By Debi Lander

Just south of Fort Myers, you’ll find a chain of small remote islands except Sanibel and Captiva. They’re known for their quiet residential communities, their sparkling white sand beaches, and the Gulf’s pristine turquoise water. Seashells, however, bring them distinction. 

Sanibel lies in an east-west position making it one of the few islands that run perpendicular to Florida’s coast. This lineup causes the ocean currents to flush water downward and allows Sanibel to capture shells — thus earning the nickname “Shelling Capital of the World.” The laid-back isle attracts seashell collectors from all over the globe with more than 250 varieties. Add the many outdoor activities to the natural attractions, and you’ve got a wonderful getaway for couples, families, or solo travelers. 

Tutoring club of st johns. Text tutoring to 484848 for a chance to win one month of free tutoring

I was impressed with the 25 miles of bike paths, most of them shaded and off-road, making them far safer. Half of Sanibel’s acreage has been preserved against development, and buildings must stand no taller than the tallest palm tree.

Nature lovers, especially birders, are drawn to J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This area becomes home to many seasonal mating birds who build their nests in the protected landscape. Best time to visit is late winter through spring. 

In addition to beaching, boating, kayaking, golf, and tennis, the east end allows a peek at the historic 98-foot tall Sanibel Island Lighthouse. Don’t expect a circular building. Sanibel Lighthouse was built with an iron skeleton tower back in 1884 and lit with kerosene oil. To get to the top of the lighthouse, the lighthouse keeper had to walk up an external spiral staircase with 127 steps. 

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only museum in the U.S. devoted entirely to shells and mollusks. The octagonally-shaped building looks impressive, but so was the entrance fee of $25. I skipped it and browsed shells in a seashell shop nearby.

Cross a small bridge at the northern end of Sanibel, and you’re on Captiva, where magnificent villas hide behind lush tropical foliage. At the tip, you’ll discover the Seven Seas Resort with a full marina and sailing school and the place where day-trippers board cruises to Cabbage Key or Useppa Islands. Sunset viewing on Captiva becomes a daily ritual, except when those late afternoon thunderstorms creep up. I missed the sunsets!

I’d heard about the famous Dollar Bill Bar on Cabbage Key and decided to take the cruise. Once I arrived on the rustic, Old Florida style island, I ate lunch outdoors overlooking the marina. Afterward, I popped inside the inn to find walls thickly papered with old dollar bills. The ceiling, beams, and rafters all drip with hanging currency. When the old bills fall off, the staff collects them for an annual gift to a charity. Guests enjoy signing a dollar and adding it to the wall, wondering if it will still be there, should they return. Cabbage Key offers a few rental properties, but most of the 100 acres remain undeveloped, with no paved roads and no cars. A short nature trail near the inn proved interesting. 

Back on Sanibel, I indulged in the relaxing vibe. The islands offer a variety of fine restaurants, so dining out becomes the treat. Unlike the Keys, Sanibel and Captiva’s nightlife remains low-key. I look forward to returning.

If you go:

Visit to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.

Photo courtesy Debi Lander

Dollar bills on the wall and ceiling, Cabbage Key Inn.

  • Ackerman Urology We specialize in Prostate health, sexual health, bladder health, and Kidney health
  • Smiles by Glenos & Hadfic Orthodontists
  • I.T. Promise Inc. Computer Services Professional Computer Services business and residential
  • Pavers concrete and more Free estimates
  • Snip's Tree and stump service over 25 years experience
  • The right cleaners, LLC House cleaning services
  • Premier Homes Realty Inc. Michael Taylor and Tari Taylor
  • Quality Eye care 25+ years of experience
  • Vote Rod Hardwick for st johns county sheriff Working together for the strength of our community during challenging times
  • Preddy law firm estate planning, wills, trusts, probate, guardianship
  • Starling Nocatee, 360 degree virtual tour
  • Advertise in our May Issue The Creek Line
  • Staverman Hearing Centers Hear loud and clear
  • Support Community Journalism The Creek Line
  • Tutoring club of st johns. Text tutoring to 484848 for a chance to win one month of free tutoring
  • Being Well Florida News line is excited to introduce Being Well magazine
  • Westminster Woods on Julington creek. Live well. Be Happy
  • Ackerman cancer center. We're here for your cancer treatment
  • Anytime Fitness! Summer is Here! We Are Open!
  • Have questions about your medicare benefits? Call a SHINE volunteer.
  • Forever Vets Animal Hospital coupon for free exam and discount on preventative care for dogs and cats!
  • Ellegant earth solutions complete lawn maintenance with 28 years experience, complete lawn maintenance
  • Prudential Financial Planning Services with Andrew Laino
  • Support Community Journalism in Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Vote for Dr. Erick Aguilar Republican candidate U.S. House Fl 4th district
  • Academy of Dance Open House & Registration August 19th and 20th 3pm to 6pm Classes start August 24th! Ballet, Pointem Jazz, Hip Hop Contemporary, Modern, Lyrical, Music Theatre, Vocal
  • Affordable Water
  • All About Ballroom
  • Do you only want cremation?
  • Craig Funeral services, Funeral, Crematory, Memorial Park
  • Cronin Ace Hardware
  • Vote for Christian Whitehurst! for St. Johns county commissioner, District 1
  • Doug Nunnery, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices,
  • Finding the right doctor just got easier, Dr. Levine Baptist primary care
  • DIscount up to 30% Jim Register state farm agent
  • Nemetz Dental Associates! Your new smile awaits!
  • Deerwood Academy register now for 2020-2021 VPK
  • Eye center of st augustine, The eye surgery Center of St Augustine
  • Famous Automotive and tire center
  • Fruit Cove Baptist Church
  • The Goddard School summer camp
  • Havana Printing and office supply Call us today for all your cutome printing needs
  • Ian MacDonald Mortgage loan originator with Regions Mortgage
  • Julington Creek Chiropractic & Wellness Center P.A. serving st. johns county for nearly 21 years
  • Future home loans. North Florida's Premier Mortgage Expert Ryan Proffitt
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue! Ponta Vedra NewsLine
  • Wild Birds Unlimited Nature shop. Have you watered your birds lately?
  • Legends of Real Estate call Kim Kessler
  • Creeks Air Conditioning & Heating. We service all makes and models for residential and commerical!
  • Crosswinds Veterinary Hospital. Preventative Medicine and wellness, Surgery, Dentistry, Labs and Imaging, Farm Animal Medicine, In-Patient and Emergency Care
  • Florida Waterways Inc. Your trusted Waterway Advisers
  • Harbor Chase Independent & Assisted living Memory Care Mandarin. Immerse yourself in a rewarding community that enriches your body, mind, and soul.
  • JJs Bistro $10 off lunch or dinner
  • Dont Forget to vote for John Turner School Board member
  • Julington Creek Family Dentistry. Implant Cosmetic and Restoration Dentistry. We are following Advanced Safety protocols set forth by CDC, OSHA and ADA guidelines for dental practices
  • Lori Hershey for School Board, District 7. A school system we can all believe in.
  • Alicia Washington for Circuit Judge
  • Matt Schellenberg. Dependable Leadership for these challenging Times. School Board District 7
  • Re-elect Mike Orfinger for circuit judge
  • Concrete Works! Free Estimates, driveways, Patios, Walkways, Concrete removal, Driveway extension, Pavers
  • Family Remodeling Contractors! Bath, Kitchen &ADA Remodeling
  • Mobile Notary Service. 15 years experience, 24 hour services
  • River Garden Senior Services, However and whenever you need us we're here
  • Starlight Gymnastics! Our #1 priority is your children!
  • Chris Strickland for ST Johns county sheriff!
  • Sugar Bear Antique Mall Summer spectacular sale July 10th-12th
  • Baptist Health, Great tools for motherhood
  • A Green Cleaner, Free pickup and delivery to your home!
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our May Issue!
  • Luxury living and compassionate care come together at starling. Welcome Home.
  • Tailored living Premier Garage solutions
  • Westminster St. Augustine. were here when you need us
  • Alive Credit Union Start banking healthier today!
  • Clara's Tidbits Now in Mandarin!
  • Brian E. Floro DMD, PA Dental services
  • JR Dental General, Specialty and Dental lab
  • Support community journalism! Subscribe to the Mandarin Newsline today!
  • Railing Chiropractic & Acupuncture
  • Let them know you are open for business! Advertise in our may issue!
  • HarborChase independent & assisted living Memory Care Mandarin. Your safety and peace of mind is always our Top Priority
  • Smart Choice Medical healthcare membership! No VoPay, No Deductibles, No Hassles
  • Havana Printing 904-447-5021