Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Leave Paradise? Sanibel Surroundings Offer Some Incentive~!

There are dozens of side trips that can be made from Sanibel, if, indeed, you are willing to leave Paradise. For most travellers who come to Sanibel Island for a week or two, a trip off island is of no interest. There are so many, many things to do on island and many boating excursions to other islands right from Sanibel. Why leave Sanibel at all, and especially by automobile?

But for renters who spend a month or more on island, there may come a time when they just have to explore. And there are several nice destinations that one can drive to in relatively short time that really offer something different.

Very near and off island on stunning McGregor Boulevard, an avenue of Royal Palms, are the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. These are not lavish homes, but the homes and the grounds are beautifully maintained and give the visitor a good sense of the area in the times when Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented.

Most definitely deserving of the 30 minute or less drive from Sanibel. Heading south, it is worth a drive into Naples to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Although it is unlikely you will see any animals or birds you can not see on Sanibel, the environment at Corkscrew Swamp is very unique. The perfect eco balance of the swamp keeps it mosquito free....or at least seemingly so. It's a nice micro environment of the whole of Florida , only 1.5 hours, from Sanibel, and one which the visitor can experience in a comfortable and quick trip.

And, if you really want a special treat, drive north up to Sarasota to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This truly is worth the 2 hour drive, though you may want to consider staying overnight near by to better see all the exhibits. The Ringling's home on beautiful Sarasota Bay, Ca d'Zan Mansion, is a lavish estate filled with art and decorative pieces purchased by the Ringlings.

In addition to the art and decorative pieces in Ca d'Zan, there is a separate museum of fine art on the grounds which features some splendid work by Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Hals, and Velazquez.

But perhaps the most charming aspect of the Ringling Museum is the miniature circus on the gounds. The Howard Brothers Circus model is a replica of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938. Complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 59-car train, the model is built in ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica and occupies 3,800 square feet. The “world’s largest miniature circus” was created over a period of more than 50-years by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals. It is absolutely amazing and if you really wanted to pay attention to all the details, it could absorb hours of your time.

Of course, you can always forgo any trip off island and plant yourself into the sand on the beach. And who would blame you?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Art is Alive and Well on Creative Sanibel

Sanibel is a haven for wild life. It's a shell collecting destination only surpassed by 2 others in the whole wide world. It's a natural, lovely, peaceful place kissed by the sun, embraced by the sea and blessed with cooling breezes for much of the year. One can find a huge selection of accommodations and an awesome variety of restaurants on this little island.

In addition to all these pleasures and treasures of vacationing on Sanibel, there is an artistic bent to the Island that also treats the eye and feeds the soul.From the days of Gauguin, and probably before, artists have been attracted to the tropics. These tropical islands provide the soft colors and luminosity that appeals to the artistic eye.Those dabbling in oils and pastels will find an infinite number of subjects to capture on canvas. Through the lens photographers will be equally inspired. And there are a good selection of art galleries on island where the works of artists and photographers can be viewed and purchased.

But one does not have to be a professional fine artist or photographer to be inspired to create, and Sanibel is able to cater to the artistic drives of all those who live or play here. In fact, the island does more than inspire artists. It organizes them to go out and put their visions and interpretations to canvas.

One avenue for inspiration and organization is the Sanibel Captiva Art League. A non-profit organization formed to promote public interest in and appreciation of the fine artsthe Sanibel Captiva Art League helps artists to create, to grow through critiques and sharing, it sponsors competitions and exhibitions, promotes art education and supports community art.

They offer a “Plein Air” Painters Group, painting out every Thursday throughout the season (November through April) starting at 9AM with lunch at different locations on the island. Sometimes they venture to locations in the Fort Myers area.

Wherever the location, it is sure to be lovely and inspirational.During these paint outs, they enjoy (bring your own) brown bag lunches where they share painting efforts and an informal and friendly critique. Visitors are welcome. For more information, write to:

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Bargain by any other Name: Sanibel's Best Buys

Most people would not consider Sanibel Island a bargain priced vacation destination, not even with the discounting going on in this current economy. But just about everyone would consider Sanibel a good, if not great, value. The entrance fee (accommodations specifically) to paradise is affordable for many visitors to Florida, though there are many other places in Florida where prices all around are cheaper.

Sanibel, however, is unsurpassed for the quality of holiday you will have based on the enjoyment of the Gulf waters, views of nature, tropical environment, serenity, island history as well as comfort and convenience.

Despite the slightly higher price tag than other locales in Florida, however, Sanibel Island does have bargains to be found and had if one keeps a look out.There are many nice shops on Sanibel, but we have found that Wilford and Lee has a large selection of gifts for more competitive prices than other shops on the Island.

There are also good deals to be found in the eclectic and always treasure filled Islander Trading Post. This is not a cookie cutter collection of goods: you will have to spend time to go through the huge, unique and varied merchandise to find your treasure.

Looking for the latest fashion at low cost prices? The Sanibel Good Will is the place to go. The store which opened in 1995 has a wonderful selection of brand and designer names like Gap, Chicos and Tommy Bahama. The Goodwill location is a magnet for fashion bargain hunters.

Immediately off island is the Tanger Outlet Center, almost worth the trip off island even if you don't go shopping as the new, brightly painted buildings create a pretty and "islandy" environment. Shopping categories include accessories, children's apparel, footwear, and housewares. Not everything is a bargain, but if you are judicious you will find plenty of nice things for good prices.

And there are other non commercial, non material great value and price treasures to be discovered on Sanibel. There are over 200 varieties of beautiful shells that line the beaches, all available for free. Scoop up a bundle and take them home as gifts.The Sanibel Library with its lovely reading rooms, free high speed computer stations and breezy porch overlooking the pond is a great way to spend some time and not spend one dime.

If you are a serious swimmer and your condo or house pool is just not cutting it for doing laps, check out the Sanibel Recreation Center's new and huge pool where you can buy reasonably priced daily, weekly or monthly passes.

And remember the golden rule of vacation rentals. There is always a bargain to be found for last minute bookings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May Unit Spotlight:
Sandpebble Condos

If you’re looking for a great value in a Sanibel vacation rental then a condo at Sandpebble is the perfect choice. This 23 unit complex is located on Middle Gulf Drive across the street from the beach. The two bedroom, two bath units also have a “bonus room” off the kitchen. In some of the condos this area serves as a den with an additional sleeping area, while in others it has been fashioned into a breakfast nook. Sandpebble sits on the Sanibel River which is home to many of the island’s birds and other creatures; you can enjoy watching them from the sitting area near the bank. The sparkling pool and tennis courts invite you to enjoy the day outside; there’s also a grill on site if you’re inclined to cook instead of dining at one of Sanibel’s many fine restaurants. There’s a laundry area on-site and internet access is available to guests in select units. For convenience and value, Sandpebble is definitely the place to stay on Sanibel!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fish, fish everywhere: Sanibel's bountiful waters

We had our first inkling of the popularity of fishing on and around Sanibel Island when travel agents began calling our vacation rental office for clients who had specified they were more interested in fishing than shell collecting. And, many of our renters were coming from other areas of Florida reknowned for fishing, but they were choosing to vacation on our little island in anticipation of the catches they would make.

The waters surrounding Sanibel Island are popular habitats for all kinds of fish and for all kinds of fisherman. The benefit of the bountiful waters for those of us who only like our fish cooked and served with a glass of white wine is that we can eat a wide variety of freshly caught and beautifully prepared fish in local restaurants. For great local freshly caught fish, try Timber's, Sweet Melissa's and the Santiva Lazy Flamingo where the grouper sandwiches will have you thanking all those fishermen out there working so hard to keep you happy and satisfied.

Speaking with these sportsmen and checking information on the
www , I was impressed with the varieties of fish to be found and the claims made by fishing boat captains that great catches were guaranteed.

This is the kind of fishing and the kind of fish you can expect on and near the Island:

Saltwater Fishing

Whether you're fishing from the beach, piers or bridges, or by boat in the backcountry, inshore or offshore angling can bring in a bounty of fish. This area is known as a "fisherman's paradise." Saltwater fly fishing and light tackle fishing are the fastest-growing segments in the fishing industry, and Lee County is considered one of the greatest areas in Florida to pursue this type of angling. In fact, several world-record fish have been caught in these waters.

Inshore Fishing

Considered the Tarpon Capital of the Country, Lee County has fishing year 'round for tarpon, snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, jack crevalle, mangrove snapper and many other varieties of fish. These gamesters can be caught along the mangrove shorelines, over the open flats, around bridges, piers, docks or by wade fishing along the beaches or drifting the many passes and inlets that lead to the Gulf of Mexico.

Offshore Fishing

The waters around Sanibel abound in the best grouper in Florida and are filled with shark, bonito, barracuda, permit, black fin tuna, cobia and Spanish and king mackerel. Sight-casting for tripletail gathered around floating objects is fast becoming a favorite among anglers, as well as casting lines around the natural or the many artificial reefs offshore.

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater fishing is accessible all year long. The species of fish most often targeted by anglers are bass, crappie, blue gill, shellcrackers, catfish and oscars. Commonly used tackle includes cane poles, plug-casting reels, spinning reels and fly rods, and baits range from live worms and shiners to plastic worms and crank baits. Popular freshwater fishing areas include the freshwater canals in Cape Coral, the Caloosahatchee River and lakes and ponds throughout Lee County. Some lakes and ponds are private property and permission is needed to fish them.

There just is no telling what kind of fish you will find and catch on Sanibel. If you are lucky, you may even capture a mermaid!