Fun In Sanibel’s Sun
The 45-minute drive from the airport to our hotel is bordered by lush greenery,
large homes, small resorts and beaches. It is not what I pictured Sanibel to be. I expected to see lots of high rises, strip malls and beaches like on the ocean side.
The beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel have long attracted visitors by keeping things simple. It is a secluded retreat in a lush, tropical environment unlike the overdeveloped East Coast. While mainland Fort Myers boasts a rich history, culture and entertainment for the whole family, the destination encompasses nine distinct areas and over 10,000 acres of dedicated nature preserves. Best known are the remote barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva, over 60% of which are preserved for wildlife. Pristine white-sand beaches, exotic wildlife and lush tropical foliage have all withstood the test of time on these islands. Credit goes to the community’s commitment to maintaining their historic coastal environment. Bordering mainland Fort Myers are over 100 barrier and coastal islands, many of which are protected mangrove clusters that offer visitors an all but private coastline.
A glorious, white sand beach borders a number of resorts that feature quaint, small cottages right out of the early fifties. Except for a paint job or two, they probably haven’t changed much. It makes me feel like I am back in my early childhood. Our hostess, Jackie Parker calls it “Old Florida.” For those of you around back then, you will note the lack of electrical outlets. Blow-dryers, iPads and cellphones were non-existent. So, a search for electrical outlets involve an intense hunt to charge my phone and iPad
Rustic with paneled walls, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille also fits the fifties time warp. The two must-haves here are tacos and Mojitos. The latter are served in canning jars.
I am not done stuffing my mouth. Our next stop is the farmer’s market, 800 Dunlop Road. It is open on Sundays, October-May from 8 am to 1 pm. They have over 50 vendors selling everything from fruits and breakfast treats, to teas and foreign foods like hummus and sushi. One booth sells unusual tropical fruits like lichee, dragon fruits and mangoes. Nothing is very cheap. My smoothie cost $10.
Betsy and Vera, the founders of the farmer’s market, have strict rules. For example, because of Covid, they reprimand one booth for letting people take samples from one bowl. No animals allowed. They ask a person to leave because they had a dog. (BTW, the canine was wearing sunglasses.)
I am so full and tired from all that eating, I skip dinner.
The next morning our group embarks for a glorious day at sea with our delightful, young captain, Trevor Sushil. The sky is cloudless and the weather perfect. It is great to be on the water with the wind in our hair and the breeze on our faces. (But good things never go unpunished. When I get back, I have to deal with all those hair tangles.)
We float past Port Sanibel’s other islands on our way to Cabbage Key. The Cabbage Key Restaurant’s lawn is home to three huge tortoises named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Michaelangelo, Raphael and Donatello. The restaurant has dollar bills hanging from the ceiling. People leave messages on the bills and tape them up. Every year, the restaurant gathers the cash (would you believe about $10,000?) and gives it to charity.
It is difficult to believe that with all that seafood around, Cabbage Key’s specialties are burgers. But burgers are always available, so our group opts for seafood including stone crab and key lime pie (both Florida specialties).
Soon it’s back in the boat for our return ride. We pass a house with an exterior made of shells. The owners paid fisherman to collect all of them so they could build it.
At North Captiva Island, we spot some manatees. Believe it or not, they are related to elephants. And, when they stick their noses out of the water, I see that the tips do look elephant trunks. Playing in the water, six of them. swim up to the boat. Just like children, they vie for attention. They just want to be petted, but we are not supposed to touch them.
Tonight’s dinner is in town. The downtown area overflows with restaurants. We dine at Ore Seafood. Lights are strung all around, making it is very festive. We have eaten so much seafood, I am beginning to believe I am growing gills. Dessert of course is a key lime pie slice that the whole table sampled.
One of the most interesting places we visit is the Williams Academy Black History Museum. Originally built in 1913, it is the first government funded black school and educates first to eighth graders. The museum was added in 1942.
Nearby are the winter estates of two of America’s greatest movers and shakers – Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. They were buddies and often discussed their work. Edison’s house was dark (not enough light bulbs). He entertained famous people like President-elect Herbert Hoover and tire manufacturer, Harvey Firestone.
Later, we get to do one of my favorite things – kayak. To me, there is nothing more relaxing than paddling on calm water. On this day, the Black River is like glass, so our float is delightful.
Another stop included Lover’s Key which is an extension of the Everglades. This is a hot spot for couples who want to do what lovers do.
So, you thought Florida was just high rises and beach, think again. There is so much to discover on the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel. www.visitfortmyers.com