Sanibel Island, Florida: A Photo Tour of This Famous Florida West Coast Beach
Driving to Sanibel is part of the fun. Coming down Tamiami Trail (US 41) turn off at Fort Myers's McGregor Boulevard and cruise through splendid old homes including the homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
As you leave the city, it's sometimes hard to believe that a paradise of nature is just at the end of the causeway. Several hundred privileged people live on the island, but there is no hustle or bustle anywhere on the island.
Now prepare yourself for Florida nature at its best, beautiful beaches, fabulous sunsets, seashells by the thousands, and virtually always warm sunshine on your back.
Driving on to the island proper we come quickly to Periwinkle Way and the small commercial area. Turning south we circle back east through beautiful residential homes built on canals. At this end of the island is Lighthouse Point and the 120 year old Sanibel Lighthouse. You can't go inside, but it is larger than life on the outside. Photographers love to find new and appealing angles to show the world.
The lighthouse was built in 1884 and is 102 feet high. Although it is still functional, it is not open to the public. Comparing this structure to other lighthouses I have seen, this one is a bit unusual in that it is built out of iron. Staring up at the room and Fresnel lens against the azure blue Florida sky, one can't help but wonder at the number of lives this imposing edifice has saved in the last 100+ years.
Back on Periwinkle Way we again pass through the business area and start up the island. Sanibel is still sparcely populated compared to most of the keys, and it contains a large area that is a public preserve, the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. If you are from the north and have never seen an Everglades-like mangrove forest, this little piece of what the Florida coast was like pre-people is well worth a visit.
Entering the visitor's center is almost like walking into the mangrove forest canopy.
Some of the exotic animals that have been sighted are cormorant, pelican, heron, egret, merganser, turkey vulture, eagle, wood stork, sandpiper, coot, kingfisher, vireo, alligator, racoon, rat snake, gopher tortoise, bottle-nosed dolphin, frigatebird, and a dozen or so more. And, if a person looks closely in the shallow water, a couple dozen fish species could be found as the roots of mangroves serve as a nursury for hundreds of small fishes. The mangrove forest is rich in animal diversity.
If you don't want to walk through the forest, you can drive through on Wildlife Drive.
Back on Periwinkle Drive it is just a half mile to the ocean drive and the famous beaches of Sanibel Island.
At some times of the year the beaches are a bit crowded, but there is always room for a couple more. And, unlike many beaches in Florida, dogs are welcome.
Sanibel's beaches are famous for all the shells you can find. Literally, a person could collect a truckload in just a few minutes.
After a few hours on the beach you might see some unusual vegetation as you leave.
It's been a good day visiting Sanibel. Let's do it again sometime.