Exploring Sanibel and Captiva Islands

KARE Project update – Exploring Sanibel and Captiva Islands chapter.

It’s been a few months since we posted a new KARE Project update blog . . . I guess we have been busy enjoying our Snowbird time here in Ft. Myers Beach, FL.  We spent a lot of time checking out the beaches, shops and eateries on the Islands of Sanibel and Captiva so we are dedicating this blog to that.


Many may not know this but Sanibel and Captiva Islands formed as one island about 6,000 years ago.  It is interesting how they got their names.  As for Sanibel . . . many believe got it’s name from “(Santa) Ybel”, which survives in the old placename “Point Ybel”, where the Sanibel Island Lighthouse is located.  Another story says it was named by Juan Ponce de León for Queen Isabella I of Castile; the island may indeed be named for this queen or the saint whose name she shares, either by Ponce de León or someone later. Another story attributes the name to Roderigo Lopez, the first mate of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), after his beautiful lover Sanibel whom he had left behind in Spain.  As for Captiva . . . According to local folklore, it got it’s name because the pirate captain José Gaspar (Gasparilla) held his female prisoners on the island for ransom (or worse).  As I mentioned Captiva was originally part of neighboring Sanibel Island to the southeast, it was severed in 1926 when a hurricane’s storm surge created a new channel, Blind Pass so the folklore on how Captiva got it’s name my not be true . . . But I like it 🙂

It’s hard to find a place to start since we have been here for almost four months and have made many, many trips to the islands.  I suppose the first place to start would be the drive to the islands from Ft. Myers Beach.  The Islands are only about 5 miles from where we stay at Gulf Waters RV Resort.  There is only one road to get there and had to cross a toll bridge ($6.00) each time we went . . . but it was worth it.

toll bridge

Sanibel and Captiva islands are famous for the “shelling” along the Gulf side beaches.  On Sanibel they have a saying . . . Come do the Sanibel Stoop.  Here are a couple of beach goers doing the stoop 🙂

Sanibel Stoop

We spent a number of Saturdays and Sundays doing “the Stoop” ourselves and found lots of cool shells.



Some of the shells still had the remains of critters that lived in them inside.  We learned how to clean them and restore the shell color . . . took a week or better though.  On our trips to the island beaches we took time out of doing “the stoop” to just relax in the sun and walk the beach (without doing “the stoop”).






The above pics were taken in February  . . . so the water was still a bit chilly 🙂

The Kids had fun at the beach tookids beach1

kids beach2

kids beach3

Another afternoon we went with our friends Bob and Cindy and the “Kids” (Tessy, Tucker & Bella) to the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.


The Refuge is along the Intercoastal side of Sanibel Island encompassing McIntyre Creek and the Sanibel and Hardworking Bayous.  Actually, about 3/4 of this side of the island is wildlife refuge.  The refuge is a “Drive-Thru” with pull offs along the way.  Also, have some hiking trails so you can hike through most of the refuge too.  We saw tons of shore birds, pelican (both White & Brown), egrets, Ibis, storks and even some Roseate Spoonbills.  Here are some of the pictures I took.

Wood Stork.woodstork


Little Blue Heronlittleblue

Countless shore birds like Willets, Sandpipers, Plovers, Sanderlings, gulls and even a few pelicans in this shotshorebirds


Rudy Turnstone and Sanderling (Sanderling is small one at the top).Turnstone-Sanderling

Great White Egretgreatwhite

 Roseate Spoonbills . . . couldn’t get very close to these 🙁roseate

Here’s a Roseate Spoonbill I got lucky to get close to . . . you can see it was banded

Also, came across a couple of Horseshoe crabs  . . . not sure what they were doing??horseshoecrab

We also hiked some of the trails with the “Kids”,  We all had a great afternoon.

We visited The Sanibel Lighthouse located on the eastern end of the island.  Residents of Sanibel Island first petitioned for a lighthouse in 1833.  Congress finally appropriated funds for a lighthouse in 1883. The foundation for the new lighthouse was completed in early 1884, but the ship bringing ironwork for the tower sank two miles (3 km) from Sanibel Island. A crew of hard-hat divers from Key West recovered all but two of the pieces for the tower.  The grounds are open to the public, but the lighthouse itself is not.lighthouse1


Both Sanibel and Captiva Islands have many beautiful homes and many “Island Rentals’.  The population for Sanibel in 2010 was 6,469 compared to 583 for Captiva.  Here are a few of the homes on Captiva, all either on the water or a very short walk to the beach. Captiva house3

Captiva house2

Captiva house1

Captiva house4

Here are a few of the “Island Rentals” . . . island rental1

island rental2

Here’s a house that was for sale for 2.4+ million$ . . . and it wasn’t on the beach.for sale1

for sale2

Went to Captiva one evening for the sunset with Bob and Cindy.Captiva Sunset1

Captiva Sunset2

Captiva Sunset3

Captiva Sunset4

Captiva Sunset5

 After the sunset we went to a local eatery on Captiva called RC Otter’s for dinner.RCOtters2



After dinner we walked across the street to the famous “Bubble Room” for cake.Bubbleroom1





We patronized many of the other eateries on the islands too.  We had breakfast at the Lighthouse Café a few times . . . great food and excellent homemade Strawberry jam.LHcafe

Had a light supper one evening at the Blue Giraffe.Blue Giraffe1

Took the Kids for a “Doggie Day” and had lunch back at RC Otter’s.RCOtters1


On another “Doggie Day” we went with the Kids for breakfast on Sanibel at the Over Easy Café.Over Easy1Over Easy2 

Over Easy3

There are also many fun shops to explore especially on Sanibel.  Captiva, being it is a much smaller island has a few shops.  We did find a few more things to add to our “travels collection”. . . . Me . . . some Tee Shirts and a few hats along with some kitch to decorate outside of Homey.  Lisa . . . some new sandals and some kitch for inside Homey.  There are also many sea shell shops if you don’t have time to do the Sanibel Stoop yourself.

So, if you ever get the chance while in SW Florida, it is definitely worth it to spend some time exploring  Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  Whether it’s time at the beaches or checking out the great eateries or even just visiting the shops you will have great time . . . we did!!

2 Replies to “Exploring Sanibel and Captiva Islands”

  1. Hey Bruce,

    We visited Sanibel and Captiva Islands in January. The Bubble Room was cool place.

    I hope you’re doing well.


  2. I loved the photos.

    On a day like today here in MN it was a welcome warm sight.

    I liked seeing some of the places I’ve been to and some of the others I haven’t. It makes me want to go back again and explore some more.

    It is fun to see you guys having such a great time.

    Keep the blog a blogging. I like your updates. It is always fun to see where you guys have landed.

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