I mentioned last week that our family had recently been on vacation. I've posted about our romantic trip to Banff in the Spring. But this trip was the whole Sugarplum family...and we went to Sanibel Island, on the southwest coast of Florida.
I think it's important to say first that there was not one drop of oil, tar, debris, or any indication of the horrific Gulf Oil Spill. If you've been considering a trip to the Gulf....GO! Those communities were already suffering from the recession, the oil spill just compounded the problem.
Okay, I'll step down from my soap box now. We had an easy, non-stop flight into Ft. Myers (RSW):
Then drove less than 30 minutes to the Sanibel Causeway. Once you cross the bridge to this 12-mile long island, the feeling that this is some place special hits you. When we walked into our condo, we were instantly smitten with this laid back, simple island:
It's hard to believe this is Florida, land of the high-rise hotel. Nothing was taller than a palm tree, and not a Wal-Mart or Putt Putt Golf in sight!!
Sanibel is special for many reasons, but the first you'll notice is the absence of traffic signals and street lights, and the one lone road that stretches from one end of the island to the other. Oh, and you can only drive 30mph....so they force you into vacation mode!
If you were to 'google' Sanibel, the main topic would be about the shells. Because the island lies east/west, it serves as a scoop for tons of shells in the Gulf. And I mean tons:
Some beaches were covered with so many you wished you were wearing shoes. Others had only large ones wash up, and you could easily stroll the soft sand. If you're not a sheller, but want proof of your trip...you can visit one of the local Shell Shops:
Sanibel Island has always protected its natural treasures, with more than 60 percent of the island preserved for wildlife. There were "Don't Feed the Gators!" signs everywhere, but this 2-foot friend in our condo was all we spotted. That, and every kind of seabird you could imagine...and some pretty good sized spiders!! (But they were always set up high in a tree, and supposedly 'harmless.' Mmmkay, take your word on that from waaaaay over here!!)
Another thing you won't find on Sanibel is a chain or corporately owned restaurant. Most are locally owned and operated, and have been on the island for decades. You'll think you've died and gone to grouper-sandwich heaven (yes, that's my empty carton closest to the camera), and you'll earn Rock Star status if you take your kids to the Bubble Room for dinner.
After several days of exploring all the different beaches of the island, we decided to get out on the water. Captain Mike of Sanibel Island Cruise Line picked us up in his 30-foot boat and we headed north to Cayo Costa.
This is a completely uninhabited island where we spent a few hours swimming, shelling and feeling like Tom Hanks from Castaway. (Mr. Sugarplum even befriended a soccer ball!?) Where Captain Mike earns his tip, is in his knowledge of the waters and how to find and attract the glorious mammals that live in them.
(See the large shadow in the third photo? That's a manatee. He later stuck his head up, but I was too excited to get the picture...we're just glad I held on to the camera!)
Then he spotted a school of dolphins and had them playing in our wake within minutes:
I think this picture will end up on someone's new bulletin board:
And as if Sanibel weren't charming enough, her smaller sister, Captiva Island, will charm the pants off you! (Well, not really in our case... it was our family trip.) On the north end of Sanibel is the bridge to Captiva where the quaint streets look like this:
Because of Captiva's position in the Gulf, it's the best spot to watch the sunset:
We also stumbled upon some history in the old Captiva Chapel (still holds services in the fall/winter months with the sound of crashing waves in the background) and Cemetery. The middle picture shows the markers, some dating back to the 1800's. Alison Hagerup was a beloved resident they have since named a beach after:
(I thought the collection of shells for her was so special.)
It was one of the best trips we've ever taken as a family. With only each other and nature to keep us company, we emerged at the end of the week with calmer spirits and grateful hearts.
Our goal is to bring that pace back home with us.
I'm a sucker for 'back shots' and flag photos...also slipping in a pic of me and my girl (who still lets me grab hold of her!)
It's only been a few weeks, but so far we've committed to fewer extra-curricular activities, and more down-time together. As another summer floats by, I'd love to hear of your favorite places to escape! Where is your 'Happy Place?'