Sanibel Island Vacation

This commentary is a summary of my notes taken during a vacation with our daughter and her two children. The oldest grandkid was on Spring Break and the youngest was excused from school to go on the trip. The Denver metro area is having a blizzard and our backyard has about two feet of snow accumulated so far today while Sanibel is supposed to be in the high 70s with sunshine today. Denver International Airport is mostly closed, but our flight came back two days before all that started.

We flew non-stop on Frontier with very small and uncomfortable seats to Fort Myers, Fl and drove our rental car over the causeway to the island. We stocked up on groceries at a Publix on the way. We stayed at the Sundial Resort, where our daughter negotiated a 40% reduction in the room rate. We had nearly perfect weather of sunny skies and mid 80 temperatures with only one impressive and short squall that dumped more rain in minutes than what we get in the Denver area in a normal month. The biggest disappointment was that we weren’t able to do snorkeling to look at all the sea creatures. We heard Lake Okeechobee had to be drawn down from the heavier than usual rains. That made the surf too murky for snorkeling. The people at the visitor center told us it is a common spring occurrence, and they are working to get the practice stopped or modified in some way. One warning is that we did not use insect repellent on early beach visits and paid the price with the very itchy “no-see-um” bites that have stayed with us until after the vacation.

There are many fun and interesting things to do on a Sanibel vacation. Walking or relaxing on the beach with the sound of the waves, watching all the birds and boats, and twice seeing a pod of dolphins chase schools of fish up toward the shore. The bike riding is great on the island with the extensive biking paths where the only changes in elevation are the raised bridges over canals. One bike ride was to the light house and fishing pier, which was crowded. Sheepshead and mangrove snappers had been caught. (The bikes were “complimentary, although there is a $40/night resort fee for those and other recreational equipment.) A visit to the sea shell museum was a hit.

Favorite things done on the trip were lounging at the pool or on the beach and the night low-tide “shelling” with flashlights. Probably the most common creature left above the water by the receding tide were beautiful “fighting conch,” which were commonly 2 inch shells of various colors. One night expedition found three of the very large conch. (We were told it is pronounced “conk.”) We read several warnings that keeping a shell with a living inhabitant was prohibited. It might be difficult to put a really beautiful shell back when you see it’s occupied, but it’s the right thing to do.

We saw two 5-6 foot alligators up close (from our rental van). One was beside the main road that connects Sanibel with Captiva. It hissed at us as we pulled up beside it and took its picture. The other was sunning beside the water during our drive through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is popular for all the varieties of birds. We saw numerous lizards and one of the endangered Eastern Indigo Snakes. It was crawling across the grass by our condo and disappeared into dense vegetation. An interesting fact about the snakes is that they kill prey by violently thrashing against whatever is nearby. Captive snakes are given dead animals to prevent them from injuring themselves in this violent activity!

There are many wonderful restaurants on the island, and we had a running conversation about which was the best that we tried. All were busy. The Bubble House is a strange place apparently so named because it has chandeliers made of bubbling Christmas lights. Our waiter was a young woman wearing Boy Scout shorts and shirt and a headband with cat ears. The meal came with wonderful cheesy bread and sticky rolls. The menu was a bit odd, not extensive, and relatively expensive. The key lime pie was declared the “best ever.” The best of Doc Ford’s was the pound of “Calypso” peel and eat shrimp. We tried the Island Cow, and thought it was so good we went back for our last meal on the island. The most interesting meal there was the “Holy Cow,” which was a combination of fried shrimp, oysters, clams, and calamari. Alligator could be and was added to make a meal that could easily be enough for two to three people. I’ve decided to leave the Lazy Flamingo for last because it was my favorite. Very friendly people in what I think of as a beach café setting with a mix of locals and tourists. We recommend that you try the fresh grouper there or anywhere else it is on the menu. There were two trips to Pinocchio’s, which is a very busy ice cream place. Try the “dirty sand dollar,” if you like chocolate.

I’ll close with a description of a memorable 16×20 inch cake decorated with a beach motif from Bailey’s for a tenth birthday celebration. The cake had blue icing waves on the sides, blue water and sand (graham cracker crumbs) on top, and a variety of sugar “sea shells.” There also was a miniature beach chair, palm trees, a beach bucket and shovel, umbrella, and sand castle. A wonderful birthday cake and wonderful vacation. Try Sanibel, you’ll like it!

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