Captiva Island and Sanibel Island
Florida are a Gulf Coast Paradise. Captiva cottages sanibel
island fishing, and world-class shelling are just the
start. Nearby Ft. Myers
and Naples offer golf, museums, cultural attractions,
shops, and restaurants.
Geography and tides make these islands famous as some of the world's best shelling grounds. Even beginners can find exquisite conchs, whelks, and coquinas, especially after storms, although go for the empties: it is illegal to take live shells from beaches.
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel displays more than a million shells from around the world. Exhibits feature displays of tribal art, sailor art, fossil shells, and medicinal mollusks.
On both islands the majority of land is preserved in their natural state as wildlife refuges, and are favorites of bird watchers. Noisy personal watercrafts are prohibited here.
Ponce de León is said to have named the larger of these two barrier islands "San Ybel," after Queen Isabella of Spain. Sanibel Island is accessible from the mainland via the Sanibel Causeway.
Along Periwinkle Way, the main drag, you’ll find art galleries, shell shops, open-air shopping complexes, one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants under a thick canopy of flowers and shady ficus, whispery pines and gnarled oaks. For an alternative to hotels, look into Florida-style cottages at Sanibel's Seaside Inn, Island Inn, Waterside Inn, and Shalimar.
For seafood, sample the solar selections at the Sunshine Café, Twilight Café, and Green Flash. For a fun feast, try the Bubble Room, where servers wear scout uniforms and funny hats while electric trains circle overhead.
The Sanibel Historical Village & Museum includes a 1913 home, a1926 General Store with antique gasoline pumps, and Miss Charlotta's Tea Room.
Popular beaches include Gulfside Park and Old Lighthouse Beach. The 94-foot Sanibel Lighthouse dates back to 1884, and features a wildlife refuge, fishing pier, nature trail, and restrooms. Tarpon Bay Beach provides excellent swimming. The island’s most secluded beach is Bowman's Beach, on Sanibel's northwest end.
The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club offers an 18-hole course, seven clay tennis courts, and pro lessons. Luxurious spa treatment packages are available at the Sanibel Harbor Resort & Spa.
A good half of Sanibel is take up by the 6300-acre J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Birdwatchers come to see roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, great blue herons, ibises, and white pelicans. You can ride, walk, bike, canoe, kayak, or take an open-air guided tram through the lush ecosystem, which also features alligators, bison, panthers, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles, bald eagles, and even crocodiles.
Cross the bridge at the north end of Sanibel to reach Captiva Island. Legend says Captiva’s name came from women held captive here by notorious pirate Jose Gaspar. Here lush vegetation of Key lime, coconut palms, and Australian pines hide palatial private estates. On the south end of the island, Turner Beach has good surfing and excellent sunset views.