A walk in the sunshine: Sanibel Island, Florida

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadows – Helen Keller

If you are in Fort Myers, exploring the city, no doubt you will hear about Sanibel Island. Reputed to be one of the most charming islands in Florida, Sanibel is frequently visited by tourists, and locals alike.

Sanibel is located in southwest of Fort Myers, an island facing the Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular tourist destination, known for its shell beaches, ocean views, and wildlife refuges. More than half of the island is made up of wild refuges, the largest one being the 21 km2 J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Sanibel Island is a barrier island, reason it is very famous for a large accumulation of shells. Many people come to these beaches to gather shells, and they are often seen bending down as they look for them, posture known as ‘Sanibel Stoop’.

Sanibel Island beach

You can spend the whole day at the beach, as the island is gifted with sandy beaches along pretty much all its length of 28 kms (including Captiva Island). What is not to love about the beautiful and awe-inspiring seaside? Who hasn’t stood by the water’s edge and marveled at the sound of the waves washing up the shore? Who hasn’t watched the playful or fighting seagulls yet, or walked few miles up and down a peaceful beach? That’s all yours, if you would be there.

What began as a sandbar is now Sanibel, an island bordered with mangrove trees, shallow bays, and white sandy beaches located off the southwest coast of Florida. For over 2,000 years the Calusa Indians made the lush island their home. After Calusa displacement, years later, the island was opened for tourism once the construction of a causeway in 1963 was done. Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in the effort to block the sale of a parcel of environmentally valuable land to developers on Sanibel Island. What he did afterwards is history.

About J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Ding Darling is well known for the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States, and birdwatching opportunities. Famous for spectacular migratory bird population, the refuge is home to over 245 species of birds. Common sights are brown pelicans, terns, sandpipers, egrets, white ibis. There is a population of American alligators on the island, but we haven’t encountered any along our walks, this time.

Established in 1945 by president Harry S. Truman, the refuge purpose was to protect endangered and threatened species, providing a safe habitat for migratory birds as well as other wildlife. In 1967 the refuge was renamed in honor of Jay Norwood Darling, a renowned pioneer conservationist, who was instrumental in its founding.

If you are looking for a quieter experience off the beaten path, then Bailey Tract may be for you.

Why Bailey Tract

The Bailey family was among Sanibel’s earliest pioneers. To protect this island paradise, J. N. “Ding” Darling purchased one acre from Frank P. Bailey with his own money in the early 1950s to dig an artesian well for wildlife management. An additional 99 acres was purchased with Duck Stamp funds. To honor the Bailey’s support in protecting these marvelous marshes, this area was named simply as the Bailey Tract.

As the traffic is getting busy early afternoons, you might want to stop and grab a bite at one of the many restaurants along the main road. We had some fun admiring the Island Cow’s autograph collection inside, and enjoying some food outside.

Once the worst of the traffic passed, we were ready to return home. Time to bid farewell to the lovely Sanibel!

Tip(s) of the day:

*Make sure you’re getting a free Guide-map from a local box, or download one interactive maps on your cell phone;

*Get your camera ready, and fully charged if you are a birdwatcher, plenty of opportunities to take photos either on the beach, along the roads, or the trails;

*Comfortable footwear is recommended for longer trails, and lots of water and sunscreen for your walks;

*Take all the patience with you while driving around, as there is only one two-lane bridge connecting the island with the mainland. Be prepared for long waits, as this is one of the most popular places, not only for tourists, but for locals as well;

*The best time to visit Florida is between March and May. The weather is still similar with the one over the winter, but it is not as busy and pricy as in the winter time (November to February).

~ visited in February 2022

If you like Sanibel Island, then you might like another top-rated island from Florida: Key West.



28 thoughts on “A walk in the sunshine: Sanibel Island, Florida

  1. Wow, what a wonderful place to explore. Is there anything better than Cool Gulf Coast breezes, brilliant Florida sunshine, soft sandy beaches, and a fruity tropical drink in your hand? As a seashell lover I would most likely return with buckets full of various shells, that is, if you are allowed to collect them and bring them home. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Indeed, the perfect place to relax, at the beach! As a seashell lover too, I hardly refrained from picking the shells from the beach😊 There were plenty, and so beautiful😊 Have a beautiful week ahead! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks beautiful in your photos, just the sort of place we would enjoy exploring! Unfortunately when we were in Fort Myers we had rain so we changed our plans to visit Sanibel and stayed on the mainland instead, looking for indoor activities!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The factor ‘weather’ is ruining our plans sometimes, unfortunately, and I know it’s not fun at all to change the plans last minute!
      I’m sorry you didn’t have a chance to explore Sanibel, but I hope the other activities on the mainland were pleasant enough😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. That was nice! Port Charlotte looks like a nice place too, surrounded by parks, and reserves🙂
      We enjoyed every minute of the southern sun! But can’t complain, the summer is here now, after only a couple of days of spring🙂
      Cheers, Christie


      1. Yeah, I guess no perfect place.. As my husband was saying, when we moved to Canada: if there would be a perfect place on this Earth, it will be one country with 6 billion people LOL

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I spent a week at Sanibel Isl. in Feb. about a decade ago, and it was everything you say it is, Christie. It was a bit chilly in Feb., as you say, but it was less busy. Ding Darling is a wonderful NWR and the beaches and the shells are exceptional. Lovely post of a lovely place.

    Liked by 1 person

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