It’s hard to believe that seventy two hours ago I was snapping the photograph above. This is the lighthouse at the East end of Sanibel Island, and the beach that I grew up going to. We joined my sister’s family, my parents, my aunt and grandfather there for a week. We were lucky in 2010 to be able to take a family vacation as well as a few other long weekend trips, but 2011 was pretty bare. The only vacation days we’ve taken since the summer of 2010 have been related to family sickness or funerals. To say we were overdue would be the understatement of the year (or two years, to be exact). We needed a break.
Sanibel Island, in my humble opinion, is about the perfect place to take that break, and Sanibel Moorings (where we always stay) is just about perfect as well. It’s kind of a no-brainer place to visit. You move in and you beach. And in our family “beach” is a verb. If you are looking for lots of entertainment, endless shopping options, fancy pools and cabanas, any kind of nightlife, or fast food or chain retail places, you’re out of luck here. It’s quiet and sometimes that’s just what you need.
The grounds are absolutely breathtaking (I’ll have a separate post just on that), but still can’t compete with the ocean.
One of my favorite things to do is slip out of the condo early in the morning and walk the beach. Sometimes, if you’re really motivated, you can catch the sunrise at the lighthouse.
This trip was so long overdue that I chose to roll over in bed, away from that early sunshine a few mornings. Sleeping in an extra hour or two each morning was a vacation in itself – believe me. Luckily, the girls cooperated on this and slept in each morning too. The grownups weren’t the only ones needing a recharge.
Another great thing about Sanibel is the abundant wildlife and the incredible shells – one of the best shelling beaches in the world. Wildlife on the beach in the morning…
…or traveling up the beach to the dunes by the light of the full moon. (A sea turtle mom left her eggs in a nest within spitting distance of our screen porch the second night we were there.) Wildlife is protected here, so if you are planning a beautiful seaside wedding here or on neighboring Captiva you can be sure your wedding site will be adjusted for nests as need be. (We found out that a protected bird species made a nest on the most popular beach wedding location on Captiva this summer, so the whole area is now roped off.) Birds trump brides every time.
One of the girls’ favorite excursions this year was to the J.N.”Ding” Darling wildlife refuge on the island. As a kid we used to drive along the four miles of sandy, shelling roadway in search of alligators from the safety of our car windows.
Unfortunately they’ve done such a good job restoring the native mangroves and marshy habitats that you rarely see a gator from the road. It’s a bit of a bummer, but good for the gators I’m sure. The girls didn’t care. We saw plenty of cool things instead and got in and out of the car a lot to look. I’ve never been brave enough to hike or canoe back in the marshes, but you can do that. I’m pretty much a big chicken. And I don’t like mosquito bites.
Check out the crabfest below:
The strangest sea animal to me (besides the manatee – which we also saw, along with lots of dolphins) is the horseshoe crab. There were dozens and dozens climbing all over one another making the weirdest clicking sounds as their shells bumped around. Weird, but fascinating.
From our location on Sanibel you can catch a good sunrise, but for the best sunset you need to head down Sanibel to Captiva Island. This year we had a lot of low cloud cover, but we did catch the sun going down as we headed back home one evening from dinner. I have a photo from several years back of the beet red sun setting into the surf that I took just as a dolphin jumped in the foreground. I should dig that up again and show you. Incredible.
My very favorite reasons for visiting this place? You just can’t put a price on the kind of scenery you see below.