I had always been intrigued by this mystical island where stunning seashells washed up on the shore by the droves. I love collecting shells from every beach I visit—not that I ever actually do anything with them, but it’s fun nonetheless. So, when Kyle and I needed to get away a few weeks before our wedding in the summer of 2012, we couldn’t think of a more perfect escape than Sanibel.
Now, I know what you’re thinking—Florida in July? I know, we were crazy—and in hindsight, we should have packed a LOT more sun screen—but honestly, I think it’s the best time to go. Crowds are thin and prices are low. We stayed at the beautiful beachfront Sanibel Inn for less than $200 per night, roughly half of what the same room would go for when the snowbirds are flocking to Florida in the winter. We stayed in a beautiful room with a patio, where we enjoyed listening to the waves. What was better—the property had beach access! When we weren’t taking advantage of some great island activities, we were splashing in the ocean, diving for sand dollars.
Thrills in Sanibel
Speaking of activities, we got to try some fantastic ones in Sanibel. One of my very favorite memories from any trip Kyle and I have taken is the afternoon we spent with Sanibel Thriller Cruises. We’d heard this was a speed boat tour, where the boat left such a massive wake that dolphins would jump and play in it. We got in line more than an hour early so we could make sure we got good seats—in the back! The boat circumnavigates both Sanibel and Captiva islands, and a very informative guide narrates as you pass by points of interest. Everyone cheered as the boat roared out of the sound and into open ocean, with a pod of dolphins leaping along behind us.
That sight alone probably would have been enough for me to remember my time on the Sanibel Thriller, but there was a whole different kind of excitement in store. As we rounded the tip of Captiva Island, we noticed very ominous clouds forming ahead. We could see the rain off in the distance, and knew we had to go through the storm to get back to the dock we’d departed from. We continued our tour along the backside of the islands for another twenty minutes or so before we got really nervous. The guide told us to hold on tight to everything we’d brought on the boat, and to put any electronics away as best we could. Then the rains hit—fast and furious! I am not a huge fan of getting caught in a rainstorm. I squeal when a few sprinkles hit me. But there was nowhere to go, nowhere to hide from the relentless, pounding rain. About 30 seconds in, everyone in the boat realized all we could do was laugh! The captain drove us as quickly as he could, the high speeds making the rain smack us in the face that much harder. Finally, the rain let up, and we were all completely soaked from head to toe. Once the boat docked, we all got off, shaking the water off and wringing our hair out, laughing wholeheartedly. We knew we’d all share that memory forever. There’s something really special about that.
Parasailing, and more dolphins!
Since Ft. Myers Beach is a little less than half an hour away from Sanibel, we decided to check it out during one of our four days in Florida. We booked a parasailing adventure with Paradise Parasail. Although this was a bit out of our comfort zone, we’d heard it was the best way to see the shoreline, so we decided to give it a try. The whole experience was quite serene, actually—drifting high above the boat we’d just been seated on, and out over open water. We saw plenty of stingrays and fish. The only thing that was disconcerting was the fact that we’d bought the package with two “dips” into the ocean at the end of the ride. I was so afraid we’d land on a shark! But alas, we simply bounced in and out of the ocean without incident, and were back on the boat in no time.
Once safely on the beach, I’d already started planning the next day’s adventure. Activity companies were set up in the sand, and the one next to the parasailing tent was advertising guided dolphin waverunner tours. Ummm… awesome! We woke up early the next morning to catch the 9:30 a.m. tour around Estero Island, complete with wildlife , mangrove forests, and beautiful little bays. Kyle drove the waverunner, and I held on tight in the back, enjoying the scenery. The first hour or so of the hour-and-a-half tour is through the inner part of the island. You’re traveling at slower speeds and passing under bridges. But the last half hour is when you really tare loose, and roar down the open sea, parallel with Ft. Myers Beach. Just like the Sanibel Thriller, the waverunners kick up enough wave action to get the dolphins excited, and a few jumped along behind us much to my absolute delight! Such a great way to start any Florida morning!
What to know if you go:
937 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
Sanibel Thriller Cruises
634 N. Yachtsman Dr.
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
Ft. Myers Beach, Florida
Rates range from $47-75 per person
Adventure Watersports, Inc.
Ft. Myers Beach, Florida
Dolphin tours, kayak and SUP rentals, sail and banana boat rentals