Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sam Bailey Passes: Sanibel Remembers

Most people will come and go in life without making a huge impact other than on their own family. That's a fact. Those who are outstanding obtain that rank because most of us are not.

Sam Bailey, who passed away at age 86 a few days ago, made an enormous impact on the island of Sanibel.

And when they hold his memorial on October 2 at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, there will be many stories to be told.

According to Bailey himself, he was most possibly the last person living on Sanibel who was born on the Island. In fact, Sam grew up long before a causeway linked Sanibel to the mainland.

As a boy in the 1930s, he played football with coconuts on the island. When it was time to attend Fort Myers High, he took a ferry to Punta Rassa and spent school weeks staying in Ma Alderman's boarding house, where breakfast cost 25 cents and dinner was 75 cents.

Bailey was best known in Southwest Florida as one of the owners of Bailey's General Store on Sanibel. The family run store has been open for more than a century.

Former Sanibel mayor Marty Harrity said every year, Bailey gave every island teenager graduating from high school a check for $100. He would tell them this is your home," Harrity said. "This is always going to be your home. Be proud of your home. Always be proud of it."

For the past 16 years, Sam Bailey arranged with the Fort Myers Miracle to buy tickets and distributed them free to Sanibel residents on what is billed as Island Night, a celebration that Sam and brother Francis started.

“Sanibel Sam”, as he was known, has a very rich and meaningful story, from his days of playing pro-football for the Boston Yanks in the now-defunct AFL, to his head football coaching and athletic director duties at University of Tampa for 60 years!

His interests in the historical preservation of Sanibel Island’s treasures has transformed the island to what it is today according to the many people who had the pleasure to know him.

The Bailey Family invites the Island community to join them in remembering Sam.

In true Sam Bailey form, according to the family,remembering him will not only be informative, but entertaining as well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sanibel Expands Joy of Biking To and On Island

As we published in a previous blog post, Sanibel Island, Florida is crisscrossed by over 25 miles of bike paths, making it easy for you to thoroughly explore this jewel of an island, and its neighbor Captiva.

These paths mostly run alongside Sanibel's main streets, although there are a few that cut through the island's more undeveloped areas. Sanibel's bike trails will take you to the island's many major points of interest. We have encouraged our rental guests and blog readers to explore on foot or by bike, to get in touch with the island in a way you could never experience in a car.

Now, the unique biking experience offers residents and guests off island and residents and guests on island to discover and explore "the other side" of the cause way.

In mid August, after months of construction and $320,000 of stimulus money, Lee County elected leaders cut the ribbon on the widened bike lane, added to the Sanibel Causeway through the toll plaza, giving bikers and pedestrians an easier and safer way to traverse to the Island. Changes included a widened bike-lane and shoulder, and elimination of forcing cyclists to merge with traffic at toll plazas on either end of the bridge, an often times dangerous act.

County officials’ overall mission for the newest bike path was to encourage visitors to keep their gas-guzzling motor vehicles on the main land, and help reduce traffic along the Causeway during busy seasons, all while promoting a more active lifestyle. Given the quaint setting that is Sanibel and Captiva Island, exploring the area by bike can often times be a much more rewarding and consecutive form of transportation, especially if you're just visiting for the day.

Have you taken a biking or walking trip over the new and improved Causeway? In and of itself, it's a lovely experience.

It's a long and elevated road flanked on both sides by palm trees and blue green waters.

Some may call it a causeway, but we call it the pathway to heaven.

And now you can enjoy the view and breezes by the seat of your bike!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Are Sanibel Real Estate Values Holding Their Own?

With a highly volatile stock market, a rock and rolling job market and an overall economy that has seen better days, the question frequently arises about the Sanibel Real Estate Market.

There is no doubt that Sanibel prices have come down from what they were 3 years ago, but no where near the drop of other locations in Florida or across the country.

In addition, Sanibel Island is frequently named in top tourist attractions within the continental USA because of the beaches, shelling and wild life combined with all the civilized amenities of restaurants, shops and accommodations.

In fact, just recently, Barron's listed the 10 best places in America to buy second homes, and no surprise that Sanibel Island made the prestigious list.

According to the editors at Barron's, the locations chosen were based on the following: "gorgeous houses, spectacular views, world-class golf, fishing and skiing, fine dining and great shopping."

And though they offered three caveats:
1) Our selections are every bit as subjective as tastes in homes themselves.
2) The prices cited are based mainly on conversations with locals, because hard data isn't available.
3) Your plush new retreat may take some time to rise in value.

Their bottom line says it all: Serious appreciation will require a better economy and, quite possibly, another big rally in stocks. But hey, you could do worse than marking time in paradise.

And certainly the description of Sanibel and Captiva was compelling:

Sitting off the coast of Fort Myers, a nerve center of America's foreclosure crisis, the barrier islands of Captiva and Sanibel are the very picture of laid-back living. Linked by a bridge at Sanibel's northern point, the islands are renowned for their pristine beaches and abundant seashells. Then there are the hiking trails; half the island is a nature preserve. The late Robert Rauschenberg is, even in death, one of the largest landowners. His 35-acre spread, complete with studio, is intact on Captiva's northern end.

But what does all this mean to the Sanibel traveler? Well, for beginners it means that Sanibel has enough to offer investors and home buyers to keep it a viable destination. Translated, that means that your vacation rental experience will continue to be sublime. Neither oil nor blight has visited Sanibel and that means a pristine environment for those living and visiting the Islands.

It also means that Sanibel will not offer the cheapest entrance to a beach vacation and discounts, where they exist, will not be as deep as other locations.

But there are beaches and there are beaches and there are islands and there are islands.

Is it worth spending a little more to get the best?

We think so and hope you will come on down and test our boast!

Looking forward to seeing you soon.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Five best Restaurants For Kids on Sanibel and Captiva Islands

We realize that choosing best of anything when the field is a fairly large one is an ambitious and somewhat dangerous objective.

So we'll begin this post by offering apologies to anyone who we leave out by offering some criteria for our list.

And here's the criteria---- noting that we have only included those restaurants that meet at least 2 of the following criteria:

1. The restaurant offers a large enough menu that mom and dad can have some choices as well as the kids

2. The restaurant has enough visual/audio diversion so that kids don't get bored with their environment

3. The restaurant has a history of being kid friendly

4. The restaurant is not going to totally rock mom and dad's budget

That said, here are our top picks in no particular order.

The Hungry Heron on Sanibel bills itself as having the largest kids menu and with 38 selections, it probably does. That, in and of itself, could be a reason to choose this always busy eatery. Centrally located, its a very family focused restaurant and offers both lunch and dinner with hearty portions and affordable prices. The small strip mall where it is located affords it plenty of parking as well.

The Bubble Room on Captiva is decorated with eye-catching memorabilia from the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's. Toy trains, twinkling colored lights, and more than 2,000 movie stills and glossies of stage and screen legends greet customers curious to see Captiva's famed restaurant. If your kids are seeking color and fun, The Bubble Room will not disappoint.

Though there are two Lazy Flamingo Restaurants on the Islands, the one we are suggesting is the original and smaller of the two. Actually, it's a stretch to call this little island eatery a restaurant as the menu is fairly limited. We would call it a bar, but even that misses the mark in description. Its funky island flavor, the selection of fresh fish dishes, the fun families have playing the ring toss game (few win) as well as the relatively inexpensive meals make it a perfect stop for the hungry folks in your family.

The Mucky Duck, an English Style pub/restaurant, on Captiva offers a Gulf view and because of that never fails to be busy. Despite its popularity with families, the restaurant is lauded for its friendly service.
The restaurant also offers a host of souvenirs that guests can bring home to commemorate their visit. Everything from beer mugs to a Mucky Duck golf ball is available, including children's fun wear.

Sanibel's Island Cow, like the Mucky Duck, is also an unexpected reference. (We have lots of animals on Sanibel, but no cows...though manatees, quite common sightings, are also called sea "cows"!) The Island Cow is one of few restaurants that offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. Always filled up, families flock here for the fun environment and easy to access location. Also noted for its large kids menu and pet friendly policy.

Ok, that's our take on it, but always happy to read yours!