Saturday, July 25, 2009

Two By Two: Retirement on Sanibel Island

At least 12 years ago and long before the dream of retirement was even close, I read a book by a husband and wife team about the best places in Florida to retire. Husband and wife, Betty and Richard Fox, wrote Where to Retire in Florida when the Sanibel causeway toll was still $3.00 and residences in the luxurious Sanctuary neighborhood were selling for $475,000. Now you know that was quite a while ago.

So if you were to read their guide, you would note that the details are much out of date, but their descriptions of the Island are still on target.

The book described dozens of towns and cities in Florida with a "he said" , "she said" format and rated the places where they visited with stars, 5 stars being the highest rating.

They did not always agree with each other, and Sanibel and Captiva, clumped together in their review, was one example of their discord. She said "A great place for nature and a nice place to visit, but not to stay", rating the Islands only 3 stars. But it was his words that stayed with me and helped prompt the curiosity to explore Sanibel when we were looking to purchase in Southwest Florida. "There is no spot more beautiful in Florida than the Sanibel/Captiva Islands.'' And he did give the islands a 5 star.

The page on Sanibel, as it did for all the towns they profiled, gave basic facts about the geography, weather, cost of living, crime statistics and health care available on the Island. Of course all of that demonstrated that Sanibel was a safe, comfortable place to retire to.

But their visit to and evaluation of Sanibel was what most visitors would find in a short stay: the abundance of nature, the pretty surroundings, the diversity of restaurants and shops.

Were I writing a similar book today, of course I would have to adjust all the economic factors upwards (those homes in the Sanctuary are now a million dollars and more!), but I would also provide more insiders "insights" as to why the Island is so appealing to (fill in the blank) retirees, young families, investors, vacationers. And it's much more than a pretty face, good golfing, great boating and roseate spoonbills.

The Island is a small town offering not just lots of things to do, but the ability to meet people easily. For retirees who want to be active and make new friends, it is an easy place to do both. Our friends on the Island, already retired, can't make their days stretch far enough. They have bike riding and shell collecting, they volunteer for the worthy organizations on Island and they partake of the many concerts, lectures and get togethers that are in abundance in high season.

They play tennis and take cruises, they see plays and explore the back waters in canoes and kayaks. They invite their friends and relatives to "come on down" and explore the island with them.

And for those who are one-somes and not two-somes, the opportunities for friendship and exploration are just as plentiful.

Indeed, if one were to assemble all the components of an "ideal" retirement location, Sanibel would have most, if not all the most desirable traits!

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