After our 2008 visit, we would not return to Florida for four years. When we decided on our next big trip which was in 2012, my wife remembered how a friend would go to Sanibel for three months every year. Carrie decided Sanibel would be our destination.
Our vacation day came and soon we found ourselves arriving in Fort Myers at Southwest International Airport. Southwest International Airport is a great little airport. It is easy to get in to and out of. Their car rental area is well designed and you can pick up your car and be on the road in minutes. This is one of my favorite airports.
After you pick up your car you can expect your drive to Sanibel to take somewhere from forty five minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes.
After we picked up our car we were quickly on our way. Before we knew it we were driving over the causeway and we could see Sanibel Island. The excitement we felt entering this tropical oasis was almost overwhelming. The view from the causeway was beautiful and our fantasy trip was about to begin.
Lighthouse Beach Park
Lighthouse Beach Park is at the southeast tip of Sanibel. As of 2018, parking was $5 per hour which is well worth it. The parking facilities are very nice and there is wheel chair access to the beach.
As we walked onto the beach, blue-green tropical water greeted us. Since it was late June, the water was bathwater warm. Behind us were tropical palm trees and the signature lighthouse towering over the trees.
The tide was going out exposing a plethora of shells. Carrie combed the shores and I snorkeled and free dived looking for shells.
Lighthouse Beach Park is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon or evening. There is plenty of beach. We often see dolphins playing in the surf. On our last visit, a manatee swam up to me, coming up for air about 10 yards from where I was standing. The clear water allows you to see plenty of wildlife under the surface. I have seen starfish crawling along the bottom. Crabs scurrying about is common. If you go out a little deeper you can feel for shells and sand dollars with your feet. Remember, it is illegal to take any shells and sea creatures that are alive.
Turner Beach and Blind Pass Beach
These two beaches are my second favorite beaches on the island. Blind Pass is a small outlet that separates Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Turner Beach is on the Captiva side and Blind Pass Beach is on the Sanibel side. Your view is much different than on the Light House Beach. Here you look out into the gulf. Sunsets on this beach are breathtaking.
This beach has the potential to give you many different shells, but if you are snorkeling or free diving, you must be aware of the strong current coming through blind pass which changes with the tide. The biggest horse conch shell I have ever seen was pulled out of the water right next to me. Carrie and I have found a wide variety of shells, especially on the Blind Pass Beach side. Parking space is limited and the parking fee is the same as any other Sanibel beach.
This beach is a must stop if you are looking for shells.
Alison Hagerup Beach
This public beach is located at the end of Captiva Drive. Public parking is tough to get into at this beach. It seems to be a popular place. Make sure you park in the parking spaces made available. All of the beaches are regularly patrolled and you will be ticketed.
This beach also produces some nice shells and is a great place just to relax. The day we were there a pontoon boat came ashore. The pontoon had a small grill on it. They sold all kinds of novelties, burgers, hot dogs and drinks. I do not remember if that included alcohol, but it was cool.
Bowmans Beach is accessed by taking Bowmans Beach Road just off of Sanibel Captiva Road. There is plenty of parking at this beach. The parking fee is also $5 per hour. The beach has a nice little park. To get to the beach, you cross a small canal. The west view at sunset while standing on the bridge that crosses the canal is breathtaking.
Pretty much any beach on Sanibel or Captiva will offer up good shelling. Bowmans Beach does so as well. Low tide is always best for shelling on any beach. Beach combing is a relaxing way to increase your shell connections. Snorkeling and free diving always holds to potential of finding the bigger shells.
If you are there late, you will again be treated to a nice sunset.
Gulfside City Park (Algiers) Beach
Access to this beach is off of West Gulf Drive (Casa Ybel Road). Follow Algiers Lane. This beach also has plenty of parking for a fee. We have only been there once. If you are looking for shells, this beach has the potential to produce. Snorkeling and free diving always hold the potential to produce the bigger shells.
Beach Access from Motels
Every year we have visited Sanibel/Captiva, we booked our stay at motels with beach access. This allows you unlimited walking up and down the beach as long as you stay in the wet line. The shelling in front of these accommodations is as good as any public beach.
Our favorite places to stay are the West Wind Inn, the Sanibel Sunset Beach Inn and the Tween Waters Island Resort. The Tween Waters Island Resort has beach access right across Captiva Dr and a special treat right behind the resort. There you can kayak, paddle board or canoe around and about Roosevelt Channel and Buck Key Preserve. While kayaking in the channel, we have seen manatees, sharks and dolphins.
If you want full enjoyment of the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva, be sure to book beach front accommodations. The Gulf is just steps away and you will fall asleep listening to the surf outside your room.
Make sure to shuffle your feet when walking in the water. More than once I have disturbed a stingray while wading. It is not common to get hit with a stingray’s stinger, but it has happened and can put a small damper on your vacation.
Sanibel has so many other awesome things to do. Those will be addressed in the future.
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