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Sanibel & Captiva - world renowned

October 11, 2013
FL Guide

People come to Sanibel Island for the beaches. They come for the sea shells. They come to see the wildlife in their natural environment. They come for the fishing, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching and the miles of bike trails.

And some people wind up becoming part-time or permanent residents. There are many other treasurers on the island, too, that make life here an educational experience.

Sanibel and Captiva are well known for collecting sea shells made possible by its simple geography and gentle bending shape, which collects and stores sea shells, contradicting the parallel positioning of most islands to the mainland. The island was only accessible by boat until the Sanibel Causeway opened in 1963 leading to a boom in the tourism trade.

Article Photos

Sanibel Lighthouse

The shelling activities spawned the founding of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum where shells are on display for viewing and the public can learn the history of the many different kinds of shells. Shellers gather every spring to compare and appreciate all shell collections and shell art at the annual Sanibel Shell Festival, a major fundraising effort for the Sanibel Shell Club and the functions of the Sanibel Community House. This festival was started more than 75 years ago by Hallie "Granny" Matthews in the lobby of the Sanibel Inn hotel she owned. It has grown many times over to a weeklong celebration drawing thousands of visitors to view the indoor and outdoor displays and vendors.

Rooted in the Calusa Indians indigenous to the island before European settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, and followed by Spanish and Cuban fishermen, the fishing industry today thrives in the shallow inshore and offshore waters that include the Caloosahatchee River, Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay, Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf of Mexico.

Wildlife lovers can satisfy their cravings at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge by touring the trails and the educational displays and presentations. The Refuge offers interactive exhibits on refuge ecosystems, the work of "Ding" Darling and the migratory flyways. There are 250 different bird species in the Refuge. The Refuge vendor, Tarpon Bay Explorers, offers guided kayak and canoe tours, deck talks and stand-up paddle boarding in addition to tram tours of the Refuge.

Other amazing educational offerings are available at the Healing Winds Visitor Education Center at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). Hands-on exhibits and live video are used to present animal stories. CROW has treated 3,000 animals in various stages of illness and injury at its 4,800 square-foot facility.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) is another source for educational programs about wildlife on the islands, interactive exhibits, a touch tank, butterfly hours and a nature shop as well as four miles of trails.

Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is a collection of historic homes and structures from the early days of modern islanders. Each has a unique story that is told by trained volunteer docents.

For more information on CROW call (239) 472-3644.

For more information on the Shell Museum call (239) 395-2233.

For more information on SCCF call (239) 472-2329.

For more information on the Historical Museum call (239) 472-4648.

For more information on the National Wildlife Refuge call (239) 472-1100.

For more information on Tarpon Bay Explorers call (239) 472-8900.



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