Guys. Sanibel’s beaches are made of seashells. Rumor has it, when the locals garden in their backyards, they’ll actually find entire conches, clams and scallops, perfectly preserved in the dirt.
Jealous. All I ever find are worms.
Seashells aside, I know what you’re thinking: a 14-hour layover in an airport sounds like no fun at all when you could be dipping your toes in the sand, feeling the tides roll in from the Gulf of Mexico.
Sanibel Island is only a 45-minute drive from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, and is super accessible via the causeway, which crosses the three miles over San Carlos Bay. You’ll find a relaxed mix of locals, retirees, and families of all ages camped out along the shore (for those who like to avoid all the crowded beaches and Spring Breakers).
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your swimwear, slather on the SPF, and leave the real-life worries behind you, with any one of these five activities.
1. Susie Sells Seashells by the Sea Shore
You don’t have to know who Susie is, because you’ll have no problem finding shells on your own. The island’s curved coastline brings a daily inventory of new shells to add to your collection. This makes the island one of the top destinations for shelling, which is something you didn’t even know you needed in your life until you got to the beach and realized how many different kinds of shells exist.
Seriously. So many.
White shells, orange shells.
Purple shells and tiny shells. Tiny purple shells.
A fair amount of these gigantic shells with growths that are a little creepy, because they probably once housed sea creatures.
This totally doesn’t trigger your trypophobia. Nope, not at all.
You get the point. Walk the shore with your kids, your dog, your friends, or just your own thoughts. It’s a great way to unwind when you’re too antsy to sit and people watch (although that’s also definitely a great way to pass the time).
2. Hit those waves
There are plenty of ways to get active in the water, but if you want a real workout, try paddle boarding. It looks deceptively easy, but even if you do manage to stand up, the waves do their best to knock you right back down. This one really works your core muscles.
It’s absolutely gorgeous on the water, and not crowded at all. If, like me, you start to think the falling off part just isn’t fun anymore, you can totally dangle your legs on either side of the board and row your way out to the nearest buoy (take that, gravity). While you’re out there you can watch the birds dive for their dinner, feel the wake as the boats go by, and maybe even meet up with a manatee or dolphin who wants to say hello.
As for other water activities, if you’re into kayaking, snorkeling, or scuba diving, there are plenty of places to rent the equipment and launch yourself into the water. Just make sure you’ve got the SPF covered, no matter what you decide to do. This is not a drill.
3. Bike your way along the island
The best way to get a feel for life on the island is to grab a bike and hit the trails. Bike trails span the entire island, and there’s a designated lane on some of the main roads, in case you feel like checking out the local color.
Call it an adventure and just explore! Find a lighthouse, check out a new beach, or grab a bite. It’s a small island, so the risk of getting lost is fairly low, but if you do get turned around, the locals will be happy to help point you in the right direction.
4. Get in touch with your outdoorsy side (because yes, you actually do have one).
Watch your step! Salamanders are probably playing tag right under your feet (and you had no idea). Don’t worry though – for the most part, they hang out on the palm trees. And it’s adorable.
You don’t even have to leave the beach to go on a mini Sanibel Safari. You might even see a dolphin hanging out by the shoreline.
You’ll of course see plenty of seagulls hanging around, but it’s the terns that take turns diving for fish in the water. Pelicans and cranes also like to hang around and find a nice lunch, completely unphased by the occasional splash (when yet another human falls off the paddle board).
If you’re really, really quiet, and respectful of the lights-off policies along the beach, you might even get to watch the sea turtles hatch and make their way to the water. Turtle nesting season runs from May 1st to October 31st, and I’ve heard it feels a little bit like magic to witness.
You’re on a beach. There are palm trees to your right, crashing waves to your left. The sun is hot on your skin and you could fall asleep right about now (with sunblock on, right?). Is this not the definition of a day well spent? Beaches are the best place to just laze around, soak up some vitamin D, and catch up on your reading.
On Sanibel Island, you’re definitely within walking or biking distance to a beach. Scope out a good spot, park it, and people watch.
Just don’t forget that sunblock! Seriously though.
You’re still reading this? Go on, hit the beach! Before you go, tell us: Where’s your favorite place to visit in Fort Myers?