Rocky moved to the East Coast of Florida over 50 years ago, but in all that time had never been to Sanibel Island, the USA Capital for Seashell collecting. Julie, being an avid beachcomber, had also never been to the southwest coast of Florida, and so it seemed appropriate for a short trip to the Island. Sanibel Island is a 4-hour drive from our home on the east coast across the south-central part of the state. It is a “sleepy” community of hardy locals during the summer, that grows into a crowded retreat from the north during the winter for weary “snowbirds”. The relaxing morning drive takes us just north of Lake Okeechobee, through expansive orange groves and grazing cattle pastures, until we reach Fort Meyers, and then a short trip south to Sanibel Island. Island access is over a toll bridge that costs $6, but once on the Island, we were prepared to stay a couple of days with a hotel reservation in the center of the Island right on the beach.
We used the afternoon to explore the Island and its adjoining northern extension, Captiva Island. Sanibel Island is a narrow sandbar about 10 miles long and never more than 2 miles wide, that connects over a narrow channel to Captiva Island, about 5 miles long, located to the north. The islands have maintained their classic, nostalgic charm from the 1950’s and 1960’s, with many small bungalows hidden among the low-rise resorts and hotels. Before having lunch at Th Mucky Duck on the beach in Captiva, we went to Bowman Beach, where we recovered a nice collection of Florida Fighting Conch shells. After lunch, we checked into our hotel, and after checking out the local beach, took a drive through the local wildlife preserve, J.N. “Ding” Darling, where we saw local snakes, manatees and gators. Then we drove to the Sanibel Lighthouse on the southern tip of the Island to walk “the flats” during low-tide. The area was full of swimmers and shell-seekers, and covered with so many sand-dollars that one could barely walk without stepping on them. That night we had dinner at a local restaurant, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, before settling in back at the hotel for a western shore sunset and a nice bottle of wine.
The next morning, we had breakfast at a spectacular, local establishment, The OEC (Over Easy Cafe), before traveling back to the north end of the Island to explore the Turners Beach and Blind Pass Beach. By now, our shell collection was growing quite large, and so we decided a visit to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum would be appropriate. The Museum is also located on the Island, and has world-class examples of seashells from the local area and from around the world. After one last beach visit, we then left the island and began the drive home. A short but wonderful excursion into a “backyard” spot that we will likely come visit again.