14 miles W of Fort Myers; 40 miles N of Naples
Sanibel and Captiva are Florida's unfussy cousins. Here you'll find none of the neon signs, amusement parks, or high-rise condominiums that clutter most beach resorts in the state. Sanibel's main drag, Periwinkle Way, runs under a canopy of whispery pines and gnarled oaks so thick they almost obscure the small signs for chic shops and restaurants. The residents have saved their trees and tropical foliage, permitted no building higher than the tallest palm, and allowed no WaveRunner or other noisy beach toy within 300 yards of their gorgeous, shell-strewn beaches. Legend says that Ponce de León named the larger of these two barrier islands San Ybel, after Queen Isabella of Spain. Another legend claims that Captiva's name comes from the captured women kept here by the pirate Jose Gaspar.
Of the area beaches, some of the most popular are at Sanibel Lighthouse, which has a fishing pier, and Turner Beach, popular at sunset because it faces due west.
Things to Do
Sanibel and Captiva are famous for their seashells, and residents and visitors alike can be seen in the "Sanibel stoop" or the "Captiva crouch" while searching for some 200 species.
Eating & Drinking
There's lots of fine dining in these affluent communities, ranging from Ellington's Jazz Bar & Restaurant, where music accompanies your entree, to the kitschy Bubble Room, to fresh seafood at the occasionally star-studded yet casual hangout Cabbage Key Restaurant.
More than half of Sanibel Island is preserved in its natural state as a wildlife refuge. You can ride, walk, bike, canoe, or kayak through the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, one of Florida's best.