The Rambler: Spring Break Part II – Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is located on the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the biggest draws of this perpetual vacation haven is the charm it exudes as a throwback tropical island, untarnished by the chaos of the modern world. And I can assure you that very little has changed here since my first trip nearly 40 years ago. Aside from the very popular Dairy Queen, no major chain retailer or restaurant has been allowed to establish itself here. The height of any building (commercial and residential) is limited to three stories. Instead of traffic lights, the island relies on stop signs and crossing guards to manage the influx of tourists that has steadily increased over the years. It’s just the type of relaxing, no frills environment one looks forward to after a long New England winter. In addition to the magnetic character of Sanibel Island, it is an extremely family friendly destination. Upon arrival, my kids are immediately enveloped in the miles of soft, sandy beaches and warm water. Sea life is abundant so it’s not unusual to spot a pod of surfacing dolphins, meandering sea turtles, and flocks of dive bombing pelicans. The area also boasts one of the most abundant sea shell environments. The “Sanibel Stoop” is the ubiquitous position taken as beach goers bend down to inspect and look for mother’s natures treasures to take home as souvenirs.
The vast majority of the island is dedicated to wildlife preservation. It is not uncommon to see cordoned off areas that protect nesting birds, turtles, and other wildlife species. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the largest sanctuary on Sanibel, housing hundreds of species of fish, birds, alligators and turtles. Whether by car, bike or foot, there is always something to witness.
The culinary scene here is completely on point as there is a plethora of options for allpalettes. One of our favorite spots is The Lazy Flamingo. This beloved seafood shanty features the freshest ingredients. We love the conch fritters, mesquite grilled grouper, and peel and eat shrimp. And for those who don’t enjoy ocean delicacies, their cheeseburger is juicy and cooked to perfection. Another go-to restaurant is Doc Ford’s. Known for its extensive rum collection, this is another fabulous seafood destination. The kitchen staff is innovative in their use of spices and sauces, creating a Caribbean flair in almost all of their dishes (the banana leaf wrapped grouper is a must). They also boast their own line of hot sauces, which range the gamut from a little kick to an utter burn out. The best part of the meal for me is dessert; the obscene slice of carrot cake covered in decadent sour cream frosting is something I look forward to every year.
Because my parents had the foresight to invest in property on Sanibel years ago, we are fortunate to call Sundial Resort our second home. This is one of the larger condominium complexes which serves both renters and full-time residents. Because of its popularity, each year, we seem to encounter the same group of spring break revelers. The accommodations are spacious, and many units, such as ours, have ocean front views. The beach is merely steps away. And for those who have the preference, there are three swimming pools on the premises. Happy hour at Sundial’s main pool is one of the best on the island, serving up tasty piña coladas, frosty beers, and sweet rum runners. The resort also offers several amenities such as bike rentals, a day spa, and tennis courts . The resort has everything you need to plan the perfect, laid back getaway. Barely on our plane ride back to reality, I’m already looking forward next year’s trip.