How do you know when something is worth saving? Maybe it’s when you can’t duplicate it yourself – or like Sanibel and Captiva islands – a place becomes worthy of preservation when few places like it remain. Sanibel Island, home to The Island Inn, is a rare environment that has been attracting visitors for thousands of years. True, those first residents weren’t looking for leisure time on a sandy beach. The original Sanibel residents, the Calusa people, were more interested in fishing, hunting and the natural strategic advantage an island environment confers. The Calusa were not environmentalists by the modern definition, but at least they didn’t have bulldozers, steel or concrete mixers!
Over the last century, the Florida Gulf coast has changed dramatically. Before development, beaches shifted and changed shape in response to wind and waves. Today, much of the Florida coastline is dominated by condominiums, homes, resorts and hotels. Near-shore development has set up a constant battle between beach owners and the natural forces that have no regard for property lines; wind blows the sand inland, trucks carry it back; storms pull sand out and dredgers pull it back in.
Being an island, Sanibel and Captiva escaped the early ravages of Florida’s boom – at least until the causeway bridge opened in 1963, exposing the island to vehicular traffic. The islands residents and long-time visitors reacted, enacting a Land Use Plan that limited development. The City of Sanibel recognized that when people manage development in ways that support the natural environment, both commerce and nature can benefit.
These measures have preserved the “old Florida” lifestyle on Sanibel with great success. Even today, when you travel to Sanibel, you’ll see only one building taller than 3 stories (built before the Land Use Plan was enacted) and no traffic light. Yet somehow, tens of thousands of people manage to live, work or vacation here every year. This carefully orchestrated balance of preservation and utilization makes Sanibel even more unique among Florida vacation and resort towns.
The Island Inn has been a proud supporter of the Sanibel way of life since the resort opened in 1895. We’re not the biggest resort in Florida and we don’t want to be. Even during our busiest times of the year, we’re glad to say you’ll never have trouble finding an ample spot to stretch out on our beach. Our guests love Sanibel Island the way it is and we agree. Let us know if you agree too, we’d be thrilled to hear from you!