping center of the same name on Tarpon Bay
Road at Periwinke Way.
A crass commercial announcement
- past visitors to Sanibel Island may look for the gallery, Aboriginals:
Art of the First Person, which was located in the Village. It has
closed it's physical gallery but still can be reached online at
one of these links: TribalWorks,
For other things to do, check
out the Bailey Matthews Shell
Museum, the only museum in North Americadevoted exclusively
to seashells. Another interesting visit is to the Clinic
for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (aka CROW). It's interesting
to see them care for injured wildlife, with the intention of returning
them to thewild.
The historic village
is a quaint reminder of what Sanibel once lived like. And don't
miss that island landmark, the old Sanibel
Arts is an island arts organization that presents concerts,
lectures, performances, visual arts exhibits, classes and workshops.
Musical reviews at The
Herb Strauss Theater are sure to keep you humming and happy.
There's even an Island Cinema
showing first run films.
So, even though you are laid
back and relaxed, there is plenty to do, if that is your inclination.
One of the big nighttime attractions for some people is to go outside
and stare at the heavens. With its "dark skies" policy,
Sanibel is the perfect place to wish upon a star on a clear night.
Fine and dandy, but where will
you stay on this island paradise? We highly recommend the West Wind
Inn for a "true sanibel"
experience. We also like Casa
Ybel, especially for its romantic setting. Or for the "cottage"
experience, Gulfbeach Cottages. If you prefer a condo rental, look
into Sanibel Moorings,
Sanibel Arms West and
Pelican's Roost. There
are plenty of options for staying on Sanibel. The Chamber welcome
center can be helpful and often has last minute specials.
For more information about Captiva
island, go to About Captiva.com.