Imagine an island retreat nestled in the warm, tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Picture a destination big enough to offer a variety of exciting activities and opportunities for solitude, but small enough to avoid the hassle of the sprawling resort towns. In your imagination you just conjured up Sanibel Island Florida, truly a jewel in the Gulf region.
Located just off the western shore of Fort Myers, Florida, Sanibel Island is also convenient to Naples, located to the south, and Tampa to the north. Captiva Island is a smaller island capping the northern tip of Sanibel and can be reached via the Blind Pass bridge. While only a short stretch of water separates Sanibel Island from mainland Florida, your Island Inn adventure makes you feel like you’re a million miles away from Florida’s bustling, often crowded and overdeveloped shoreline.
Development on Sanibel Island
Protected by a strict building code enacted in the face of Florida’s development boom in the early 1960s, Sanibel Island has only two buildings taller than three stories, both built before the code was enacted. As a result, the island feels like a best-kept secret, with only 6,000 year-round residents and plenty of room on its 15 miles of pristine white sand beaches, even during peak season. A little-known fact tells you something about the approach to life embraced by both residents and visitors: How many traffic lights are there in Sanibel Island Florida? Answer: Zero! This leisurely world view permeates the island’s culture – prompting visitors to slow down and enjoy every moment, every view, the breeze, the sun, the sound of the waves lapping at the beach.
Island Geography and Natural Features
Sanibel, with a total area of 33 square miles, is a barrier island on Florida’s southern Gulf coast. Barrier islands are essentially large sandbars formed by the action of waves over millennia. The resulting flat topography of the island makes it especially enjoyable for cycling, walking and running. Sanibel also features extensive wetland areas, sheltering wildlife, birds and aquatic species of astonishing variety. Island Inn guests are encouraged to visit the nearby Ding Darling Wildlife refuge for a glimpse of how Sanibel Island must have looked to its first visitors. Today, more than half of the island’s land area is a protected wildlife refuge.
With its broad beach facing the prevailing winds off the Gulf of Mexico, shells are washed ashore on Sanibel Island Florida in great numbers. More than 250 species of shells have been identified and strolling for shells at dawn is a favorite activity for early-rising visitors to the island.
The Sanibel Lighthouse is the town’s most widely recognized landmark and can be found at the easternmost point of the island. The nearby fishing pier provides an excellent vantage point for family photographs as well as fishing, of course! Sanibel’s main street, Periwinkle Way, is where you’ll find most shops and restaurants.