how I spent my summer vacation…off season on Sanibel Island

IMG_7774If you ask me, the perfect summer evening includes a long, leisurely stroll on a beach.  Slowed pace, feet covered in sand and tickled by the surf, eyes scanning the tide line in search of seashells, breathing in the salty breeze-absolute heaven.  We may not be world travelers, or even frequent vacationers, but one thing is certain, we will more than likely visit a beach if we plan a trip.  Over the years, we have been to beaches on the East, West and Gulf coasts but this was the first time we visited Sanibel Island on the Gulf coast of Florida.

As is typical in the Gulf, the surf is a bit gentler and the waves are smaller (most of the time) and during our recent visit, we had no reason to worry about riptides.  We chose to visit in July for two reasons; it was the best time for Darry to take time off and it was off-peak season for the island.  To be honest, July really is a great time to visit the area.  The lack of a crowd meant easy access to public parking, although you can easily bicycle to just about anywhere on the island.  It also meant that we did not have to wait for much.  Restaurants always had a table available, bicycles were easy to come by, tourist attractions were sparsely populated and traffic was just about nonexistent on the island.

IMG_7776

If you have ever heard of Sanibel Island, you know it as a shell collectors paradise.  That was just one of the reasons I wanted to visit.  Read up on the island and you will see all types of activities and festivals connected to sea shells.  On our first evening, we walked the beach and found ourselves stunned by the amount of shells just laying on the sand.   IMG_7777The stripes formed along the tidal path are just littered with shells, mostly small but still beautiful and worthy of collecting.

IMG_7778As I took photos, I noticed Darry doing his best “Sanibel Stoop” while he scanned the surface of the sand for treasures.

IMG_7780He quickly retrieved a few shells to show me, from left to right:  a Scotch bonnet and two Florida fighting conchs.

IMG_7786It was somewhat addicting.  Finding intact shells was also pretty easy and we had a bag full in no time.

IMG_7788So many shells…

IMG_7790Horse conchs can get very large, the world record shell is just over 2 feet long, but we didn’t have much luck finding anything over an inch or so!

We did more than just stroll the beach!  The folks living on the island have a strong sense of preservation and quite a bit of the land has been designated as preserves.  We visited JN “Ding” Darling Wildlife Preserve on one afternoon while bicycling and the next morning returned to take a guided kayak excursion in Tarpon Bay. If you visit the island, I highly recommend visiting the preserve on bicycle because you can see so much more and it is easier to stop along the way.  As for the kayak trail, do it but if you are paddling with your spouse and neither of you knows what you are doing, consider going in a boat by yourself!  Two novices do not make an expert, synchronized team… For all of the information on the preserve and Tarpon Bay Explorers, visit the website.

We found several small trails on the island as well and one afternoon, we parked the bikes and explored the Periwinkle Preserve.  This small 17 acre preserve has gone extensive renovations to remove invasive plants.  We walked the short trail that can be accessed from the bike and walking path on Periwinkle Way, the main road on the island.  The slide show is just some of the plants we saw there and elsewhere on the island.

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Rather than bore you with a weeks worth of photos, check back here, I will post more on the trip soon!

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