My current love interest and I drove to Sanibel on a whim while on a day trip to the gulf coast. He had never seen a sunset from the west before, so we spent the day exploring Sanibel then headed an hour south to Naples. Sanibel is not the cheapest day trip; start with a $6 bridge toll to get to the island then pay $4 an hour to park in most lots. Many people rent bikes and ride all over the island, which allows you to discover beach access points that don’t have designated parking lots. The beaches are famous for being covered in shells, so if you’re into shelling you’ll lose your damn mind in this place.
We started the day by visiting the lighthouse. You can’t climb it like some other lighthouses, but you can relax on the tip of the island just below it or have a picnic among the trees. We thought maybe we’d swim over here, but the water was very murky and this dude was giving me stank eye:
From there we worked our way west, stopping at a small section of the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This area has a free public lot with foot and bike paths winding their way around lakes and mangroves. There are signs warning about alligators, and I’m sure they’re in there, but we didn’t see any. Lots of turts, birds, and butterflies. There’s a main refuge entrance on the island as well with even more trails. I’ll have to dedicate another day to that section.
After completing one of the loop trails, we continued through the island toward Captiva until reaching Blind Pass Beach, the beach area just before the bridge taking you to Captiva Island. There’s a small pay-by-hour lot just before the bridge, but we parked for free in a gravel and grass area next to the Lazy Flamingo restaurant then walked across the street. This beach is by no means remote. It was pretty busy, as all of Sanibel was, and you can see the main road. However, it’s cool because there are several sandbars to which you can wade. There are birds everywhere and so many shells. I saw a few people find some real gems out there.
At this point we started working our way back to Naples to swim and watch the sun set. Rather than going near the pier like I usually do, we went to Delnor Wiggins Pass State Park. My fella packed a dinner of quinoa, spiced chickpeas, avocado, salad, and hummus with dippers so we ate while scanning the water for dolphins. The water was freezing and felt like razors to the nips that day, but we went in anyway and nuzzled together as the sun dipped below the horizon. Pretty dang good day.