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A Visit To Sanibel Island, Florida – The Good And The Bad

A Visit to Sanibel Island, Florida – The Good and the Bad

Sanibel Island, connected to mainland Florida via a bridge and a tollway, didn’t live up to my expectations. Immediately upon arriving, we were met with a massive traffic line-up that can snake for what feels like miles on busy days. Not quite my vision of an unspoiled island!

Despite the traffic, there are some reasons to visit Sanibel Island. The beaches, famous for their shells are a huge draw. The area around the Sanibel Lighthouse is very pretty and you could spend hours as we did walking and birdwatching in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. 

And though I have no plans to return, I would recommend renting a bike so you can take advantage of the great network of trails. They’re flat and easy and biking sure beats waiting in traffic. Biking is also a good way of visiting the wildlife refuge.

It seems that most people drive through Ding Darling, but if you’re there for the birds, you really need to walk the trails. They’re well marked, flat, easy and perfect for families and older people. John and I were both impressed with the numbers and types of birds we saw. Unfortunately we hadn’t planned ahead and eventually hunger pangs drove us away. Go prepared so you can visit at a leisurely pace.

Here are the highlights of our visit to Sanibel Island Florida

The beaches are beautiful on Sanibel Island
The beaches are beautiful on Sanibel Island
The Sanibel Island Lighthouse isn't as pretty as most
The Sanibel Island Lighthouse was lit for the first time in 1884
Little blue heron on Sanibel Island
Little blue heron
Female cardinal
Female cardinal
The yellow crowned night heron with a mouthful
The yellow crowned night heron with a mouthful
Anhinga - a common sight in Florida
Anhinga – a common sight in Florida
Pied-billed grebe - Ding Darling
Pied-billed grebe
Ducks lined up in a row - Ding Darling
Ducks lined up in a row
My first time seeing a Roseate spoonbill
My first time seeing a Roseate Spoonbill
Nap time - roseate spoonbill
Nap time
Yellow flowers in bloom
Great to see a blast of colour coming from winter in Calgary
Family friendly flat trails through Ding Darling
Family friendly flat trails through Ding Darling

Have you ever visited Sanibel Island? Do you have any tips for a visit?

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. The amazing thing about Florida is there are places like this all over. Places that kind of suck, yet they have birds and beaches, so it cuts their inherent suckiness in half – perhaps even by 60%. Then you throw in a gator or a manatee and the suck-o-meter continues to decline.

  2. We have been there but it was so unmemorable I can’t exactly tell you when. I chuckled at your reference to the traffic (a topic making headlines daily in Seattle) because I wrote the same sort of report as you in Florida about our travels in and near Honolulu, Hawaii. Another friend just wrote a post asking “Is tourism killing the world?” While I think that might be a bit untrue I know we tourists are making tourist areas pretty difficult to enjoy these days. I also wonder why tourist associations aren’t more focused on making the destination more user friendly than ways to boost the tourist numbers coming into an area. (I’ll climb down from my soapbox now. . .)

  3. I love Florida and agree you often have to hunt for those pockets of charm like the old lighthouse. They do protect their beaches. I haven’t been to Sanibel yet but wouldn’t mind the crowds if I could also see ‘crowds’ of those delightful blue herons, grebes and roseate spoonbills. I love all birds and am glad to see there are still places where these natural wonders thrive. Your photos made me smile.

    1. @Lesley It’s not often I travel for pleasure where the traffic is so intense. But at least on Sanibel there is a payoff with the beautiful beaches and so many interesting birds to see. Thanks for your great comment.

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