Friday, November 21, 2014

Getting around Sanibel: Let us count the Ways

How difficult is it to travel a 12 mile long tropical island?

When it comes to Sanibel, it is as easy as one could imagine.

With no street lights and few stop signs, going "the distance" by car is quite simple, and nearly fool proof when it comes to getting lost.  No matter what direction you head in, when you come to the water, you know you have reached the end of your path.

The same holds true for biking the island.  And the safe, flat surfaces of the 25 miles of Sanibel bike paths are among the reasons the Island has once again garnered an award.  The national Bike Friendly Community program has now given the island its "silver status" recognition.  Only three other cities in the state of Florida hold the title. And Sanibel celebrated with opening up a new bike trail.

But if you don't want to drive the island, and prefer not to rent a bike to see it, we have a cute and colorful trolley at your call.

Offering a free pick up and return, our turquoise and yellow minibus makes dozens of stops where you can get off and shop, eat or simply look.  Operating on a Monday to Friday basis, you do call and schedule your pick up.

One of the nicest ways to see the island is by water.  And the island has many options open for those inclined to make the Gulf, bay and estuaries their sight seeing path.  You can rent your own boat, you can kayak or canoe and you can hire a boat and captain and take one of several tours that will take you around Sanibel..... or to neighboring islands. One of the best kayaking trails is Commodore Creek Trail. It  is a 2.5 kayaking trail located in J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

While we like all the options above, we prefer going on your own special power.

And your two legs can carry you far on such a small isle.

You need not see the Island all at once, but view it in smaller bites.

For example , The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) offers a trail on their property that is a nice appetizer for a larger island meal of walking.

SCCF has 4 miles of trails at the Nature Center on Sanibel-Captiva Road, a .6-mile trail in the Periwinkle/Blue Skies Preserves on Periwinkle Way and two short (around 500 feet) trails on the Bob Wigley Preserve that are open to the public. There are also trails in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve, managed by SCCF and the City of Sanibel, which are accessible from Island Inn Road. 

And there are several nice options for walking within Ding Darling.
There are three trails that can be accessed from Wildlife Drive. The 4 mile, round-trip Indigo Trail leaves from the Education Center parking lot and ends at the cross-dike, which extends from the Drive. Along the trail, visitors often spot wildlife such as alligators, night herons, and white ibis. The Wulfert Keys Trail off the Drive is a 1/4 mile trail leading to a view of Pine Island Sound. The Shell Mound Trail is a 1/4 mile, universally accessible, interpretive boardwalk. The vegetation along the trail sustained a lot of damage in 2004 from Hurricane Charley, but visitors can still learn about the ancient Calusa Indian and the native vegetation while reading interpretive panels along the boardwalk.

The Bailey Tract is located off Tarpon Bay Rd. This 100 acre parcel is a unique area of the refuge with its interior wetland where freshwater plants and wildlife dominate. The trails can be accessed by walking or biking at any time.

But for the best lay of the entire island by foot, there is an excellent map showing various legs that can be walked on this link:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Lots of things Happening at Sanibel's Bowman's Beach

Many visitors to Sanibel Island know of Bowman's Beach on the far west end because it does have great shelling.

For those not able to walk to the beach, it provides ample parking at a reasonable cost.

And for the family desiring clean and convenient facilities, Bowman's offers those as well.

So there are several reasons already present to choose this public beach.

And now there will be more.

Sanibel Island, famed for beaches and bike paths, soon will extend the latter asset to Bowman's Beach.

City leaders recently learned they’d scored a $200,000 matching grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to help build a special half-mile-long, shared-use path to Bowman’s Beach Park.

Shared-use paths are off-limits to motor vehicles. They typically are paved, are wider than sidewalks and used by cyclists, pedestrians, dog-walkers, and people using wheelchairs and other forms of mobility assistance.

This new segment will take people across Sanibel-Captiva Road on a new crosswalk, and then onto a paved path that will parallel Bowman’s Beach Road before veering west, and ending near the park’s restrooms, playground and picnic area.

Patti Sousa, who serves on the Sanibel Bicycle Club’s board of directors, is delighted.
During busy times, Bowman’s Beach Road is crowded with drivers, pedestrians, cyclists “and kids on skateboards,” Sousa said, adding: “It’s quite narrow. There’s no wiggle room — no room for error.”

The path is but one enhancement scheduled for Bowman’s: With help from county bed tax dollars, a boardwalk and lookout in the park’s bayou area and a shade structure for its ADA-accessible Gulf observation deck also will go up in the year ahead. This should enhance the appeal of Bowman’s, already a contender for most-popular Sanibel beach.

According to the city of Sanibel website, the island already has more shared-use path — nearly 23 miles — than it does beachfront — 15.5 miles.

Bowman’s path is part of a master plan city leaders created in collaboration with the bicycle club, in 2009. The city began building its first bicycle and pedestrian-friendly path along the main artery — Periwinkle Way — in the mid-1970s.

In 2010, Sanibel became the first Southwest Florida community to be designated a “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists.

Adding to the bicycle paths “isn’t just for vacationers, it’s also great for the residents,” said Billy Kirkland, Sanibel resident and the owner of Billy’s Rentals, one of the island’s major rental-bike suppliers.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A shell by any other name: Sanibel's best finds

We have written about the enticement of shells on Sanibel Island on other blog posts.

The diversity and abundance bring people here from far away places.

Sanibel is on the top tier of shelling destinations in the world.

But we want to drill down a little bit on this piece.

And certainly a closer look compels us to laud one of the tiniest shells on Sanibel.  The Angulate Wentletrap shell is a diminutive beauty.

It is so small that a child's outstretched  hand can (gently)  hold several Wentletraps with space between them. 

Once the home of sea snails, these beautiful spirals have a name of foreign origin.   The common name wentletraps is derived from the Dutch word wenteltrap, denoting a spiral staircase. This refers to the striking form and sculpture of the shells of the mollusks in this genus, and to a lesser extent, the whole family.

Because of their size, the wentletraps often go unnoticed and uncollected on shell abundant Sanibel. Every tide that hits Sanibel is like the upending of a treasure chest. In the morning, the blindingly white beaches of our island off Florida's Gulf coast twinkle with the bounty deposited overnight: a kaleidoscopic shimmer of seashells, in quantities that almost obscure the sand, in sizes from the too small to notice to the big enough to trip over, in such colors that you start to suspect mollusks, as a species, of being outrageous showoffs.

It's impossible to develop a comprehensive familiarity with this trove in just a few days, but you can learn enough to tell your wentletraps from your semeles, arks and cockles. But when on the beach and doing the Sanibel Stoop, you need to tread carefully, as many of these baubles have sharp spikes, and be even warier about picking things up, as quite a few of them are still inhabited by their original owners, or by hermit crabs, the squatters of the deep. There is manifold competition for Sanibel's daily jackpot. The beach is an all-you-can-eat buffet for assorted wader birds, and a motherlode for shell collectors.

After a few days on Sanibel, though, you can understand the single-mindedness of the shell collectors, and even their reasons for being up this early.

And we are willing to bet, the next time you want a memorable vacation you will be among the collectors.