Sanibel, The Shell Capital of the World

Sanibel Island in Florida is like a childhood memory you have partly stolen from someone else. It is one of those places, where families would move to for the summer vacay or kids with their grandparents would spend dreamy, salt tasting, hot days on the beaches collecting magical shells, diving into the warm Gulf of Mexico waves, eating ice cream. Those summers that felt endless and carefree.

The main street is called Periwinkle Way, we thought it sounded like a storybook character. Actually Periwinkle is a common name for a number of gastropod molluscs in the family Littorinidae. So, a logical name for a main street of an island that sea shells have made world famous. They even have a museum dedicated to the beautiful trasures of the sea, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

And there is a reason why Sanibel has been named the best shelling spot in North America by publications like Travel & Leisure and why shell lovers from all over the world come to the beaches here. There are 250 different shell varieties and 15 miles of beaches on Sanibel and the neighboring Captiva Island. Many of the beaches are made of shells, endless shells that the currents have brought to shore. Bowman’s Beach is the most famous one, but wasn’t crowded at all.

We visited from Fort Myers by car for a day and despite the at times jammed traffic the visit was worth it. We heard people complaining about the traffic, the difficulty and the price of parking and the toll you have to pay at arrival. If people just remembered the special environments island are and had some patience.

You’ll forget the downsides at the shell filled beaches. Trust us. However, there are other things to wonder as well and these are what fitted our schedule perfectly in addition to beachcomber fun:

  • As you drive through the islands, stop at the antique stores. You can make awesome, special finds.

  • Take a detour to visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and see some beautiful wildlife, like wild pelicans. (There are actually 230 different birds on Sanibel and Captiva). If you’re lucky, you’ll see other wildlife, like gophers or manatees as well.

  • Cruising through the islands, dream of mansion living and let your imagination fly, part of the the gates, drive ways and houses are quite impressive.

  • Do some island shopping at the Periwinkle Place and Jerry’s Supermarket. Visit the unique island stores, like the She Sells Sea Shells.

But if possible, plan a longer stay and try fishing, sailing, more bird watching, local arts scene and so on. Find out more: Sanibel Island & Captiva Island official visitor site

Want to know about the history of the island names, Sanibel and Captiva? Let Port Sanibel Marina staff explain.

This post is part of our #24IslandsOfChristmas challenge


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