Sunday, December 18, 2016

Rocking to the Island beat: Music on Sanibel

Ahh , the tranquility of tropical barrier islands.

The waves.

The shells.

The birds.

The star filled skies.

Everything in our natural world here puts you at ease, makes you feel calm, enhances your inner peace.

One can be quite content just sitting on the lanai at night listening to the breezes blow through  the palms,  or perhaps you prefer bringing out some music of your own..... and listening to your favorite  songs as you enjoy the meal you have prepared yourself.

But sometimes all that bliss needs a bit of a change.  You know the old saying about too much of a good thing.

So where do you go to put some bubbles into your champagne and change your place and pace?

There are a few good options.

One of the prettiest venues on the Island, Traditions offers not only a Gulf view, good food and great service, it also has some terrific entertainment as well. You would need to check ahead of time for other dates and performances, but an upcoming event might bring you there soon.  One of Southwest Florida’s favorite Duo’s, DUSK will be at Traditions On The Beach on December 30.   Seen all over local venues, Kathy & Dean Winkelmann will be performing the best variety of classic jazz, modern pop & rock music that has you moving to the music.

If you are looking for something a little more casual, you could consider Doc Ford's Sanibel where live music can be heard just about every night.  Just off Island Inn Road across from Bailey's Shopping Center,  aside from delicious Caribbean style food, Doc Ford's has a literary history as the Doc Ford namesake is THE Doc Ford.  If you’re hoping to run into Randy Wayne White, the author of the Doc Ford series of novels,  then this is the place to do it as he can be found writing here on many nights. With 2 dining rooms and an outdoor patio, where you decide to enjoy the ambiance is up to you!

Want something more beachy?  Discover the award-winning Keylime Bistro situated in the middle of the Historic Captiva Island Inn Village. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; they have a wide array of dishes sure to please the most discerning palates.

Stop by for breakfast and try their Bistro Style Corned Beef Hash and Eggs or Crab Cake Benedict. Prefer to sleep-in and join us for lunch? Enjoy their superb seafood antipasto appetizer or delicious grouper sandwich. Late afternoon or dinner fit your needs better? Check out the shrimp scampi, key lime pasta or tender steak filets. And don't forget an award-winning key lime pie for dessert.

Relax inside or dine outside and enjoy the fresh air and Florida sunshine. Key Lime Bistro has  live music daily and a full-service bar. And when you are finished; feel free to stroll the quaint shops and check out the local general store and the historic Captiva Island Inn.

But we don't want to reveal all our "special treasures" now and hope you will let us know if you find any great places you would like to share.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Spotlight on SCCF

Among the jewels in Sanibel's crown is the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation.

Known and loved as SCCF, this organization was founded in 1967 and is the largest private landowner on Sanibel Island.  SCCF manages 1200 acres on tiny Sanibel with an additional 600 acres on even smaller Captiva.

We just recently discovered a tract of land that the Foundation owns adjacent to the Bailey Tract.  The area is aptly titled Sanibel Gardens Trail, and it is a delightful short walk with many bird watching opportunities.  The several ponds and lagoons are filled with wading birds and the trees are abundant with woodland and song birds.  So many sights and songs~

But if birding is not your thing, you can pick up island history, geography and biology right on the land owned and managed by SCCF.  In an effort to educate the public on their newest preserve, SCCF offers a one hour walking tour of their 28-acre property along Periwinkle Way.

Nine acres of the beautiful land served as the Bailey family's farm for many years; three generations of the Bailey family lived in the historic house that sits on the property today.

Landscaping for Wildlife Educator at SCCF, Dee Serage-Century heads the tour which begins at 8:30 a.m. at the west end of Shipley Trail. Serage-Century, who has lived on Sanibel for the past 35 years, tells the guests SCCF's history shortly after they arrive and about invasive plant species on the island. She said some of the worst have been the Brazilian pepper, air potatoes and the java plum.

"We release beetles to help with invasive species," Serage-Century said.

Along the trail, she points out a lone papaya tree which originally originated in South America and Mexico. Serage-Century said that papaya trees were around when the Calusa Indians lived on the island.

During the special tour, she briefly talked about the old windmill that was a part of the Bailey's farm. She said that SCCF volunteers uncovered it after they purchased the property in 2011. She also talks about the pavilion that was recently built for special events and the Devitt Pond Overlook.

Near the end of tour, she led guests to the newly planted demonstration gardens which seemed to be everyone's favorite of the tour. Their nursery is one of the first native plant nurseries in the state of Florida. Their native flower garden has taken off since it was planted last year.

"The flowers were planted as seedlings last summer. It was an experiment to see if we could keep doing it," she said.

One of the main reasons SCCF does the tour is so they can demonstrate to the public what they do as an organization.

"We do it so people understand what we do for a living which is habitat management and restoration, Serage-Century said. At the end of the tour, I hope they end up with a passion for protecting land for wildlife as well as themselves because it works both ways. I hope I spark an interest in native plants that are built for wildlife and pollinators, not just visually for us."



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sanibel Library Offers Dazzling Line Up of Authors

When most people think of Sanibel, they envision its natural charms.

The miles of beach to walk, hundreds of shells to collect and dozens of birds to see all attract visitors from around the globe.

But , for a tiny barrier island, 12 miles in length with more topicality than human population, Sanibel is also a hub for cultural activities.

There are concerts, lectures and art showings on a regular basis.

And, most delightfully, the Sanibel Library is rated as one of the best in the entire state.

The Sanibel Public Library has been named a ‘5 Star’ library by the Library Journal. This is their highest ‘star’ rating. The Library Journal Index is a national rating system designed to recognize  and promote America’s public libraries, to help improve the pool of  nationally collected library statistics, and to encourage library  self-evaluation.

But the high rating does not limit itself to the extensive collection or even number of amenities offered to those who use it.

It is also based on the offerings of the library to encourage people to read and know more.

The author series at the library has been free standing in excellence featuring writers who have crafted great books.

The 2016-2017 season coming up is a stellar example of how the library strives to show case the best.

Kicking off the winter on December 13 is B.A. Shapiro. 

B.A. Shapiro is the New York Times bestselling author of The MuralistThe Art ForgerThe Safe RoomBlind SpotSee No EvilBlameless, and Shattered Echoes. She has also written four screenplays and the non-fiction book, The Big SqueezeThe Art Forger has been on many bestseller lists and has won many awards including The 2013 New England Book Award for Fiction. She lives in Boston and is working on her eighth novel.

In her 2015 novel, The Muralist, B.A. Shapiro illuminates the art world of the 1940s by weaving together historical figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Lee Krasner, and Mark Rothko, with fictional characters, in a story about the life and mysterious disappearance of a brilliant young artist on the eve of World War II.

In addition to her print books in the Sanibel Public Library collection, B.A. Shapiro’s eBooks and audiobooks are available for download via Hoopla and OverDrive apps.

There are equally great follow ups, but we won't spill the beans just yet.  If your curiosity is beyond containment, however, you can click here and get the full details:  The library is a special place, and one that should not be missed no matter what time of year  or length of your stay.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ice Cream on Sanibel: So Many choices, So Little Time

Choosing a place to eat on Sanibel is difficult enough.

There are good restaurants, cafes and pizzerias from end to end on the Island.

But choosing the place to get ice cream may be even more of a challenge, a very delicious challenge.

It's not that we have so many options in places to get that sweet , creamy treat; but those that we have are all so tempting.

In fact, looking at the flavors and alternatives, one might be tempted to skip dinner altogether and head out for dessert.

But we suggest you eat a bit lighter and save some room for the final touch.

One of your options for ice cream will have your head swirling with delight.  The new Love Boat is a lovely addition to Sanibel's choices. Unique to Southwest Florida, Love Boat has over 50 flavors of delicious homemade ice cream, many of them very creative, such as cayenne. Love Boat is a charming little shop in Jerry’s Plaza with some in-door and out-door seating. When deciding whether to stop for a cone or shake, consider Erma Bombeck’s wisdom: “Seize the moment, remember all those women on the Titanic who waived off the dessert cart!”

And while Love Boat is the newest addition, our tried and true traditions are equally appealing.  Pinocchio's Original Italian Ice Cream is a Sanibel tradition since 1980. You cannot miss the shop with its kitchy appeal from the bright green walls and colorful benches to the crowds enjoying their generously sized Pinocchio’s ice cream treats with family and friends. All Pinocchio’s ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet and Italian custards are handcrafted daily in small batches in their onsite Pinocchio’s Laboratory from the finest and freshest ingredients.  The flavors are unique. The ice cream is fresh (If they make it on Monday, they typically serve their ice cream on Tuesday or Wednesday.) The portions are generous and the staff works hard to make sure their Customers experience at Pinocchio’s is enjoyable.

Each Pinocchio's product deserves a special treat and for more than 20 years, it has been an animal cracker prominently displayed on top of every product they serve and which is part of the Pinocchio's Brand recognition. Do they ever run out of crackers? "NEVER." said Stephanie. "everyone expects it. If it does not have an animal on top, then it's not from Pinocchio's."

The Sanibel Bean is the place "to see" and "be seen" in casual island surroundings. Bring the whole family or come alone. The Bean even welcomes polite dogs. Have cozy conversations.Read the paper or browse the web with their free wifi service. Enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or get a to-go food order. Treat yourself to the special taste of their unique specialties. From fresh fruits to hand-dipped ice cream, grilled Italian sandwiches, bagels, muffins, soup and salads, they have something special for everyone! Hot coffees, iced and frozen coffees, coffee alternatives, smoothies, cold drinks, juices and more.

Similarly, the Island's Dairy Queen, a brazier, offers hamburgers and hotdogs so you can fill up on one stop.

Now Dairy Queen can not be fairly compared to smaller , boutique ice cream parlors.

But as DQ fans from way back, we would have to rate this option high.  DQ is consistent.  The same creamy Vanilla you love in Wisconsin can be found on our small tropical island.   The same is true for the deep chocolatey taste that may top your cone or fill your cup, will taste just like the ones you loved growing up in Brooklyn.  There is something to be said for familiarity and consistency, and we have said it.  In addition, the cost of getting your sweet tooth satisfied in DQ is most affordable.  This , too, has a value, especially for the larger family who may be paying more attention to their wallet than their bellies.

No matter what, you can't go wrong, and that can be said for the entire island~

Monday, October 24, 2016

East End, West End; Hard choices on Sanibel

Albeit, Sanibel Island is an intimate space.

Only 12 miles long with two major roads , one on the north side and one on the south side, it would appear that location is not really an issue.

And though we have written about this previously, there are advantages to certain locations.

The East End puts the vacationer closer to the causeway and easier access to and from the island.

The West End puts the vacationer closer to Captiva and the charms of our little neighbor.

Mid-island has its pleasures as well.  Not the least of which is the closer encounters to a variety of restaurants and shops.

But the bird watcher and photographer may want to fine tune location based on beach highlights when it comes to the Avian species.

The West End beaches, most known for the best shelling on Sanibel would be a hands down decision based on abundance and variety of shells.

Yet birding on either beach can bring very different levels of satisfaction.

The birds are going to be the same special variety either place.

There will be Laughing Gulls, Sanderlings, Sandpipers and Ruddy Turnstone on both East and West end beaches.

Similarly, you are as likely to see Brown Pelicans on either beach.

That said, we have always automatically assumed that the West End beach would be superior for the watch and the click, given its endless nature on and around the sandy respite.

But several visits to the East End recently revealed a few feathered treasures.  There was the day we observed an Osprey not up in a tree or flying over the water, but walking along the shore, seemingly not the least disturbed by the people on the beach.  That was quite remarkable.

Similarly, the hordes of Terns, Royal, Sandwich and Caspian, that we have seen and clicked on he West End, are on the East End in equal numbers.  The advantage on the East is that , rather than being in colonies a mile from the entrance , the Terns are in smaller groups dotting the shore line up and down the beach.

And, quite astonishingly, the tide pools that catch up the bait fish on the East End attract dozens of Brown Pelicans onto the beach.  They line up along the pools, and do not seem particularly fearful about the people passing by.

So for those who have affection for our fine feathered friends and enjoy looking at nature through the lens of a camera, there are delights on either end of the island you will not want to miss.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Bumper season of Turtles on Sanibel

If you have ever visited Sanibel and neighboring Captiva, you have not doubt noticed the lights out policies on both islands.

That is probably the most visible sign of the protective measures taken to ensure that our nesting and hatchling turtles do not get distracted from the task at hand.

And getting to the sea is the task at hand.

Lights may disorient even the most dedicated beach traveler, so we have no street lights on either island and have begun a program to guarantee that lights on homes and in condo complexes comply with what is needed for a safe journey to the sea.

But lighting is only one component of sea turtle safety.

Others include protection of sea turtle nests on the beach which means warning signs and cordoning of those areas.  It also necessitates the leash law as roaming dogs might be destructive.

There is a lot of effort put into the protection of sea turtles, as we view them as our jewels.

And there is a lot of jubilation when there are good indications our protective measures worked.

Such is the case at this time.

This past August an assessment was done of sea turtle nests and the findings were cause for a super beach party.  The turtle nest count for the East  and West end of Sanibel showed that 164 and 430 Loggerhead Turtle nests were found , respectively, on the two ends of the island.  That may not sound like a huge number, but it is a very nice increase from the previous year when the tallies showed 120 and 376.

We are hopeful the number of hatchlings,  which will be evident this month , is as encouraging.

So why all the hoopla about sea turtles?

Nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as Endangered. Slaughtered for their eggs, meat, skin and shells, sea turtles suffer from poaching and over-exploitation. They also face habitat destruction and accidental capture in fishing gear. Climate change has an impact on turtle nesting sites.

And even when not directly threatened, the number of sea turtles who never make it to the sea is staggering.  Sadly, only an estimated one in 1 to 1,000 will survive to adulthood. The natural obstacles faced by young and adult sea turtles are immense, so Sanibel Island feels a mandate to do everything imaginable to help these special creatures.

When you come to our little tropical island and pay attention to the regulations, you are doing your part to ensure their survival. We thank you~

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Friendliest Birds on Sanibel Island

For those as enthusiastic about birding as they are about shelling, Sanibel Island is an unbeatable destination.

And it is not just that we are the home for 300 species of birds, the diversity is also stunning.

We have big birds, little ones, mid sized ones and everything in between.

We have birds that love the beach, birds that love the tree tops, birds that love the wetlands and birds that love the scrublands.

But one of the things that most distinguishes our birds is not so much what they eat or even what habitat they choose.  The one defining aspect of our birds from an observation standpoint is the level of acceptance they appear to give to human intrusion.  And we must be honest and say that humans arrived on Sanibel much after birds did, so the two legged visitors are clearly intruders on the birds' island.

But , clearly, the birds are going with the flow.

They are staying put , and we are very happy for their loyalty.

It allows us to take a close up and personal look at our feathered friends---when they are in agreement with such an action.

And by and large, our waders are very tolerant of human company.  One can stand just 20 feet away from a Great Egret or Little Snowy Egret , especially when they are intent on their fishing expedition.  Similarly, a few of our shore birds are downright mellow.  Black Bellied Plovers will literally stand and pose on our shell-rich shores, and are very recognizable because of their larger size and distinctive black bellies. 

And there is no more obliging a woodland bird than our special Northern Mockingbird.  Not just pretty, but superbly talented as well, those looking to take a photo of a Mockingbird will be pleased at how long they will perch charmingly and allow the camera to capture their splendor.

By and large our herons, whether they be Little Blues or Green, are exceptionally at ease with two leggers.    And they make excellent subjects for the camera lenses.

But we must warn you that not every bird on Sanibel is inclined to let you see it, let alone snap a photograph.  Each fall, winter and spring, we have dozens of species of warblers and other small birds migrate through Sanibel.  It is a wonderful but fleeting sight to watch the rosy cheeked Cape May Warbler, the striking Black and White Warbler, and the Hooded Warbler flit around Ding Darling.  But unless you are supremely lucky or remarkably patient, you will only getting a fleeting look and a blurred photograph.  And when it comes to the elusive Mangrove Cuckoo, good luck with that one.  We know people who have been looking for this bird for 3 decades and still have not sighted this shy bird.

Overall, however, the numbers ----and species----are on your side.  Sanibel has a huge number of friendly winged creatures just waiting for your arrival!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wonderful "Sighting" in Ding Darling

The term sighting most often refers to wild life.

A sighting of a rare bird, like the American Redstart observed on the Shell Mound Trail last week.

Or the sighting of coyotes from time to time.

But we are using the term in a special way in this instance.

That said , it is a cause for great appreciation of a small treasure.

The Ding Darling Nature Store now has holiday cards in stock.

And this year the cards are more delightful than ever.

There are 5 designs in a pack, one cuter than the other.  All designs use photos taken in Ding Darling, focusing on wild life of all kinds.  The cards are colorful, upbeat and nice quality, a package of 15 for less than $15.00.  While a unique holiday card, they are a very good buy as well.

And if having adorable and affordable cards available were not enough of incentive to purchase a few packs, the fact that 100% of the sales of the cards will go to the educational programs  and wild life research at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

We are buying up the packages both to use individually  for our friends and family as our holiday card wishing them happy holidays. And we are buying them as gifts for friends and family as well.

We particularly like the statement in all the cards: "May the beauty of Nature fill your heart with peace and joy throughout the year."

While it is not religious, it certainly is uplifting.

 And we agree that the beauty of nature is both life affirming and joyful.

That's why we live and work here.  So much beauty of nature to be found on Sanibel.  We hope you will come and look for yourself.  And while you are at it, pick up a few packages of holiday cards!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Protecting our Greatest Legacy on Sanibel

As every visitor to Sanibel notes immediately on arrival, this island is dedicated to the ones it loves.

And though rental guests are highly appreciated and celebrated, there is no greater love than wild life on this little tropical island.

As you drive through the island,  you will see numerous signs of our affection for our creatures, literally and figuratively.

The most visible signs are those along the roads posted to keep drivers to slow speeds.  This is good for our 4 legged and winged friends as well as for our guests walking and biking.

But some of the signs of our respect and need to protect our wild life are not so obvious.

They can be found more subtly at the beaches where areas are cordoned off to give birds ample safe space when they are nesting and chicks are beginning to explore.

They can also be seen in the cordoned off areas designated to keep sea turtles and their nests unharmed. 

 The City of Sanibel, in partnership with the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF),  asks all residents and visitors to do their part in protecting these very special threatened and endangered species.  On Sanibel, nesting and hatchling emergence typically occur between May 1st and October 31st

The nesting ritual of the loggerhead sea turtle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena occurring on Sanibel’s Gulf beaches. This natural process has happened on Sanibel for centuries and our eleven miles of Gulf shoreline have more nesting activity than any other beach in Lee County.  Sought by predators and susceptible to dehydration, sea turtle hatchlings have only a one in one thousand  chance of survival.  Human activities can further reduce that chance.  Please help protect our legacy of life in these ways:

  • Turn off or shield lights near the beaches.  Artificial beach lighting can inhibit female sea turtles from nesting and disorient hatchlings.  Most beachfront lighting issues can be addressed by turning off all unnecessary lights,    repositioning or modifying light fixtures, or closing blinds and drapes.  
  •      Remove furniture and other items from the beach and dune area, when not in use, between the hours of 9:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M.  Items left on the beach including beach furniture, toys and trash may provide barriers to nesting or result in entanglement and predation of hatchlings.

  •      Level all sandcastles and fill any holes dug during play. These are fine during the day but may pose additional hazards at night. Please leave the beach as you found it, so that sea turtles and hatchlings are not hindered on their way to nest or to the water. 

  •      Pick up all trash.  Sea turtles mistakenly eat debris, especially plastic, which results in death.

  •      Honor the leash law.  All dogs on the beach must be on a leash and not allowed to disturb nesting turtles or hatchlings.  

  • People come to Sanibel for many reasons, but the Island's greatest reason for existing is the haven it provides for the smallest of our creatures.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    Dr. Beach Grades Sanibel Island

    As the Gulf flows, Sanibel has lots of competition .  Miles and miles of beautiful beaches line the west coast of Florida.

    So getting a high grade is not a given, when measured against the dozens of beaches up and down the coast.

    But our little island sweeps the beach awards for a variety of reasons.

    Sanibel and Captiva Islands are two of the loveliest barrier islands in the country. Once connected, a hurricane severed the two islands at Blind Pass, and each has developed its own personality, though both cater to upscale winter vacationers. While the islands are known for their first-class amenities, there is room for nature lovers to explore. No high-rises are allowed, and even concrete and asphalt are limited as parking lots tend to be sandy areas.

    Sanibel is known as the best shelling beach in the country. The hard-packed sand at the water's edge, where the shells are plentiful, makes for an easy stroll and the casuarina trees provide shade, making Sanibel the Best Walking Beach in the Gulf. So many people lean over to pick up shells that this posture even has a name - the "Sanibel stoop". Whelks, cones, periwinkles, fighting conch, coquina, fan, lion's paw, and sunray venus are in plentiful supply along the 14 miles of beach.

    The best time to go shelling here or elsewhere is after the January or February coastal storms when big waves drive the shells ashore by the thousands. Sanibel hosts a Shell Fair in March, and serious shell collectors travel from around the world to meet their fellow conchologists at this event. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel is a great place to determine the types of shells that you have picked up along the shore. Seashells are considered by many as the Gulf's most special gifts.


    Sanibel is also known for its restrictions on growth and preservation of nature. We have often spotted large gopher tortoises on the upper beach and dune areas grazing upon various plants and fruits. There are also "gator crossings" along the bayside. The real preserve is at nearby Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the home of numerous wildlife, including large birds like egrets, osprey, and roseate spoonbills.

    So the beach is a delight in and of itself, it also offers easy access to the other jewels on the island.

    Monday, August 8, 2016

    What's happening at the Sanibel Pier?

    On the far east end of the Island, the Sanibel Pier is probably best known to those who love fishing.

    But with the pier undergoing renovations until the end of August, many are looking forward to having the area back in operation come early September.

    And the anticipation is well placed.

    The Pier is located at Light House Beach. Cross the causeway from Ft. Myers and keep going straight until you hit the four way stop at Periwinkle Way. Make a left and follow Periwinkle to Light House Beach at the eastern tip of the Island.

    There’s plenty here for a fisherman’s friends and family to do while he/she does their thing. There are picnic areas with barbecue grills, short nature trails and a light house. The beach has bath rooms, a drinking fountain and outside showers as well. As icing on the cake, the pier is a social gathering spot and it often appears that the beach goers know each other.  For certain, it is a very popular gathering spot for shore birds, pelicans and egrets of several species who are opportunists and see the fishermen and their bait buckets as very enticing opportunities.   This pier and beach are must see destinations for anyone going to Sanibel.

    And if you have not been, here is some more advice guaranteed to raise your interest, particularly if you fish.

    The Sanibel Pier is a short pier, but it gets you to the fish. It ends at a deep channel that often has a strong current. This creates a highway for fish moving back and forth between the Gulf and the bay. Schools of bait fish are common near the pilings and right off the beach. They attract game fish. Use a cast net to catch some and you’ll have an unlimited supply of an extremely effective live bait. A wide variety of special fish are caught from both the pier and the adjacent beach, sheepshead, snapper, mackerel and snook. At night the shark hunters come out with their heavy rods and big baits. They’ve battled monsters.

    The pier is not the only place to fish. It’s built on Light House Beach which has three distinct sections. There’s the beach next to the pier, here you’re fishing in the bay. There’s the “point”, where the bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet, and there’s the Gulf beach. One spot may be cold while another is sizzling. Watch what other fishermen are doing and look for bait.

    And right next to the pier lies another delight for another reason.  Light House Beach is arguably the best shelling beach in the country, but there’s a lot of competition from other collectors for the most prized shells. Your best chance is to get there early or right after a storm. The Gulf waters off Sanibel are shallow. Miles offshore it will be only 40 feet deep. There’s a long, wide, sandy slope to the beaches, creating an ideal ramp for the shells to roll up.

    A few yards to the left of the pier, there’s an excellent place to wade. Remember to do the sting ray shuffle. If you want to swim, the Gulf waters are best. The current on the bay side gets strong and will take you places you don’t want to go.

    The one downside to the pier is parking. Parking can be a pain. It’s four dollars an hour. It’s wise to buy more time than you think you’ll need. People often stay longer than planned. This place will do that. You buy a ticket at a kiosk and put it on your dashboard. Don’t skip this chore. There’s a $50.00 fine, and they do check.

    So, in just a few more weeks, come check out the pier, brand new and waiting for you~

    Thursday, July 28, 2016

    What to pack for your Sanibel Holiday

    Now that Sanibel Island has become a year round destination, the climate differences are important to note when preparing for your vacation.

    In the cooler high season months, layering in packing clothing is always well advised.

    Our winters are sunny and bright, but temperatures can certainly drop into the 60's during the day, and, occasionally even less at night.

    For the most part, you need not worry about rain during the entirety of high season.  It is an infrequent event and short lived.

    A sweater to throw on when the sun goes down and the breezes pick up is usually sufficient wear to star or moon gaze on those chillier nights.  Long pants probably make more sense than shorts as well.  During any visit, good foot ware-----sneakers or walking shoes----are advisable, particularly if you intend to walk or bike.  Flip flops are fun and cool on the feet, but not the best alternative when you are really using your feet.

    But summer and early fall offer more interesting opportunities to contemplate.

    It would be unusual to need more than shorts and light tops for off season vacationing, and , of course, a bathing suit or two is a must. So that part of the packing is easy and very quickly accomplished.

    But the rest of the suitcase can and should accommodate special needs.  Our rains off season can be heavy even though they are both predictable and brief.  Do bring an umbrella for those 2 and 3 hour down pours.

    And the 3 mile walk you can do in winter without breaking a sweat will leave you a bit wilted in summer if you are not prepared.  Many long distance walkers on the island carry small packs where they keep water and wash cloths for those hot and humid treks through the nature preserve.

    Sunscreen is a must any season but particularly so in off season, as is bug repellent.  Beautiful and lush, Sanibel has the best the sunny tropics have to offer, and that comes with the downsides of mosquitoes and sun burn.

    Regardless of the season, though most vacation rentals offer games and books, it's always nice to bring those you and your family enjoy.  Such pleasant distractions add to the fun of going out to dinner or a movie.

    And when ever the visit, keep in mind that Sanibel is a natural treasure.  There will be so many opportunities presented for picture taking, whether birds or seashells or dolphins playing in the waves.  So do bring your camera.

    If you are a return visitor and can think of anything we left out, please let us know.  Our goal, always, is to help you find the best possible ways to enjoy our little island.

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016

    Little Treats Pave Way to and off Sanibel Island

    We remember when building the new causeway that connects Fort Meyers to Sanibel Island evoked lots of disturbing thoughts.

    Though it was a necessary project, eliminating the traffic and waits for the old causeway to raise the bridge for big boats, the concerns persisted.

    Will the new connection enhance the beauty of our barrier island?

    Will the authenticity of Sanibel be compromised?

    Will there be an added value for a Sanibel holiday in having a bigger venue of transportation?

    We did not need to worry.

    The new causeway is a stairway to heaven, ascending upwards into the sky and creating the best view around of the bay, gulf and island itself.

    The causeway creates a very positive and dramatic entrance onto the island.

    But the greatest benefits are not bricks and mortar.

    The two islands created with the new structure are the most special aspects.

    As you are traveling from the mainland towards Sanibel Island you will pass through a D.O.T. Toll booth (toll is $6 , no fee required for park use) then crossover a "sky" bridge and arrive at the first island, referred to as "Island A". If you continue on, you will crossover another "flat" bridge and arrive at the second island referred to as "Island B".  Both islands have been a very popular destination since built and can be accessed from the water as well. Some of the activities enjoyed are fishing, wading/swimming (beware of submerged structures), picnicking, canoeing/kayaking, (no launching or retrieval of vessels, this would include both aerial and water type crafts), wind surfing, kite boarding, shelling, sun bathing or just plain relaxing in the shade.  Island "A" has parking only. Island "B" offers restrooms, drinking fountains (located on each side of the road) and a few picnic tables on the gulf side. Grilling is permitted, so feel free to bring your own. No ground fires permitted. No alcoholic beverages allowed. Leashed pets welcomed but, please remember to clean up after your pet.

    So now our Island has other islands that share its basic, water, palm trees and pelicans.  Perfect~

    Thursday, July 7, 2016

    Some Advice on Pet Friendly Sanibel

    Sanibel Island is a haven for all creatures,  great and small.

    Wild life abounds and accommodations are made for those who travel with their pets.

    Many condos and private homes allow vacationers to bring their four legged companions with them.

    Some restrict canines by size and weight, but there are those who even allow more than one dog.

    Most beaches invite pooches to walk the shore line as long as they are on a leash.

    And you can find good veterinary care as well as pet sitters right on island.

    So there is no reason not to bring your best friend with you.

    But some precautions are in order so that both you and your pet will have the best possible time.

    Even though your vacation rental allows pets ,  life is easier when you protect the residence from any potential reactions on the part of your pet.  Covering up upholstered furniture, keeping your pet caged while you are out or closing off rooms that are most vulnerable will all be beneficial actions for you and your special tail wagger.

    But the outside precautions are even more important to heed.

    Pets should never be kept in a car with no one in attendance.  Heat and humidity can be intense on Sanibel, and even open windows will not be sufficient.  Pets should never be given room to roam outside of the home.  There are many predators on the island , from alligators to birds of prey, that could attack your little one.  And, if you like to walk, bike or jog with your dog by your side, remember to bring some water along for your pet and yourself. Lastly, though it is great fun to bring Fido to the beach, the sun is just as hot for 4 leggers as they are for 2 leggers, so do bring your little pal under the umbrella with you.

    And one final piece of advice on pet friendly vacations.  Pet friendly properties are the first to get rented, so if you really want one, the earlier you look and the sooner you book, the better!

    Sunday, June 26, 2016

    Best Lunch Picks for Beaching on Sanibel

    These days the beach on Sanibel has more appeal than ever.

    The heat and humidity is greatly diminished by the cool breezes at the shore.

    A variety of beautiful birds can be found scurrying around the sand.

    Dolphins are frequently seen displaying their charms in the Gulf waters.

    And best of all, the water is very welcoming with the perfect temperature and stunning colors.

    But what's a day at the beach without some great food to complement the beauty of nature?

    Though there are no food vendors on the beaches of Sanibel, there are options every bit as appealing.  While you can, of course, cook up something in your vacation rental to bring to the beach, there are even easier and more diversified alternatives.

    One option might be to browse the enormous selection of options at Jerry's super market.  A new department at this spacious venue is called The Kitchen. The Kitchen has a new and expanded assortment of ready to eat meal options, salads, entrees and much more.  Looking for something hot?  Jerry's kitchen offers some very exciting choices.  Hot off the Grill breakfasts, lunches and dinners include classic Jerry’s traditional meals along with an expanded selection of new items like Breakfast Tacos, Chunky Cinnamon French Toast, Fish Tacos, Jerry’s Prime Beef Burgers and so much more.

    But if you prefer your beach blanket bingo wet rather than dry, you might give some thought to Bailey's Coffee Bar. Sanibel Island Coffee Bar offers hot and iced espresso coffees, hot chocolate, smoothies and other refreshing drinks, freshly baked snacks for that hungry moment.

    And for those who need a vegetarian snack, or something delicious and gluten free, The Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory will not disappoint.   Panini sandwiches, specialty sandwiches and vegetarian wraps number in the dozens. 

    All you need to do is bring your beach chairs and a cooler for your beverages and you will be ready to hit the beach prepared for the day~

    Sunday, June 12, 2016

    Step Carefully: Tiny Visitors on Sanibel

    Sanibel Island is full of special gems of all kinds.

    There is the flora on the island, green , lush, verdant, tropical and inviting.

    There are the diversified shells decorating the beaches , beautiful, artful and unique, making Sanibel in the top three shell collecting destinations in the world.

    And there are the birds of Sanibel, as we mentioned in our last post and do mention frequently.

    But as exciting as bird watching on the island is, particularly in migratory months when there is an awesome fall out of warblers, this may be the most endearing time of year.

    This is baby season on Sanibel.

    And with careful research, planning and viewing, you may see a treat beyond belief.

    Our plovers, terns and other shore birds have hatched their eggs, and tiny, fluffy bundles of joy can now be seen at specific locations.

    These locations are marked with protective ropings to keep we humans from entering the nesting areas and inadvertently stepping on eggs or chicks.

    But the birds can not read the signs and are now old enough to wander out from the protected areas and start exploring the beach and shore line.  The parents stay nearby, but these tiny chicks are very quick, so they are not always under the wings or eyes of the adults.

    Every one walking and shell collecting on the beaches need to be aware of the presence of these puff balls.  They are adorable to view, but exceptionally difficult to see.  So walk with eyes down, with a discerning vision and with great care.

    And do let us know if you see any.  Best of luck!

    Monday, June 6, 2016

    Added Adventure: Places to See/Go near Sanibel Island

    One could argue that there is no need to leave Sanibel Island when on holiday, even for weeks or months at a time.

    And it is true that Sanibel has all the essentials.

    Beautiful beaches, miles of bike trails, bird watching at its best, in the top 3 destinations world wide for shelling are all woven into the fabric of the island.

    And there  are dozens of restaurants, ample shopping opportunities, water sports of all kinds and a wide array of cultural activities.

    But human nature often demands change, always seeking something different, even when things are pretty perfect as they are.

    We have highlighted attractions in past blog posts in nearby Fort Meyers and also  further south in Naples.

    Since those posts , we have discovered a few others that might be worth a visit as well. 

    Though Sanibel Island is a natural wonderland, filled with wild birds of all kinds, it could make a nice day trip to visit Little Estero Lagoon, about a 35 minute ride from the causeway, which can be a mecca for bird life in many ways.  The lagoon, with both a south and north end, attracts many waders , all who are easy to spot.  The trees and bushes surrounding the lagoon, can be the residence of hawks, pelicans and woodland birds.  And, as the lagoon is bordered by the close in Gulf of Mexico shores, what ever may be lacking in lagoon life will certainly be found in the Gulf waters or on the Gulf beaches.  Recent visits to this location (early morning or late afternoon is best for bird sighting every where) were particularly fruitful.

    And though Sanibel does an incredible job of protecting the nests of plovers and other birds, the number of chicks one will find on the eastern Sanibel beaches appears much less than at the lagoon.  All nesting birds, which include the Wilsons and Snowy Plovers, the Least Tern and the American Oyster Catcher, can be located easily at the Southern portion of the lagoon right now.  But one must walk very carefully and gently in that area.  Despite the nesting area being cordoned off with ropes and signs, birds can't read and do not heed the ropes. So the chicks, with and without parent birds, can be found roaming the beach necessitating the utmost care in exploration.

    But if you want to see birds of incredible color and variety without a lot of looking, a drive south of Estero into Bonita Springs may be just perfect for you.  There, at the intimate but lovely and very special Everglades Wonder Gardens, you will find a flock of Flamingo and several other exotic specimens.  Well worth the visit~

    Have you found any hidden gems off Sanibel? We would love to hear of them!

    Wednesday, May 25, 2016

    Seeing is believing on Sanibel Island

    It never fails.

    We pack everything.....BUT there is always an item we forgot to take a vacation.

    On Sanibel, it is easy to find a place to buy a toothbrush , or a book.  But not a lot of choices if you forget your glasses.

    That said, the most appealing choice for optical needs makes the whole process very easy for you,

    Sanibel Eyecare, like every place on the Island and the island itself, is an intimate and inviting space.  And without the hustle and bustle of busy offices, your eye care needs will be taken care of with great efficiency and professionalism.

    If you forgot your glasses, lost a contact lens while biking or swimming, Sanibel Eyecare will track down your prescription and get you a replacement.

    And your choices will be generous.

    The frames for glasses are very lovely with a fair amount of diversity in design.

    If you have a medical question or issue concerning your eyes, it can be addressed in the office.  Your Medical Insurance  will cover your special eye exam when there is an eye-related medical problem such as cataracts, dry eyes, complications from diabetes or high blood pressure (among many others). They are a Medicare participating provider.
    Vision plans are primarily for routine eye exams, glasses, and contacts only.  A routine eye exam is for patients that have no medical eye problems or known eye health issues.  The goal of a routine eye exam is to make sure that your eyes are perfectly healthy and to discover unknown problems. 

    The office realizes that time is valuable , and they will track and measure their on-time performance in everything they do.

    So what ever your eye issues---forgotten glasses, a lost lens, broken frames or a medical concern---- there is an island resource for you!

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Warbler Wonders On Sanibel Island

    Sanibel is long known and appreciated as a migratory destination for many birds, song birds and ducks included.

    But there is probably no more excitement and clamor than during what is called Migratory Fallout.

    This wonderful experience takes place when large flocks of birds get caught by frontal systems and are forced to “fall out” on the nearest land. These events happen every spring and fall to a greater or lesser degree,  but they vary greatly in occurrence at any one location from year to year.

    This past April appeared to be exceptional when it came to the Warblers who took refuge on the Island.

    These song birds that are so varied in color and patterns fly thousands of miles from South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, to take some refuge on Sanibel.

    They arrive hungry and tired, and gather in many of the usual places to find food, water and rest.

    They begin appearing at the beginning of the month, and generally do not leave until the end of the month.

    Though they are small and quick moving, it is possible to outsmart them and anticipate where they will be hiding.  It will be worth every second you invest in the search to get a glimpse of the Cape May Warblers with their rosy cheeks, the Hooded Warblers with their brilliant yellow feathers and black neck "scarf", the beautifully patterned Black and White Warblers.  And the list goes on and on.

    Apparently, there were bird alerts issued about the number of warblers visiting the Island last month, and there were many experienced birders who came to try their luck sighting. Some were successful and some were not.  With the exception of the Palm Warblers who are numerous and fairly visible, warblers are not that easy to sight.  Those who are determined to do so are best advised to have an idea of where to look.

    All the warblers are attracted to the fig trees on island and that is always a good start to sightings.  But most berry trees will suffice.  We heard that one large berry tree at the beginning of the Calusa Shell Mound Trail in Ding Darling was filled with several kinds of warblers at the end of the day.  The Hooded Warbler and the Black and White Warbler were seen right off the trail in the deeper , darker thickets. And there were reports of some of the oddly named warblers like the Northern Waterthrush were spotted right in the backyards of the private homes on island.  They would move rapidly through fallen dead leaves, eating the insects underneath.

    So if you are a bird lover and are looking for a week or a month on Island, you might want to consider a Sanibel vacation in April.   There is no guarantee, of course, but even if a significant fall out does not occur, there are still so many year round birds to see.

    Sanibel has something for everyone , including every bird lover.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    Find An Injured Animal on Sanibel Island? Help Is a Call Away!

    We recently saw a pelican at the Sanibel pier that had a huge fish "resting" in its pouch.

    While pelicans can easily swallow whole fish in just one gulp, this pelican appeared not to be able to do so.

    We watched as it appeared to try to swallow, lifting up its head and gulping, but the fish remained in place.

    In closer inspection, it was apparent the fish was stuck in the pouch.

    It was not a whole fish but one that had been cut in half and the spines were not only sticking out, but piercing the pouch of the bird, holding it there despite all the pelican's efforts.

    Not feeling confident that we could deal with the beached bird on our own, we were told to call Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, also known as CROW.

    It was then that we discovered that CROW has an emergency line where one can reach assistance.

    If you find an animal that you think needs help, please call CROW at (239) 472-3644, ext. 222. They  are there to evaluate and, if necessary, rescue and treat animals so that they can be returned to their habitats.

    The CROW staff will ask for your location and request stay at the location.   And they will dispense an expert or two to come and assist in a safe capture.

    Of course the agency is not open 24/7, but they do check on messages left on the phone.

    They also have a drop off location right on the island as well as convenient locations in the Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres area to drop off wildlife in need of help.

    CROW also offers some good advice in the event you do come across an animal that looks injured or orphaned:

    "Keep a safe distance.

    Please remember, you should not automatically pick up or even approach injured wildlife. Certain animals should only be handled by experts, particularly if they are ill or injured. Disturbing animals could lead to further injury and you could put yourself at risk of bites or attacks, as well.

    Some animals that appear orphaned may not really need rescuing. For example, baby birds that are learning to fly often hop on the ground as a parent watches nearby, and picking them up interrupts that process. Similarly, baby rabbits found on the ground might not necessarily be orphaned. Mother rabbits feed them only at dawn and at dusk, and then typically do their best to stay hidden."

    It is good to know that a Clinic so devoted to the welfare of the  Island's animal population is so easily accessible and available with sound counsel , guidance and direct assistance.

    Wednesday, April 27, 2016

    The Truth About Alligators on Sanibel Island

    Sanibel Island is a peaceful place.

    Small, tropical, inviting, it is easy to feel that there is not a worry in the world while vacationing on Sanibel.

    And for the most part, that is accurate.

    The singular exception may be the presence of alligators, and you will see signs warning about them posted throughout the Island.

    But some may take the signs to heart in such a way that inhibits their enjoyment of the island.

    So let's set the record straight about these prehistoric looking creatures.

    First, alligators are opportunistic eaters.  They pretty much lay in wait in fresh or brackish waters or on the edges of same for prey to come close by.  They will not be wandering the streets and beaches looking for a bite to eat. 

    Second, a full grown alligator can exist on one raccoon for months.  Their metabolism is very slow and they are not the ravenous monsters some think they are.  But neither you nor your dog should approach the edges of fresh or brackish bodies of water as the enticement is great, but the risk is even greater.

    Third, during winter months, alligators are lethargic and pretty much just lay around.  When the weather starts to warm, alligators become active, feeding more, looking for new territories and mating. It is during these times that alligator sightings are most prevalent. If you see an alligator, the best thing to do is leave it alone.

    Fourth, most deaths by alligators are not from blood loss or even from drowning.  It is the bite alone which is so full of bacteria that it kills by infection.  A word to the wise should be sufficient.
    Fifth, alligators can be lighting fast when they see you are in striking distance, 15 feet or less from them and the water. Observe and photograph alligators only from 30 feet or more away. Remember they are an important part of Sanibel’s natural history as well as an integral component of our freshwater ecosystem.

    Just as we love all wild life on Sanibel, we love our gators.  And we love our tourists.  We just want to see a sensible distance between the two!

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Getting to , from and through Sanibel Island

    Though Sanibel Island is a small, warm and inviting place; like anywhere in the world it also has some wonderful surprises and even a few challenges.

    We mentioned a couple of posts ago how there have been some rare visitors, even for those of us who know the Island well.

    So anyone with Sanibel in mind should be aware that there are a few aids available to help equip the vacationer for any eventuality.

    As one example, if you are a shell collector, you might want to be aware of timing.  If you want to find the best seashells on Sanibel Island, get to the beaches well before dawn. In addition to competing with other avid shellers, you need to arrive early before the tide washes some of the potentially best finds back out to sea. Local parks and recreation departments comb the beaches with rakes on the backs of tractors quite early in the morning, burying or crushing seashells that could have become treasured finds.

    And if you are a bird watcher coming to see migratory birds, there are now several good resources that will show you live the routes of bird migration. In addition, during the winter months, the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation – in cooperation with the Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society -- conducts birding tours on Foundation Preserves that are normally not open to the public. Birding tip: During the fall, winter and spring, serious Sanibel birders know to visit Lighthouse point in the early morning, when large numbers of migrating birds can be found resting in the trees.  Like the Island itself, the Light House is a special place and worth the visit even if no migrants are in evidence.

    And visitors who make their journeys to the Island  in high season know quite well that patience is some times needed to get to and through the Island....and off the island as well.   Now, the City of Sanibel has created a web cam view of not only the Sanibel Causeway, but of the major intersections and lanes on island where there might be congestion in winter months.  Want to look ahead and see what you can expect? Access the webcam views on the City of Sanibel website and you will see in real time what your path looks like.

    No matter your reasons or purpose for coming to Sanibel, the opportunities to discover are endless and additional help on most anything you are interested in is just a phone call or web click away.

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    Some words on Nature Selfies on Sanibel

    There is a new phenomena taking place all over the world.

    It's been going on for a few years, and is now accelerating

    It's called a selfie.

    You know, the kind of quick snap of your self with your cell phone with the Eiffel Tower behind you, or perhaps a dinner photo of you and your best friend at a restaurant, or maybe your new beautiful condo that you just moved into serving as your background.

    All of these are harmless,

    It's fun to see them on Facebook and other social media where people post their pix.

    But what concerns us is the nature selfie.

    And we are reading our concern has a good reason.

    In taking selfies with animals, there has been great damage.

    People holding a baby dolphin for the camera actually caused the lovely , innocent creature to die.  It was kept out of the water too long and could not survive

    In another incident, widely criticized, a peacock was the subject for selfies.  As with many birds, the peacock's nature and fragile heart could not handle the stress and the peacock succumbed.

    While Sanibel Island is a unique nature destination attracting people from all corners of the world, many, if not most, respect and love nature.

    But the island invites easy access, and it could prove harmful if caution is not exercised.

    For your sake, more than the alligator's, getting close to a gator to snap a selfie could easily be the last photo you ever take.  While our gators are awesome, they are wild and unpredictable.  Standing within a few feet of a large alligator when close to the water is much too big a risk.  Stand 20 feet back and grab a snap of the gator alone.  Your friends and family will be much happier with a safe image than one that could have cost you your life.

    And though most of our birds will not allow a close encounter, there are some that will.  But refrain from getting too cozy with the Great Blue Heron wandering the beach.  Your friendliness may create undue stress, and that big beak can be super painful if aimed directly at you.

    None of our critters need to be fed as an enticement for a close up.  There is ample food for every creature that lives here, and it is here 12 months a year.

    Sanibel is a special place.  Our guests are special people. And our nature is most special of all.    We can all co-exist on this little tropical island with no damage done to anyone.

    Friday, March 25, 2016

    Rare Visitors to Sanibel Island

    As usual , this winter season saw many new visitors on island.

    Word has gotten out that Sanibel is about as perfect a retreat from the icy cold and snow as one could wish for in the range of choices.

    And so there was a parade of holiday makers, some staying a few days, some a week, some a month who were first timers for our little tropical island.

    No doubt among them, were celebrities.  News makers, the rich and famous and others whom one might recognize from tv and the papers.

    But there was probably less hue and cry about the two legged celebrities than there was about the avian rarities.  While the Island is famous world wide for its migratory bird populations, these migrants were particularly notable.

    One of these, a Flamingo who may have lost his way in the Everglades, ended up in the water ways surrounding Sanibel.  The first sighting was in late January off the Sanibel Causeway and it received such acclamation that people were coming from all over Florida to get a glimpse.

    Some did, and there were some spectacular shots taken of this gorgeous visitor.....from a distance, of course.  Even with those, a couple of professional photographers with both patience and the right equipment were able to capture images that also captured the full enthusiasm of bird watchers who hoped to get a glimpse as well.

    Future sightings took place through February, though it has been a couple of weeks since any reports were made.  But that is the way it is with birds.  They come and they go, and much of the ability to see them depends on luck as well as keen eyesight and patience.

    Another rare avian visitor was the Great White Pelican who just appeared this month in the Ding Darling Nature preserve----- a good 4,000 miles from its home range of Africa.

    Southwest Florida news outlets reported recently that the bird was first spotted on a  Sunday in early March .  But it was not so apparent,  as was the Flamingo. The Great White Pelican joined the flock of American White Pelicans and though it is bigger and has a different shaped head than the "ordinary" White Pelicans, one had to look closer in the flocks to discern it from the others.

    The stray pelican immediately made waves in the birding community, including among "Ding" Darling staff, who promptly made it the refuge's Facebook cover photo.

    Sanibel Island is a very special place, and this winter claimed the Island more special than ever!