This Thanksgiving, I had the pleasure of traveling with my parents to Sanibel Island, Florida. My dad had discovered the place 5 years ago, and fell in love with it. He wanted to share the beautiful island, with its original stores (no chain stores are allowed on the island), friendly people, and beautiful location with us. We visited the J.R. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Preserve first. This is truly one of the best locations to see local Florida wildlife outside of the Everglades. Hundreds of bird species, fish jumping all over the place, thousands of species of plant life, and, perhaps the main attraction, alligators. It is a wildlife Preserve, so I learned a lot about the efforts of the preserve’s namesake, “Ding” Darling, did to protect the environment. I had never really paid much attention to it before, but after visiting that preserve and learning about the effort required to keep land like that alive, I have a new appreciation for the environment.
After that, we mostly just hung around on the beach. The beaches on Sanibel Island are gorgeous, with soft sand, clear water in the Gulf of Mexico, and shells. Sanibel Island is world-renowned for its shelling. My mom loves shells, and we returned with three shopping bags full of beautiful specimens we found just walking along the beach in front of our hotel.
We also enjoyed the tastes of the island most nights. There is a law on Sanibel Island that states that no chain store or restaurant is allowed to set up on Sanibel Island. The only things that are on the island are a Starbucks and a Dairy Queen, which were both on the island before the law was passed. I particularly enjoyed Doc Ford’s, a restaurant founded by famed author, and Sanibel Island native, Randy Wayne White. The place is named after his most famous character, and his books take place almost exclusively in and around Sanibel Island. The restaurant is open-air, with a sports bar and grill. The food is both cheap and delicious, something you don’t ordinarily find together on a tourist-trap type island like this.
Our hotel was also excellent. Sanibel Island doesn’t really have hotels as we know them. Instead, the buildings are more like mini-apartments. Ours was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom model that had a great view of the ocean and Fort Myers back across the bay. We had a great kitchenette, and there were grills all over the ground, so whenever we didn’t feel like eating out, we could buy some food at one of the local grocery stores and make a delicious meal by ourselves.
When my dad came here 5 years ago, he said he never wanted to leave. Now that I’ve experienced the same things he has, I find that I completely agree with him.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.