Friday, February 27, 2009

Another side of Sanibel: Camping in Paradise

As part of an online Vacation Rental Owners discussion group, I frequently answer questions about Sanibel. Most of the time, I know the answers to the questions.

But last week one of the group participants asked me a question that I could not answer.

She inquired whether the campground on Sanibel Island still existed, an experience that she enjoyed many years ago.

Since camping is not in my nature, prefering the comfort of a condo or spaciousness of a home when on vacation, I had never noticed that Sanibel does have a campground.

In fact, The Periwinkle Trailer Park and Campground is a great place to camp out. Doing a little reading about it, I could see where someone who is inclined to camp would find great appeal in this campground.

This is apparently a well known campground which includes full hookups for recreation vehicles, sites for motorhomes, pop up campers and tent sites. There are facilities on site for hot showers, restrooms, laundry, picnic tables, ice, LP gas and a pavilion to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. If you travel with a recreational vehicle the campground offers complete electrical, water and sewer hookups. The tent sites are secluded and are available with shaded areas.

This Sanibel Island camping ground has long been considered a bird lover’s paradise mainly for the reason that Periwinkle Trailer Park and Campground features a number of species of exotic and native birds such as toucans and macaws.

They also have brown and ringtail lemurs there for the looking but not touching.

For those who are seeking an encounter with nature, The Periwinkle Campground may be your spot in Paradise.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Captiva Or Sanibel: Which Island Suits Your Style?

It's an amazing fact of life that two small barrier islands in such proximity can have their own distinct identity. But then again, even "identical" twins can be very different so perhaps it is not so amazing that Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, only minutes from one another, can be compared on their differences.

And people coming to the area should certainly take advantage of the two islands as they both offer something of value.

Sanibel is the larger of the two islands and home to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

Five thousand acres of Sanibel Island are preserved lands. The Refuge was named for J. Norwood Darling, a man who was a Pulitzer prize winning political cartoonist and who used his art to support conservation. For many years, Darling had a winter home in Florida on Captiva Island but it was Sanibel that had the land that was acquired for the Refuge. The Refuge is probably the most distinguishing characteristic of Sanibel Island, as well as its saving grace in the face of any threat of development.

Of course one could stay on Captiva and bike or drive over to the wildlife refuge, but there is something particularly immediate and attractive in staying on Sanibel within an easy walk to the Refuge.

Both Sanibel and Captiva have some great restaurants, but Captiva has a greater feeling of village center. It's not a large center, but it is a definable geo area, quaint and charming, as opposed to Sanibel where the stores and restaurants are scattered through out the island.

Sanibel offers a greater variety of accommodations and a greater spread in price range. So families, couples or singles seeking lodging will find both less expensive options and more variety in their housing alternatives on Sanibel.

There are more shops and a greater diversity of shops on Sanibel and both of the larger grocery stores, Jerry's and Bailey's, are on Sanibel. One charm for Captiva, however, is the easy access to boating adventures.

So before choosing your island, maybe it's worth weighing the pros and cons of each. Either way, you'll be happy.

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Lincoln's Legacy Lives On: Sanibel Small Example

Having just spent the week-end in Washington DC where every nook and cranny of the city is dedicated to the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln, I find an interesting number of confluences in life.

One can not help but think of the comparisons between the 16th President, Abe Lincoln, and the 44th President, Barack Obama. Aside from a tall, slender frame, both Presidents show example after example of eloquence in writing and verbal expression.

The current comparables and words of Lincoln, hailed (with some argument) as The Great Emancipator are best captured in this quotation : "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy."

And so in this 200th year of national attention upon the meaning of slavery and its impact on American history, it is particularly interesting to observe one aspect of the black diaspora as indicated in the Lincoln celebration and as experienced on Sanibel.

Yvonne Hill, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, who is African-American, moved to Sanibel in 2001 and took notice of the diverse history of the Island.

Her curiosity and research revealed that free black farmers, descendants of slaves, were among the pioneers who settled Sanibel.They cleared land, planted trees, built houses, did hauling, domestic work, and worked at resorts, according to Hill and collaborator on the book, Marguerite Jordan.

Hill and Jordan wanted people to be aware of the significant contribution that early black families made to Sanibel hoping that through their writings and photo collection that the legacy would not be lost.

An ongoing exhibit of the photographs collected for the book is currently on display at the Islander Center at 2401 Periwinkle Way on Sanibel.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More Than A Dozen Ways to Celebrate Valentine's Day on Sanibel Island

How can you celebrate this lovely holiday on a tropical island? Romantic expression is all over so you barely need to try! Begin by taking a long walk along the beach barefoot at dawn.

Build a sand castle together at water's edge.

Return home and make a cup of herb tea sweetened with honey and whipped with some milk.

Have breakfast at Amy's cafe then rent a tandem bike to tour the Island. Stop at Wilford and Lee or Pandora's Box and buy some pretty Island charm for each other to take home.

Take a cooling dip in the pool then apply scented sunscreen to each other in a loving way. Dry off and read poetry to one another under a swaying palm.

Enjoy an afternoon nap with a bottle of champagne and some sweets from The Cheese Nook at bedside.

Enjoy a sunset cruise and the music of Danny Morgan. Return to land and have dinner at the Gulf front Thistle Lodge.

Rent a romantic movie from The Video Scene and take it back to your condo with you. But first drive out to Captiva to watch the moon over the water and have a nightcap at the water front Green Flash.

Watch your video in the dark with candles as your only light source.

Sanibel is the perfect place for Valentine's Day or any holiday!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Race For the Best Beach in Florida: Sanibel a Serious Contender

Every year, Dr. Beach, aka Dr. Stephen Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research issues his pronouncement of the best beaches in America. Generally, at least 3 of Florida's beaches make the list. The anticipation of the pronouncement is keen, to say the least.

But the popularity of announcing best beaches has gone much beyond the trend began by Dr. Leatherman years ago.
There are pronouncers of best beaches sprouting up as quickly as beaches can be found.

The Travel Channel did a show not too long ago that had great visual appeal. Because it was a filmed feature and not reliant on still photography, the program really put Florida in a whole new light. The visuals were awesome and would make some question why they would ever leave the state of Florida to go to a beach anywhere else.

The show featured the top ten beaches in Florida and gave the reasons for why each was chosen to be on the list:

10 - Daytona Beach: activities and driving up and down the beach

9 - Sanibel Island (Gulf side): sea shell collecting

8 - Panama City: Spring Break

7 - Sandspur Beach (Bahia Honda): Nature preserve

6 - Smathers Beach (Key West): island-style

5 - Clearwater Beach: boating, even a pirate cruise

4 - Lover's Key Beach (outside Ft. Myers): seclusion/couples (Lover's Key Beach Club Resort)

3 - Palm Beach: living the high life, shopping (The Breakers Hotel)

2 - Siesta Key Beach: soft sand (Sand Sculpture Contest)

1 - South Beach (Miami): international scene (latin influence), winter fashion, non-stop nightlife

A life long beach lover and unofficial beach rater for many years and from many countries and continents, I would really have to question this rationale. I mean, seriously, would someone really go to a beach because they could drive their car up and down the beach?

I go to beaches to escape cars (and noise and traffic)!
Similarly, I don't need a beach to go to a beautiful hotel, go shopping, party or mingle with the rich and famous. Cities are made for scenes like this.

So, were I to toss out numbers 10, 8 and 1, it would only leave 7 top beaches in Florida, moving Sanibel into much higher ranking.....where it should be.
Why, you ask?

Well, Sanibel is great for shelling, one of the top 3 beaches in the world for that activity. Because the Gulf is generally calm, it is also great for boating. It is bordered by a nature preserve, so it is fantastic for nature viewing. There are many points of seclusion on Sanibel's beaches, including the popular Bowman's Beach near our condo and house where one can find privacy and romantic ambiance (try doing that on Siesta Key, as lovely as the sand is!)

Using as a more valid comparison the reasons I believe that most people seek out beaches---- nature, beauty, boating, seclusion---- Sanibel would more than likely win the race.