Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sanibel: Florida's haven of tranquility

Friday 5 April 2013 16.00 EDT
Andrew Mueller
Sanibel: Florida's haven of tranquility

Florida's Sanibel island may not offer much more than seashells on its shores but that's why the US destination is so special

Every tide that hits Sanibel is like the upending of a treasure chest. In the morning, the blindingly white beaches of this island off Florida's Gulf coast twinkle with the bounty deposited overnight: a kaleidoscopic shimmer of seashells, in quantities that almost obscure the sand, in sizes from the too small to notice to the big enough to trip over, in such colours that you start to suspect molluscs, as a species, of being outrageous showoffs.

It's impossible to develop a comprehensive familiarity with this trove in just a few days, but you can learn enough to tell your angulate wentletrap from your purplish semele, your ponderous ark from your prickly cockle (seashells, for reasons escaping my research, all seem to be named after Victorian euphemisms for venereal disease).

You need to tread carefully, as many of these baubles have sharp spikes, and be even warier about picking things up, as quite a few of them are still inhabited by their original owners, or by hermit crabs, the squatters of the deep. There is manifold competition for Sanibel's daily jackpot. The beach is an all-you-can-eat buffet for assorted wader birds, and a motherlode for shell collectors.

The latter species present a curious spectacle, hunched intently and fossicking, resembling a herd of human throwbacks who've regressed to the quadrupedal. After a few days on Sanibel, though, you can understand their single-mindedness, and even their reasons for being up this early. It's partly that the shells are beautiful, but it's also that – and this is not intended as any sort of slight upon Sanibel – there really isn't much else to do.

Among the few road signs on Sanibel is one which cautions drivers to watch out for tortoises. This is a place which prides itself on its sleepiness, to the extent that several locals think it worth pointing out the branch of ice-cream chain Dairy Queen which, they boast, is the only franchise outlet on the island. It isn't, quite: there's a small Subway, and a cafe that sells Starbucks coffee, but my guides' reluctance to acknowledge these seems significant.

The view of the rest of Florida from Sanibel is not unlike the view of continental Europe from Britain. From both island redoubts, the bigger place across the water is regarded as peculiar, its inhabitants excitable, its traditions undignified. Were it not for the Florida plates on cars, and the almost tiresomely pleasant weather, a mystery tourist relieved of their blindfold on arrival could assume themselves to be in Vermont, or Maine, or some similar cosy north-eastern haven of sandal-shod muesli-eaters. At least until they see the shop window sign offering alligator heads at $200 each.

These artefacts are, however, almost intriguingly unrepresentative of Sanibel's generally ardent conservationist ethos. More than 6,400 acres of Sanibel is the Ding Darling national wildlife refuge, named after Jay Norwood Darling, the early 20th-century Pulitzer-winning newspaper cartoonist who campaigned to protect Sanibel from developers.

An admirable establishment called the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife rescues and treats injured creatures. Crow treats 4,000 animals annually, and while their patients are quite properly not permitted visitors, its public education centre is worth a look, especially if you were previously unaware that acupuncture can be employed to treat tortoises.

The cute, furry contingent of Sanibel's fauna are either vexingly nocturnal (bobcats) or dead (raccoons, which have been severely affected by a recent outbreak of distemper), but there's plenty more to see, especially on the four-mile Wildlife Drive, which meanders through mangrove forest.

The spectacles are mostly of the avian sort: osprey, cormorant, egret, heron, anhinga, pelican. Impressive though these are, they're somewhat lost on me, as among them are ducks, and almost nothing amuses me as much as ducks, as a result of their air of lofty querulousness, coupled with the lack of things a duck could possibly have to be loftily querulous about. There's also an alligator: – a big one for Sanibel, I'm told, six feet of semi-submerged armour-plated death machine drifting downriver. And, less excitingly, the island is plagued with voracious mosquitoes.

Inevitably, Sanibel's best-known selling point is for sale at shops all over the island (just as inevitably, the biggest such emporium is called She Sells Sea Shells.) The most sensational collection is at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Captiva Road on the island's north side. According to its brochure, this is the "most comprehensive museum in the western hemisphere devoted solely to shells". It seems churlish to ask how rugged the competition for this title is.

It, assiduously curated by local volunteers, contains much that is thought-provoking and astonishing, including an examination of the scallop's influence on art and architecture, a caseful of Cuban bush snails which resemble boiled sweets, and some of the largest shells ever recovered, including a lightning whelk 40cm long, among them a two-foot-long triplofusus giganteus or horse conch, found off Sanibel. (Conch, a staple of Sanibel restaurants, is apparently pronounced "conk", as waitng staff take unnecessary delight in reminding you.) There are also examples of efforts to be creative with shells, which serve to reinforce the lesson already imparted by Sanibel's souvenir shops: that while shells themselves are beautiful, every human attempt to co-opt them is hideous.

Sanibel's cultivated placidity could become overwhelming. If that is the case, it is conveniently hitched by bridge to Captiva, a smaller, less staid island that offers such vulgar pursuits as nightlife, and ferry cruises that get mildly harassed by gambolling dolphins. And if that isn't enough, more traditional Florida recreations of drinking, gambling and communicating in a vocabulary consisting largely of the expression "whoooo!" are only a 20-minutes drive away, at Fort Myers Beach, on the other end of Causeway Boulevard.

Despite such temptations, Sanibel is a difficult place to leave. It offers two valuable commodities that may be obviously unusual in Florida but can be difficult to find in holiday destinations anywhere: peace and quiet.

Visit Reservation Central Sanibel Island and Captiva Island today to plan your next Sanibel Island or Captiva Island vacation! Local accommodation specialists available by phone at 1-800-290-6920 / 239-472-1010 and always available online at http://www.ResCen.com

Monday, April 1, 2013

10Best Goes to Sanibel Island, Florida


Sanibel Island - Paradise Close to Home

Sanibel Island, located off the coast of Southwest Florida near Fort Myers, offer an idyllic, lush subtropical getaway without having to leave the country. With a permanent population of only 6,500 and 15 square miles of unspoiled beach, you'll have no trouble finding your own quiet slide of paradise to relax in.

Visit Reservation Central Sanibel and Captiva Islands to make your next Island Vacation. On the web at www.rescen.com or call a local accommodation specialist at 1-800-290-6920

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Two SWFL islands make Top 10 list

Two SWFL islands make Top 10 list
Posted: Mar 26, 2013 12:47 PM
Updated: Mar 26, 2013 1:01 PM

FORT MYERS -   Two Southwest Florida islands made TripAdvisor's Top 10 U.S. Islands list.

TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel site, today announced the winners of its inaugural Travelers' Choice Islands awards. 

Based on millions of valuable traveler reviews and opinions on the site, the awards recognize more than 100 islands across the globe, including dedicated lists for Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America, the South Pacific, and the U.S.  

"Whether you're looking for idyllic palm-lined islands, or islands that offer a more cultural experience, you'll find inspiration in these lists," said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. "From the world famous to the hidden gems, what unifies every award winner is the fantastic feedback from travelers across the globe."

Top 10 U.S. Islands:

1. San Juan Island, Washington

2. Kauai, Hawaii

3. Marco Island, Florida

4. Anna Maria Island, Florida

5. Maui, Hawaii

6. Sanibel Island, Florida

7. Chincoteague Island, Virginia

8. Island of Hawaii, Hawaii

9. Amelia Island, Florida

10. Key West, Florida

To visit Sanibel Island, Florida ... plan your vacation today with Reservation Central by visiting www.ResCen.com or by calling 1-800-290-6920

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sanibel Uncorked Food and Wine Fest returns Feb. 21

Feb 15, 2013
Written by
Yvonne Ayala McClellan 

Chefs serve tapas to guests at the fourth annual Sanibel Uncorked Food and Wine Fest. / Special to news-press.com

Enjoy a crisp Pinot Grigio and Louisiana style crab cakes at the fifth annual Sanibel Uncorked Wine and Food Festival on Thursday, Feb. 21.

The fundraiser event runs from 4-8 p.m. at Lily’s & Co. on Sanibel at 520 Tarpon Bay Road, offering a variety of wines, ongoing cooking demonstrations, music, art, jewelry and a silent auction.

Several wine distributors including Southern Wine and Spirits, Premier Beverage Co. and others will be represented at the event, offering a variety of chardonnays, cabernet sauvignon, and some Chianti and merlot, said Richard Johnson, general manager of Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel, a sponsor of the event.
“Have fun, raise money and enjoy the community,” he said. “I live by that.”

Four chefs, including Karl Hamme, of Bailey’s General Store, and Matt Asen, with Prawnbroker Restaurant Group, will show off their cooking skills at the event.

Prepare your palate for fresh sea scallops with a balsamic glaze, Andouille sausage brochette and Shrimp and grits as some of the small bites offered by Bailey’s General Store. Each of the chefs will bring their own themed specials to the event.

Proceeds benefit the Sanibel-Captiva Optimists Club, which supports programs and scholarships for children in the community. Tickets are sold at Bailey’s, the Sanibel Cafe, Sanibel-Captiva Community Bank and Lily & Co. for a $30 donation or $25 for designated drivers. Free valet parking is available. For more information, call 472-0836 or visit sancapoptimist.org.

Be sure to call Reservation Central at 1-800-290-6920 or visit http://www.ResCen.com to make your upcoming stay to Sanibel Island or Captiva Island

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Florida a vacation paradise for dogs, too

Florida a vacation paradise for dogs, too

By Tamara Lush
Associated Press January 5, 2013 at 1:00 am
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130105/LIFESTYLE/301050314#ixzz2H7UGePW2

Sun and sandy beaches make Florida a welcome place for dogs. (Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

Fort De Soto Park, Fla.

Picture this: You're sitting on a white sand beach, warm sun on your skin. Coconut-scented sunscreen wafts through the air. A splashing noise comes from the blue Gulf of Mexico. It's your dog, happily retrieving his favorite ball from the water.

This could be your vacation, with a bit of planning.

With miles of sandy beaches, endless winter sunshine and a laid-back vibe, there's no reason to leave your four-legged friend behind when you vacation in Florida. From lodging that offers special pet beds, to beaches with off-leash play, to theme parks with nearby kennels, many places around the state accommodate visitors with pets. Many Florida state parks also permit leashed dogs.

Lodging with your dog can be as rustic as a campground or as ritzy as, well, the Ritz Carlton. In places like Key West or Sanibel Island — where all beaches are open to leashed dogs — unique and funky pet-friendly accommodations are easy to find in various price ranges.

Most counties have their own tourism boards and many have specific pages on their websites about pet-friendly activities, restaurants and hotels. 

Jeannette Scott, a fashion blogger from Orlando, took her shih tzu-Yorkie mix named Bella on a three-day trip in June. Together, they drove three hours to Fort Myers, boarded a ferry to Key West, stayed at a Sheraton that offered a doggie bed for Bella, and posed for photos in front of a frozen yogurt stand that carried Yoghund, a froyo for doggies.

"She thought it was really fun to get away and go on adventure instead of staying at home," Scott said.

If your dog might enjoy the same, here are some dog-friendly destinations around Florida, along with lodging advice and general tips for traveling here with pets.

Water and sunscreen are essential for dogs. With temperatures in the 70s and 80s in many Florida locations during the winter, dogs (and people) can easily become dehydrated.
Take shady breaks, put ice cubes in the water dish and let dogs sprawl on cool tiles. Never leave your dog in a car in Florida, even for a few minutes. Temperatures inside cars can rise to 120 degrees and kill animals quickly.
 Heartworm is endemic to Florida. Plan to visit a vet before your trip to get a heartworm test and pills to prevent infection.

Reservation Central Sanibel and Captiva Islands offers pet friendly Sanibel Island and Captiva Island homes, condos, cottages and hotels. Call our local office at 1-800-290-6920 or visit the links below for more information on your next Pet Friendly Sanibel Island or Captiva Island Vacation!

Friday, December 28, 2012

USATODAY - Sanibel Island is a Top 10 Florida Beach!

Vote for the best beach town in Florida

Laura Bly
- http://www.usatoday.com/story/dispatches/2012/12/28/whats-the-best-beach-town-in-florida/1793599/5p.m. EST December 28, 2012

With thousands of snowbirds pointing their convertibles south to the Sunshine State for a dose of winter warmth, we asked "Dr. Beach"— aka Florida International University professor and coastal expert Stephen P. Leatherman — for 10 Florida destinations that combine sand, surf and a welcoming sense of community. His favorites, in alphabetical order:

Sanibel Island: Yes, "you have to pay $6 to get there" via a causeway. But once you reach this upscale Gulf Coast barrier island, you'll find the country's "No. 1 shelling area," no stoplights, and strict building codes that limit new structures to two stories in height.

Clearwater Beach: Meet "volleyball heaven" on the Gulf Coast, with "some of the best girl- and boy-watching I've ever seen" near Pier 60.

Cocoa Beach: This onetime astronaut hangout near the Kennedy Space Center is famous for the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, along with "a great pier and surf shop," Ron Jon's, whose flagship store will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

Delray Beach: A "surprising find" in South Florida, with a "walkable downtown," locally owned shops and a lively bar scene.

Key West: Free-wheeling Margaritaville "is crowded, but with good reason. Its two beaches (Smathers and Fort Zachary Taylor) may not be that great for Florida, but certainly are by U.S. standards."

New Smyrna Beach: Though Leatherman frowns on the practice from an environmental point of view, this laid-back surfing outpost at the mouth of the Indian River in east central Florida "still lets you drive on the beach."

Pensacola Beach: This Panhandle town features "great public access to incredibly wide beaches," bay or Gulf of Mexico swimming, and nearby Fort Pickens, where Apache leader Geronimo was imprisoned.

Seaside: A master-planned "country beach town" on the Florida Panhandle, Seaside was "made for coalescing over front porches and white picket fences."

Siesta Key: Last year's winner of Leatherman's "best beach in America" survey, this Gulf Coast barrier island southwest of Sarasota has "the finest white sand in the world."

South Beach: Celebrity-packed "Manhattan on the beach" hosts an annual polo tournament each spring and remains "one of the world's most famous" strands.

Now, readers, it's your turn. Vote for your favorite below (or at this link), or tweet your pick to @usatodaytravel using the hashtag #flabeachtown. We'll feature the winner in an upcoming Travel story.

Call Reservation Central at 1-800-290-6920 or visit us at www.ResCen.com to make your next Sanibel Island or Captiva Island, Florida vacation. Choose from 1000s of hotels, resorts, small inns, cottages, condominiums or private vacation homes.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Top Five U.S. Vacation Travel Hotspots for 2013 - DwellableTrends

Top Five U.S. Vacation Travel Hotspots for 2013
2012-12-13 by Brenda

It's no mystery why the north coast of Kauai is one of the most popular travel destinations for 2013.

Want to know where U.S. vacation travelers are headed in 2013? Using Dwellable Secrets, inquiry rates and other proprietary data, we took a look at the top traveler trends to figure out just where in the U.S. folks are planning to travel in 2013. The results? A little bit of snow and a lot of sun!

5) Colorado: Even with ski season well underway, powder buffs are looking for winter travel options early in the New Year, with Breckenridge and Keystone leading the way. Sound tantalizing? Check out the live webcam for current ski conditions.

4) San Diego is still a hot destination, with La Jolla trending even higher in search than Mission Beach. Why La Jolla? Well, if it's not the beach or the beach caves you can explore at low tide, perhaps it's the Birch Aquarium or the La Jolla Playhouse.

3) Eastern Seaboard: We're cheating a little bit on this one, but there are four great destinations on Atlantic seaboard which are seeing a lot of traveler activity for 2013: Palmetto Dunes in Hilton Head, Corolla in the Outer Banks, Sandbridge in Myrtle Beach and Falmouth in Cape Cod. They're in a virtual dead heat for popularity.

2) Hawaii: Bucking seasonal declines in the rest of the islands, traveler interest in Kauai is trending higher, with the northern coast--including Princeville-- seeing the largest upswing.

1) Florida: Known for it's shell beaches and wildlife refuges, Sanibel Island is on the rise, and seeing even more traveler interest than Naples. Other Florida hotspots for 2013: the perpetually-popular Destin and Kissimmee.

Contact Reservation Central to make a Sanibel Island vacation a reality. Visit www.rescen.com or call our local office at 1-800-290-6920. Reservation Central offers 1000s of privately owned vacation rental homes, condos, cottages as well as all of the Island hotels, resorts and small inns.