To get on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva we pay a one-way toll. The charges can be a bit higher than a normal state toll-road, but it’s a small price to pay to experience these two floating paradises.
There are a few places to think about visiting before crossing the causeway. One is the restaurant SS Hooters that looks out over the water and across to Sanibel’s bayside shore. Sanibel’s causeway (shown, below) connects a narrow key style island that offers pull-offs on both the back bay and Gulf sides. A variety of activities like paddle boarding, fishing and wading in the warm clear waters are several options to enjoy. There are also BBQ grills, restroom facilities and picnic benches. I almost forgot to mention the great views!
The photo shown below left is looking towards Pine Island Sound and Sanibel’s eastern shore. The water can be so calm and relaxing, it is not uncommon to see people napping by its tree lined shore. The Gulf side pictured below can be relaxing as well. However, its shore faces southwest and lends itself to more sun than its opposite side. The views of the east end of Sanibel with its historical lighthouse and the stratus clouds above make for an awesome Kodak moment.
As we come off the second causeway we see the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce & Information Center. It is well advised to stop in and gather a map and brochures for the day’s adventures. It also offers several large flat screen monitors showing available tours and attractions on the two islands.
One of Sanibel’s more popular sites is the old lighthouse (Point Ybel) pictured below and left is on the southern end of the island. It was erected in 1883 and lit for the first time in 1884. It was the first lighthouse to be commissioned north of Key West. When I visited the site, a National Geographic camera crew was there filming the Iconic structure. The location also provides restroom facilities, parking and beach access.
The Lighthouse Beach Park pictured right offers a panoramic view of Fort Myers Beach starting left as we stand looking out and follows right to Bonita Beach in the distance. The emerald colored water glimmers under the blue sky and shimmering sun. The world-renowned bright white sand feels great between the toes. The island breeze and warm tempered waters make for a day of fun in the sun or relaxing under an umbrella reading a favorite novel.
There are plenty of shopping centers throughout the island to chose from. The shops range from crafty boutiques (shown, left) to island styled shopping centers (shown, below left and right) with extraordinary courtyards filled with exotic birds. The courtyard offers a jungle like setting that has an area with chairs and tables shaded by umbrellas and overhanging trees. The sounds of chirping and squelching birds fill the air. There is something for everyone to experience.
The main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is where most of the commercial businesses lay claim. It runs from the Lighthouse Beach Park to Tarpon Bay Road. From the T-intersection making a right turn and then a left at the next stop sign puts us on the Sanibel-Captiva Road. This stretch of pavement takes us all the way to the end of Captiva Island. It also takes us by the Ding Darling Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary borders the San Carlos Bay and Pine Island Sound with uninhabited smaller key islands just off its shore.
There are other attractions along the Sanibel-Captiva Road such as the Sanibel-Captiva Wetlands Trails, the Shell Museum and other various inlets to explore. Always take appropriate clothing, sunscreen, bug repellant and plenty of water.
The next landmark we come to is Blind Pass, which is the body of water that separates Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Both sides of the waterway have beaches that provide plenty of warm water to wade in and soft white sand to bury our toes. After crossing Blind Pass we are now on Captiva.
Captiva is a much smaller island and is mostly residential, but does have unique eateries and bar and grills. After crossing over the bridge, the Sanibel Captiva Road becomes a wonderland of foliage (pictured, left). The many varieties of trees, palms and other taller scrubs create a tunnel like feeling. This part of Captiva is what I like to call Millionaires’ Lane. Vistors can’t always see behind the elaborate gates and manicured landscapes, but every once in a while a quick glimpse is seen of wealth in its truest form. Most of these mansions back right up to the Gulf of Mexico and offer panoramic views.
Tween Waters Inn pictured below was established in 1931 and visited by some of the century’s most elite society. The likes of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and J. N. “Ding” Darling, who was a conservationist and a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, were among the intimate socialites. The resort grounds and structures have been restored and sanctioned by the National Registry of Historic Places.
There are several iconic food and drink establishments on Captiva. The Green Flash is a waterfront restaurant that has a second story dining area with floor to ceiling glass. It also has a lower level deck that looks out over the back bay. The brunch menu and bloody Marys make them a popular Sunday destination for visitor and locals alike.
The Bubble Room is frequently visited by many local and nationally known celebrities. Their everyday theme is “It’s always Christmas at the Bubble Room.” There is an abundance of collective artifacts throughout the three floors. Each floor also has a toy train that chugs along the upper walls.
The island’s Muckey Duck English Pub is a very popular and busy beach location. Their patio has subtle views of the water with direct access to the pristine beach. The casual setting includes picnic tables and multi-colored Adirondack chairs positioned just off the patio’s paved surface.
Up and down Captiva’s beautiful beaches are several homes, duplexes and cottage style rentals. The relaxing atmosphere that surrounds the humbling island can be a truly healing experience for someone who wants to escape their hectic life. The beach house, like the one pictured left, and others like it can be found on VRBO (Vacation Rentals Buy Owners). The same with Sanibel.
When visiting any of the tropical islands in southwest Florida, a familiar sign will be posted along most of the main routes. The Gopher Tortoise, with other terrestrial mammals are a threatened species and a valuable component in the eco system. It is highly advised to keep a sharp eye on the road for any wandering wildlife that may be crossing.
When visiting Southwest Florida’s beautiful coast line with its warm tempered weather and multiple island paradises, it has a way of making visitors want to throw away all life’s troubles and become a beach bum. Whether vacationing with kids, adults or as a couple, there is always something to see and do on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographer: Anthony Scopel
Chief Editor: Sheri L. Thompson
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper