Sanibel and Captiva Islands are blessed with gentle salt-tinged breezes, 20 miles of soft sand and shells of every shape and color. Each sweep of the tide brings thousands of seashells ashore, and though these small islands have plenty of beautiful beach it's the abundance of shells that has earned them an international reputation and the sobriquet, "Shellacious Islands". Standard is the sight of crouched beachcombers (a position nicknamed the Sanibel "Stoop") scouring the shores at dawn and dusk , sorting through empty shells in search of Fighting conch, Lightening whelk, cockles and the prized junonia (anyone who finds one of these rare shells earns a picture in the local paper).
Though most visitors are focused on the shore, there's more to Sanibel and Captiva than just shells, sandy strolls and surf. In addition to a handful of art galleries and an antique shop or two, there are two public 18-hole golf courses and a respectable list of outfitters on hand to arrange a sunset sail, a kayaking foray, a houseboat vacation or a dolphin-watching excursion; for a better look at what lies beneath, book a scuba dive or snorkelling trip out to nearby artificial reefs like Edison and the Belton Johnson. Shell hunters will want to take a break from the search long enough to enjoy a stop at the Bailey-Matthew Shell Museum (where you'll be able to see a junonia should you fail to find one yourself) while those just nature-minded in general would do well to add a detour to J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge to the agenda. Drive or bike the refuge's 5-mile road with an eye peeled for alligators, river otters, turtles and other assorted wildlife, or penetrate this sanctuary's watery expanse paddling a canoe trail. Neither are anglers neglected - in addition to several sites good for shore fishing (including the refuge and the pier), there are a number of charter boats that operate out to some of the best grouper fishing waters in the area.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are located off the coast of Fort Myers on Route 867, linked by causeway to the mainland.