Technically speaking, summer is over. Fortunately, the weather on Sanibel Island doesn’t seem to concern itself with technicalities. You might not be concerned either, especially if you are spending part of this fall or winter stretched out on Island Inn’s beach with warm sand under your heels.
To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway’s last novel, Islands in the Stream: if you live for a long time in a tropical island climate, you become much more attuned to the subtle shifts in the seasons. A Sanibel native can detect the change in the air in late September; sultry nights are fewer. By October, the heat of the day is a bit less intense. Come November, you might even reach for a sweater after the sun goes down. High and low temperatures in December through February are usually only 20 degrees “colder” than at the peak of summer (if you call low-to-mid-70s cold!) Visitors to Island Inn from Midwest states are accustomed to average winter highs that vary by 50 degrees or more, compared to the average summer highs, so they are pleasantly surprised by the mild “winter” weather they encounter on Sanibel and Captiva.
Southwest Florida is a warm place in general, but the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico surrounding Sanibel serve as a buffer from more extreme temperature shifts that occasionally sweep down the peninsula. Water changes temperature more slowly than land – thus the micro-climate of Sanibel and Captiva islands is strongly influenced year-round by the Gulf and the Bay.
Because of this blessed bit of meteorological circumstance, autumn and winter are peak seasons for visitors to the islands. Shedding the coats and gloves they wear at home late in the year, couples and families return to Island Inn from points north year after year. It’s a traditional migration, but the novelty of the gracious Sanibel climate doesn’t lose its capacity to provoke smiles. In fact, a more relaxed attitude seems to be universal. That’s why early settlers of the region made their homes here – despite skeptical opinions from others who – early in the 1900s – saw southern Florida as nothing but a barren, mosquito-infested swamp. Those pioneers soon proved that assumption wrong and once the news got out the boom was on. Sanibel Islanders have been vigorous in guarding the old-Florida way of life, strictly limiting growth on the islands, literally preserving their environment.
Humans are not the only warmth-seeking visitors this time of year. Hundreds of species of birds linger on Sanibel during their annual migrations. As a result, the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (a short bicycle ride from Island Inn) is a world-renowned spot for bird-watching.
Sanibel Island’s weather is a magnet for visitors from around the world. Any time of year, the climate evokes the familiar saying: Come on down, the weather’s fine!