From what I can tell, Sanibel Island is everything that the rest of Florida's vacation destinations aren't. It's quiet, lush, and for the most part, an undeveloped paradise. Businesses on the island are locally owned, and even the grandest estates are dwarfed by towering palms swaying overhead. People get around on bicycles and leave their front doors unlocked. A majority of the island belongs to J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems in the United States.
We went to visit our sweet friends Andy and Chandra, who've recently traded Louisville for the ocean and warmth of the Southwest coast of Florida. They live in vacation land, smoke cigars and sip ,drinks on their lanai - if I didn't know better, I'd think they'd already retired! We spent most of our time together lazing around the beach of hanging out by their pool drinking beer.
Mini Travel Guide (Sanibel Island/Ft. Meyers Favorites!)
Eat: For a delicious brunch we visited the Lighthouse Cafe on Sanibel for blueberry hotcakes, omelets and crabcake eggs benedict. For a quick breakfast in Ft. Meyers, we loved The Heavenly Biscuit, a kitschy cottage cafe that serves up hot biscuit sandwiches and fresh squeezed juices. After the beach, we enjoyed the perfect mid-day snack: Yucatan shrimp and mojitos at Doc Ford's in Sanibel.
Do: Sanibel is famous for shelling. The beach is covered with so many beautiful pastel shells, it's hard to choose which ones to keep as souvenirs. Our most memorable beach experience was seeing dolphins. They swam right up to shore! Kurt could have reached out and touched one! Pretty amazing, huh? For another look at Florida's wildlife, we drove through Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve, which is home to bobcats, gators, horseshoe crabs, loggerhead turtles, manatees and a whole slew of beautiful sea birds. It seemed like every minute there was a silver fish leaping out of the brackish waters as if to say hello.
Best place to feel like you're in an 80's movie: Ft. Meyers Beach. Everything is pastel. Here you will find those shark bite beach towels, boob coffee mugs, and saltwater taffy. People still roller blade here! The visiting population seemed to be one part elderly, one part bumpkin, and one part sunburned Scandinavians. If you walk to the end of the pier, you may spot a surfacing manatee or a shark's fin trolling around the surface of distant waters.