Personal Journeys


July 24, 2005|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Sanibel Island rejuvenates its visitors

By Linda Rains Allman

As my husband and I crossed the causeway from Fort Myers, Fla., to Sanibel Island, I held my breath. Since our last visit, Sanibel and Captiva had been ravaged by Hurricane Charley. Images of ferocious winds and rain haunted me. Would our beloved islands be the same?

My parents first started coming to Sanibel in 1986. Last May, our son and daughter-in-law were married on a white beach on the neighboring island of Captiva. The image of the bride and groom against the aqua water and spectacular red sunset forever cemented my family's ties with these islands.

The islands came into view, and I was able to breathe again. Some larger trees were gone, but nature was already replenishing them. The resort where we stay had reopened and was repaired, repainted and replanted.

Sanibel and Captiva have grown from sleepy fishing villages to islands offering opportunities for a family vacation or a romantic honeymoon. Many times I arrived at Sanibel exhausted by the stresses of work and family, only to be rejuvenated at week's end by the powers of sand, sea and sky.

Sanibel is famous for its shelling beaches. The famous "Sanibel stoop" refers to the shell-gatherers' posture. Collect in the early morning and evening when the sea gives up its greatest variety of shells. While you select shells, watch little sandpipers dart back and forth into the sea foam, pecking for their meals. You can also watch pelicans swoop into the water for food.

You won't find water parks or amusement rides on the islands, but children enjoy making sand castles, watching dolphins and swimming. The bay water is calm enough for kids to swim and play in.

For an off-island adventure, the Thomas Edison Museum in nearby Fort Myers offers insights into the lifestyle and laboratory of an extraordinary man.

At J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, there are acres of mangrove forests, and you can get a glimpse of alligators as well as beautiful indigenous birds.

Don't miss the historic village on Sanibel. Longtime residents will give you a tour of reconstructed houses, a post office general store, schoolhouse and gardens reflecting life on the island in earlier days.

There are also wonderful seafood restaurants. Rent a bike and cycle to the boutique shops or through some of the more secluded residential sections. There are several golf courses and tennis courts. There is even a community theater.

And if you decide to visit the Dairy Queen on the east end of Sanibel, bring your binoculars. Go out back, and up in the trees you may spot a family of bald eagles.

Linda Rains Allman lives in Phoenix, Md.

Readers Recommend

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

Chad and Jody Couser, Annapolis

The Tobago Cays are where Johnny Depp hid his rum stash in the film Pirates of the Caribbean, but there is nothing "Disney" about this place. We arrived on a local schooner built by hand as snorkeling boats lined up at the edge of the sea. Nope, there is nothing make-believe about this place.


Shirley Matlock, Ellicott City

My husband had a business trip to Honolulu, and I decided to tag along. We stayed in a hotel right on Waikiki Beach. The weather is wonderful, pretty much constant in the 70s and 80s. On the last day of our trip, we drove around Oahu and saw some beautiful beaches -- beaches that seem to rarely see tourists. At one beach, we watched sea turtles play in the waves. The house on the water in the picture above was in the tiny town of Kahaluu.

My Best Shot

Louis LeConte, Ellicott City

Morning scene on the Seine

My wife, Della, and I were cruising the Seine from Le Havre to Paris in May when we stopped at Les Andelys. It was early morning, and I climbed to Chateau-Gaillard -- a fort built by Richard the Lion-Hearted -- and took this picture looking down on the village. The white chalk cliffs offered a nice background to this picturesque place and our boat on the river.

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