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Sanibel Island, Florida: A Photo Tour of This Famous Florida West Coast Beach

Updated on February 1, 2017

Sanibel Island, off of Ft. Myers, is one of the most beautiful islands in the string of keys along southwestern Florida. Rather than the modern development that has occurred on many of the keys, Sanibel is a breath of fresh air. Cross the bridge and enter the realm of Florida's paradise.

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Sanibel Island, Florida, USA
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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.

Walk the causeway beach with the Fort Myers high rises in the background.
Walk the causeway beach with the Fort Myers high rises in the background. | Source

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.

This part of the island is usually not so crowded and is just right for a memorable family outing.
This part of the island is usually not so crowded and is just right for a memorable family outing. | Source

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.

This old lighthouse has probably saved hundred of lives over the many years of use.
This old lighthouse has probably saved hundred of lives over the many years of use. | Source

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.

You can enter the preserve by passing over this bridge.
You can enter the preserve by passing over this bridge. | Source

Entering the visitor's center is almost like walking into the mangrove forest canopy.

Here is a partial listing of the wildlife seen in this one little part of the island.
Here is a partial listing of the wildlife seen in this one little part of the island. | Source

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.

To the east of the island is a waterway where many birds fish and find refuge.  Can you see the graceful heron skipping along just taking off?
To the east of the island is a waterway where many birds fish and find refuge. Can you see the graceful heron skipping along just taking off? | Source

If you don't want to walk through the forest, you can drive through on Wildlife Drive.

Auto Entrance to the Preserve
Auto Entrance to the Preserve | Source

Back on Periwinkle Drive it is just a half mile to the ocean drive and the famous beaches of Sanibel Island.

And now, here is the beach.
And now, here is the beach. | Source

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.

Meet Becky, my wife, and our delightful pom, Misty.
Meet Becky, my wife, and our delightful pom, Misty. | Source

Sanibel's beaches are famous for all the shells you can find. Literally, a person could collect a truckload in just a few minutes.

Get out early to find the best shells, but there is always an overabundance for everybody.
Get out early to find the best shells, but there is always an overabundance for everybody. | Source

After a few hours on the beach you might see some unusual vegetation as you leave.

Some of the island has the original mangroves and other exotic plants.
Some of the island has the original mangroves and other exotic plants. | Source
Beach Sunflower
Beach Sunflower | Source
Sabal Palm
Sabal Palm | Source
Mangroves and Associated Plant Life
Mangroves and Associated Plant Life | Source

It's been a good day visiting Sanibel. Let's do it again sometime.

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    • Glenda Motsavage profile image

      Glenda Motsavage 3 years ago from The Sunshine State

      Had the pleasure of spending a wonderful week on Sanibel this past May. As your beautiful photos depict, it was incredible! Already planning a return visit! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • profile image

      Florida Collection Agency 7 years ago

      Beautiful hub. I feel like I have been there now...thanks

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 8 years ago from Georgia

      Loved the hub and pics!

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