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Sanibel Island Vacations, with Photos and Videos

Updated on August 30, 2013

Sanibel Island vacations = paradise!

Sanibel Island is located in Southwest Florida, just off the coast of Ft. Myers. It's below Tampa and is situated in the Gulf of Mexico.The barrier island is rich in natural beauty and wildlife, providing a peaceful respite, unlike the hustle and bustle of many vacation destinations. Sanibel is a place to kick back, soak up the sun, splash in the gentle waves, and dine on delectable seafood, fresh from the gulf. It's almost like being on a Caribbean island without needing a passport or leaving the U.S. There’s a fascinating history, too, which can be explored during Sanibel Island vacations.

Sanibel Island vacations mean awesome beaches!
Sanibel Island vacations mean awesome beaches!

Sanibel Island history

 

The island’s first inhabitants were the Calusa Indians. They survived largely from seafood caught in the fertile waters, including oysters, whelk, clams, and conchs. They made excellent use of the shells, too, turning them into tools. They also used mounds of the shells as foundations for their huts in an effort to avoid flooding tides. Some of these ancient shell mounds are still visible.

The first European to discover Sanibel Island was Ponce de Leon, in 1513. He named it “Santa Isybella.” For years, the Spanish battled the Calusa for the isle, resulting in Ponce de Leon’s death. Though the Spanish were unsuccessful in their bid, they all but wiped out the Calusa by introducing measles and tuberculosis to the endemic population, who had no natural immunities to the diseases. By the end of the eighteenth century, the Calusa were almost completely obliterated.

The next visitors to Sanibel were the pirates, in the early 1800s. It was one of the favorite haunts of the infamous buccaneer, Jose Gaspar, until he was captured by the U.S. Navy in 1812. Even so, the island was still largely avoided by settlers because of frequent raids by the Seminoles.

The Civil War brought an increased military presence to the area, and after the war, the island was safe for settlers and fishermen. The Sanibel Lighthouse was completed in 1884, and by 1889, almost fifty families were living on the island. Most grew grapefruit and vegetable crops, and most supplemented their income by fishing.

By the end of the nineteenth century, industrialists like Henry Ford had discovered Sanibel, and the Casa Ybel Resort was built. In 1928, docks were constructed, and a ferry service was added. More and more visitors flocked to Sanibel Island, including the famous political cartoonist, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. The Sanibel Causeway was completed in 1963, making the island more accessible to tourists.

Sanibel Island shelling

 

Sanibel is much more than a history lesson. Sanibel Island vacations offer beautiful pristine beaches with dazzling white sand and clear turquoise water. It’s one of the best places in the whole world for shelling because of its unique placement in the gulf. Sanibel Island shelling will reward collectors with many different types of shells, including some rare finds.

Fishing and Sanibel Island vacations

 

The fishing here is legendary, too, and is a popular aspect of most Sanibel Island vacations. Inshore and bay fishing will produce catches of redfish, snook, trout, black drum, Spanish mackerel, sheepshead, pompano, whiting, ladyfish, and tarpon. Artificial reefs and hard shell bottoms make for excellent offshore fishing for grouper, snapper, shark, cobia, king mackerel, permit, amberjack, and barracuda.

Enjoy gorgeous water on Sanibel Island vacations - perfect for snorkeling and diving!
Enjoy gorgeous water on Sanibel Island vacations - perfect for snorkeling and diving!

Sanibel Island vacations for snorkeling and diving

 

Sanibel Island vacations also provide great places for snorkeling and diving. The water is warm and clear, with lots of artificial reefs that attract marine life. Expect to see moray eels, nurse sharks, jacks, cobia, and huge grouper.

Find great accommodations for Sanibel Island vacations!
Find great accommodations for Sanibel Island vacations!

Sanibel Island accommodations

 

Visitors to Sanibel will discover numerous lodging choices, along with a wonderful year-round climate. Sanibel Island accommodations include oceanfront condos, resorts, quaint cottages, cozy inns, hotels, motels, and other beach rentals. There are also several campgrounds and RV parks, which help make Sanibel Island vacations affordable for everyone.

Ahhh...Sanibel Island vacations are totally relaxing!
Ahhh...Sanibel Island vacations are totally relaxing!

Other things to do on Sanibel Island vacations

 

Shoppers will be giddy with excitement on Sanibel. They’ll find a wide selection of swimwear, children’s clothing, sunglasses, sports equipment, gourmet foods, jewelry, men’s apparel, women’s clothing, toys, books, pottery, furniture, and art. The boutiques also carry a fascinating array of unique gift items and unusual souvenirs to serve as treasured mementos for Sanibel Island vacations.

Dining on Sanibel and nearby Captiva is an adventure in itself. Choose among bistros, grills, cafes, sandwich shops, delis, burger joints, pizzerias, seafood shacks, ice cream parlors, and beachfront restaurants with live entertainment. Some of the dining venues on the islands are even pet friendly! Even better, free online coupons are available for restaurants on Captiva Island and Sanibel Island vacations!

What else is there to do on Sanibel Island vacations? Plenty. Ride a bike, see the parrots at Jerry’s Supermarket, play golf on two island courses, go for a hike, bird watch, visit the Sanibel Historical Village and Museum, visit the Shell Museum, canoe, swim, kayak, or take a cruise to nearby Cayo Costa. In just a few minutes, you can be at the fabulous Naples Zoo, too!

One of the must-sees on Sanibel Island vacations is the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It offers a four-mile scenic drive, walking trails, bike paths, canoe trails, and an observation tower on over 6,000 acres. Visitors to the preserve can see thirty species of mammals, fifty species of reptiles and amphibians, and 238 bird species. A few of the stars include endangered and threatened species like indigo snakes, bald eagles, American crocodiles, American alligators, wood storks, Peregrine falcons, loggerhead turtles, and manatees.

Sanibel Island vacations are unforgettable. The tropical atmosphere is totally laid back, and there’s something fun to do and see for every age group. Since Sanibel and Captiva Island are really practically one island, a trip to Sanibel is like getting a two-for-one vacation deal.

So what are you waiting for? Search online for a great package deal or Sanibel hotel rates today. You won’t regret it!

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    • Glenda Motsavage profile image

      Glenda Motsavage 

      3 years ago from The Sunshine State

      Having lived in Florida for the past 14 years, sensational Sanibel is my new favorite spot! If not for the mammoth price of real estate there, I would be packing my bags!

    • Marla Rose profile image

      Marla Rose 

      6 years ago from Aventura, Florida

      Such beautiful beaches on the West Coast of Florida. In fact, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world we have right here in our own back yard! Sanibel Island is breathtaking and home of the sea shells. What a beautiful informational Hub on Sanibel Island.

    • mandymoreno81 profile image

      mandymoreno81 

      6 years ago

      Wow, that water looks crystal clear like the Caribbean. I'm not a big fan of that region of Florida but I'd go for a beach vacation.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Southwest Florida is amazing - including Sanibel Island! Your kids will love it!

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      7 years ago from Western New York

      I want to take the kids to Sanibel in a few years - we want to combine the trip with a Disney World vacation. It looks spectacular! We have two boys, so I have a feeling they would love finding seashells, while we would love the absence of arctic air (we live near Canada)!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      7 years ago from Georgia

      Wow, gss! Grouper is my fave - coudja send me a couple? lol

    • gss profile image

      gss 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Home, Sweet, Home. Yes Sanibel and Southwest Florida is a wonderful area to both live and vacation. The fishing is wonderful. Right now it is shallow water grouper trolling time. Thanks for the nice hub.

    • elf_cash profile image

      elf_cash 

      8 years ago

      My family loves Sanibel Island!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      8 years ago from Georgia

      Herbi, Sanibel and that part of Florida are gorgeous!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 

      8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Oh my gosh...the sky and the water are soooo blue!!! So beautiful!

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