Sanibel Island

By David Gjestson

The Sanibel Causeway allows easy access to the island and is three miles long. Users pay a $6 toll to enter the island.

Many ARC members have been to Florida and Im sure several have also been to Sanibel Island off the coast of Fort Myers. For those that have missed this little gem, this Trip Tip narrative could entice you to add it to your bucket list.

Laura and I chose a Sanibel Island visit to celebrate our 53rd wedding anniversary because we both enjoy beach walking and the island has the reputation of providing world class seashell collection opportunities. Traveling from Madison to Fort Myers is cheap by air ($200) but double that for us from Tucson, and we had to change planes in the terribly crowded Atlanta, Georgia hub!

Arrival on the island has you quickly merging onto Periwinkle Drive the winds through the central tourista area containing various merchants and restaurants. Bike rentals are very popular here and a paved bike trail parallels the highway and extends the service all over the island.
Zoning rules prohibit buildings more than two stories high if built after 1974 and no fast food or chain restaurants are allowed except for Dairy Queen and Subway. Hotels are abundant but tend to be pricey in the $200-300 per night range with most located on top of the white sand beaches that run the entire length of this boomerang shaped island that starts east to west for half its length before bending to the northwest culminating in Captiva Island.
Our room at the Island Inn Hotel was just a few steps from the beach.


Laura was on the beach within minutes of our checking into the hotel. Afternoon beach use was almost non-existent!


Cats paw seashells were abundant but finding other keepers were hard to find unless you were out at sunrise (or before)!


A 6:30 a.m. stroll was greeted by a beautiful sunrise as well as by
competing shell seekers!


We soon learned that experienced shellers were out well before sunrise with flashlights and clever pickup sticks with screened cup devices to pick up shells without back strain!


Our first days shell collection.


A ten minute drive got us to our trip highlight, a driving tour through a national wildlife refuge full of wildlife!


An osprey screamed a welcome from the edge of the parking lot!


The refuge visitor center served as its education center and was manned by
very helpful volunteers.


The drive through nature trail passed by several water impoundments
and was teaming with wildlife.


A group of white pelicans were loafing with a mixed group of shorebirds.


The pelicans enjoyed grooming in the sun.


A solitary white egret enjoys the day.



A short walk on a nature trail revealed a stark warning for us! The refuge contained a lone alligator for more than 30 years before he died. Another one was rescued elsewhere and released here to replace it.


We enjoyed four mornings of shell collecting and enjoyed sunny
days in the 70s each day.


Our collection grew substantially in four days, most of which we left for others to see. A few dandies were taken home!


Shopping on Periwinkle Drive revealed many interesting places to spend money.


Finding a good place to eat was easy and the sea food was superb wherever we went!


The shell museum was a must stop.


So, if beach walks, ocean waves crashing, wildlife watching, and good cuisine appeals to you, add Sanibel Island to your bucket list!