Lush tropical palm trees frame Sanibel Island beaches. The pink hue of the sand is a result of millions of pastel-colored sea shells that line the shore. Sanibel Island is a natural sanctuary to all who visit and reside there, including the more than 230 species of birds who share the same water, sun and sand.
Sanibel Island is a contemporary paradise with just enough “Old Town” charm to add to its character and appeal. A famed original lighthouse from the 1800s keeps watch over Sanibel and remains lit to this day. As folklore suggests, the island is believed to have been frequented by pirate Jose Gasper, who is thought to have buried his treasure on Sanibel Island in 1884 before plunging to his death. This often repeated pirate lore adds to the island’s allure and its natural bounty.
Many mid-century explorers and modern day travel gurus refer to the island as “my Sanibel” such as writer Arthur Froomer, who listed Sanibel and its sister island Captiva as his #1 favorite place of all time. Both are noted on the list of top 10 best destinations in Florida. Located just north of Fort Myers and south of Tampa, the island is convenient and comfortable with the right amount of exclusivity for leisure. A causeway connects Sanibel to the mainland, but you won’t find any spring break revelers here. It’s the right combination of newlyweds, families and travelers who enjoy introspection. Locals are known to prefer biking as a means to get around. No stoplights. No fast food. No aggressive signage. All a testament to how personal the area remains.
Searching for seashells is so popular here, it has a special name. “Sanibel Stoop,” is the popular waist-to-knee bend while shell hunting, a unique Sanibel attraction recently added to the Guinness Book of World Records. The island boasts several well-deserved awards including “10 Best Budget Vacations for Spring” (CNN Travel, 2014), “Best Shell Hunting” (Men’s Journal, 2014), “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns” (Coastal Living, 2013) and was voted #16 best beach in the world by Trip Advisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award (2011).
Accommodations are plentiful and the island offers a range of beach side hotels, pet-friendly cottages and romantic villas; all a stone’s throw from shopping, dining and entertainment. Although Sanibel is a location for a few well-known hotel properties, its cherished boutique resorts are what perfect its charm. And, what could be better than fresh seafood straight out of the Gulf?
With 15 miles of beach tucked into the clearest, cleanest sea water, more than 25 miles of bike trails, kayaking, the notable J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, tennis, golf and fishing, visitors can stay active or stow away. The island retreat is an unscathed domestic jewel, enviable for its supreme hospitality and quaintness. Old Town helps to preserve Sanibel’s character and in fact, more than a quarter of the island is a nature reserve.
Real estate in Sanibel and Captiva is as varied as the sea shells along the shores. A three-bedroom home on the Gulf front with a breathtaking view of the ocean may garner close to $2 million while a Victorian waterfront home on the canal can be purchased for less than a million. Sanibel has several single-family custom homes for sale with more affordable price tags as well. If you are looking for simplicity, condominiums are available in the $200,000 range.
Less is definitely more on Sanibel Island and if you’re ready to trade in big city life for island dwelling on the Gulf, it is well worth the coin.
Phaidra McDermott, REALTOR®
Direct: 239. 898.3778