Calusa Shell Mounds on Sanibel

Sanibel Island lies directly in the territory of the ancient Calusa Indians whose empire stretched across the entire southern half of Florida. Unfortunately, there are not much on the surface left of their massive settlements and dwellings built upon the large shell mounds.

The Calusa were the indigenous people who occupied most of Southwest Florida befort the first Spanish Conquistadors arrived on the west coast of Florida. The skilled native tribe lived off of the land and sea utilizing every resource that the surrounding natural environment provided. This includes the shells leftover from fishing, eating, tool making and more. The Calusa would harvest the shells from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, eat the animal within and retain the shells as building material and tools. The shells would be piled in mounds that served as dwellings, temples and the like.

For a closer look you have to take to the trails on foot in a fun and interesting journey of discovery on the Sanibel Shell Mound Trail, located a short drive from our property. The trail shows you the remnants of ancient Calusa homes and by studying the artifacts located within these ancient mounds of shells you will see a highly evolved, stratified social structure, rich in religion and ritual.

Sanibel hosts a couple of these structures and the fine folks at J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge offer visitors and locals alike continuous tours free of charge beginning at 1 p.m. meeting at the Calusa Shell Mound Trail parking lot at the end of Wildlife Drive in Ding Darling Preserve.

Bring binoculars, a hat, sunscreen and water to enjoy a fun and informative guided tour on the boardwalk trail. Naturalists will guide you through a world of fantastic island nature and alert you to what is currently there as far as wildlife.

The boardwalk circles the shell mounds themselves on this .4 mile trail through a tropical hardwood hammock habitat where Gumbo-limbo trees mingle with snake plants, sea grape, barbed cactus, poinciana and mimosa. Enjoy exotic bromeliads and the white mangrove which tower 30 feet into the air.

March Events on Sanibel: Getting Shelltacular!

Experience the history, culture, and natural beauty of Sanibel Island at the 81st annual Sanibel Shell Festival. Hosted at the historic and newly renovated Sanibel Community House from Friday, March 2 through Sunday, March 4, 2018.

Join Sanibel Island locals, visitors, shell enthusiast and artists from as far away as Canada, the Caribbean and beyond at one of Sanibel Island’s most cherished annual traditions. Spend the day browsing hundreds of exhibits by local painters, crafters, local vendors, wildlife experts, local eateries and more! Make sure to stop at the “Shell Tent” where shells can be bought for as little as 25 cents.

The Sanibel Shell Show is an integral part of the Shell Festival. This judged competition is the longest running and most prestigious shell show in North America. The competition between shell collectors and shell artists is open to everyone from the United States and around the world.

At the Sanibel Shell Show, you will be in awe of the art created by these international artists. Be amazed at the floral arrangements, sailor’s valentines and other magnificent works of art entered in the Shell Show.

Admission and parking is free to all attendees but for just a $5.00 donation to the local Sanibel Community Association and the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club, attendees will be granted access to all areas of the exhibit hall as well as one free admission to The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, an $11 value.

The Annual Shell Festival is the major fundraising event of the year for both the Sanibel Community Association and the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club.

All the funds raised by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club are given in the form of grants to several local marine education and conservation organizations and for scholarship funds to the University of South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University Departments of Marine & Ecological Science.

The funds raised by the sale of shells and shell art outdoors on the Festival grounds support the Sanibel Community House.

The Sanibel Community House is located at 2173 Periwinkle Way only an 8-minute drive or 15-minute bike ride from our property at Gulf Breeze Cottages.

Our pro tip? Ride your bike to the festival and skip the hassle of parking and traffic along Periwinkle Way.

Romantic Dining on Sanibel

February is one of our busiest and most beautiful months here at Gulf Breeze Cottages!  Demonstrated by the volume of visitors to our island, the fine, sunny skies and warm temperatures, we are in full swing of Season and loving every minute of it.

Of course, right in the middle of the month is Valentine’s Day, a warm, fun and loving holiday anticipated by all.  Sanibel is the perfect place to celebrate this great holiday, with beaches full of shells, long romantic walks at sunrise and sunset or just laying out in the sun on a lazy afternoon.  

Before that long, sunset beach stroll, why not head out and experience some of our favorite romantic dining spots on the water?

Thistle Lodge  is a beautiful Victorian style home overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. With Turrets and white washed glamour evocative of times gone by you will enjoy fine dining and incredible views of the lawn sweeping out to the beach.

Traditions, located on West Gulf Drive placed directly on the beach with a great menu, live music and truly fun atmosphere.  After your meal simply walk out the door directly onto the sand for your moonlit stroll.

Il Cielo is located just minutes away on Periwinkle Way and serves up ”Creative American Cuisine” that will sure to fill the romantic dinner bill. Beautiful ambience, charming waitstaff all combine for a memorable evening out with your special someone.  

For those extra special events, don’t forget the two premier jewelers on the the island, Congress Jewelers  and Lily & Co. Jewelers. Offering up the finest creations for world class exclusive shopping you can’t go wrong with these two beautiful galleries.

Best Florida Attraction? Vote J.N. “Ding” Darling

J N "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Internationally distributed American newspaper, USA Today, has asked readers to vote for their favorite Florida attraction! With several state attractions from Tampa Bay to Cape Canaveral and south to Miami and the Florida Keys, Sanibel Island’s very own J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has made the list!

Click here to vote now!

Help make J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge the #1 attraction in by casting your vote on their website located here. Please note you can vote once per day until the contest is closed on Monday, January 15 at noon ET. Winners will be announced on Friday, January 19.

USAToday asks:

What do you imagine when you think of Florida? Is it the 825 miles of sun-kissed beaches or family-filled amusement parks? How about the art deco architecture or contemporary art scene? Or maybe it’s the sprawling Everglades teeming with life or stone crab claws enjoyed al fresco by the shore. There’s something for just about every visitor to love in the Sunshine State.”

Click here to vote now!

Why choose J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge?

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is your best chance to experience Florida in its most native state. The refuge is composed of many different water refuges that comprise a total of over8000 acres. 245 types of birds such as the beautiful roseate spoonbill, mammals such as manatees, raccoons, otter and other small critters, reptiles such as snakes, turtles and of course alligators, call the refuge home. Explore the various habitats where you may encounter many types of wildlife, birds, and beautiful tropical flora and fauna on a 5-mile trail accessible by foot, bike or car.

The refuge is also located within an estuary, the tidal mouth of a body of water where the tide meets the stream, which provides a rich environment for all kinds of life. All areas both wet and dry can be investigated and toured leisurely or with guides.  

Additionally, The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge Nature Center located at the front of the park is an educational and fun experience for visitors of all ages.

The J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife refuge is located at 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957 and can be reached by telephone at (239) 472-1100

Vote today and every day until January 15, 2018!

Click here to vote now!

The Best Place To Watch The Sunset On Sanibel

Sanibel Fl Sunset

On Sanibel, we are blessed to experience over 300 days of sunshine each year. Our wonderful positioning on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico plus an extraordinary amount of sunlight provides plentiful opportunities to soak up one of the most spectacular shows in the world… a Sanibel Island sunset.

Our front desk staff is constantly “Where is the best place to watch the Sunset on Sanibel?”

Now, we may be biased but nothing is better than enjoying a spectacular show just steps from your very own private beach cottage. Grab some chairs, a cold drink, and hang out to watch day turn into night. Added bonus, because we are located on the south side of the island, we get awe-inspiring sunsets AND sunrises.

Ever heard of the “Green Flash?” Legend says if you don’t blink as the sun dips below the horizon for the last few seconds of the day, you will witness a green “spark” as the edge of the sun disappears into the sea. Keep your eyes wide open, the flash only lasts for a split second! Scientifically, the green flash occurs because the atmosphere can cause the light from the sun to separate out into different colors.

Want a change of scenery? Sanibel Island is host to plenty of picture perfect locations to savor the last moments of every day.  Consider visiting Blind Pass Beach. This beach is the most westerly region of Sanibel Island where visitors and locals can view the sunset in its full glory. Take note, this area is quite busy during peak season. For a unique, roadside experience, head to Causeway Islands Park and enjoy the show in the sky, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen!

Don’t forget, sunset is a great time to shell, or take that annual family photo!

What time does the sun set tonight? Check here.   

Yoga on Sanibel

Yoga Sanibel Island

Breathe deep… and get ready for an extra escape.

Close your eyes, get comfortable, and take a deep breath. You’ve arrived in paradise and are ready to delve deep into the world of yoga on Sanibel. Whether you’re an expert yogi or an amateur, there are plenty of options on Sanibel that will compliment your stay on the island.  Get ready to start, or end your say as you stand tall like a palm, bend like a wave, and channel your inner crab (yes, there is something called a crab pose).

Get in the zone at Sanibel Yoga with Dr. Susan Pataky, the owner and founder of one of the hottest yoga spots on Sanibel! Located at 2173 Periwinkle Way, Dr. Pataky has been teaching the healthful benefits of yoga and meditation for over 40 years. As a long-time Sanibel Island resident, she has offered health and wisdom to both islanders and visitors alike for many years. She conducts sessions conveniently at the Sanibel Community House on Periwinkle Way. Contact Susan today to reserve your spot in her legendary class. She can be reached at 239-738-3856.

Experience the thrill of “Stillness to Movement” at Ambu Yoga. Hope in your car and venture up to Captiva (the drive is beautiful), to experience a class at Ambu Yoga. Join either an outdoor or indoor class and experience the beauty of the islands while connecting with nature and yoga disciplines. Sign up for class on their website and don’t forget to bring a few extra dollars to spend in their amazing eco-boutique. Hint: Ambu Yoga is located at South Seas Island Resort, at the plaza across the street from Starbucks.

Last, experience the best in wellness on Sanibel with Sanibel Pilates and Yoga. At Sanibel Pilates and Yoga, “Empowering Your Health and Wellness” is the goal and a wonderful group of teachers and artists are waiting to show you a beautiful experience in their studio. Relax and make new friends at 975 Rabbit Road.

If you’ve never tried yoga, we encourage you to take some time during your time on the island to explore everything the island has to offer.

Where to get the best Seafood on Sanibel?

Seafood Sanibel Gulf Breeze Cottages

When you travel to Florida, most visitors are excited to enjoy the beach and all of the shells that are found across our famous Sanibel shelling beach probably. Next, one of the most important activities our visitors look forward to is savoring the flavor of local, fresh seafood. Southwest Florida is home to wonderful local delicacies from the sea that you will not find back home!  Sanibel Island is lucky to have a vast array of fantastic restaurants that serve up fresh seafood daily to not only hungry guests to our area, but to the locals as well.

We’d like to take you on a short tour of those eateries that are famous for their great seafood.

Starting with Timbers on Tarpon Bay Road,  you can enjoy a fantastic meal of fresh catch and as they say, dine with the locals. They serve up fish caught that morning and served to you by lunch or dinner.  Great ambience and not priced too high.  From there we move along to Traders on Periwinkle Way which delights the palate with a multi-faceted menu with island favorites in a typical Sanibel atmosphere, but with a twist as they also opens up to a gift shop with fun items for souvenirs for your friends, families or yourself.  Friendly and fun is always on the menu at Traders. On to Doc Ford’s on Island Inn Road where they are enjoying their new location in grand style!  Named after a character from the island’s famed writer Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series you can also find the writer hanging out there and grab any one of is extremely popular Sanibel based crime novels and get an autograph as well. 

For that fun lunch you can grab a fried basket at Gramma Dots, a favorite for many many years on the island, located in a marina on the east end of the island you are right on the water and enjoy that the gulls and the boats coming and going, definitely on most folks’ list. Mussels, oysters, shrimp and fresh catch are all to be had at the Lazy Flamingo on Periwinkle Way  If you enjoy a very casual lunch or night with a pitcher or two of beer and raw bar this is the place! You will surely have a great night out with music and lots of fun and great memories to take home with you, not to mention a full stomach.

Craving your own private evening in your fully equipped kitchen with us?  Don’t leave Timbers without checking out their fresh seafood market.  Both Jerry’s and Bailey’s Market offer up the freshest on the island for your in room dining experience.  Put your own meal together as you like!

December Events on Sanibel

Christmas Cottages Surf

Spending time on Sanibel Island during the month of December puts a different twist on the holiday season that most visitors really enjoy and continue to return for a festive series of holiday events year after year.  From the beginning of the month to the end of December, there are events to keep the whole family in good holiday cheer: Sanibel Style.

Early in the month, count on the return of the Luminary festivities on both Sanibel and Captiva islands.  This is a special night of lit candles along the roadways and business, bringing a magical glow to our tropical paradise.  This is the 33rd year that we and our guests have enjoyed the candle lit stroll with photos with Santa, a live nativity from 5pm-9pm at the Sanibel Community Church, music and more. Sanibel Luminary is on December 1 and the Captiva Luminary is on December 2 this year.

Also on December 2, enjoy the family-friendly Elf The Musical Jr. at the Sanibel Community House.

The show is from 3pm-5pm and makes for a great afternoon of live theater for you and your family!  

Every Sunday the Farmers Market is located at City Hall from 8am to 1pm serving up all the fresh produce, baked goods, special gift items and lots of good cheer mixed with community spirit. You can enjoy this fun activity through May. On Tuesdays the market finds a home up on Captiva at South Seas Plantation from 9am-1pm.  

Looking for something extra special for Christmas Eve? Take a Dolphin and Wildlife cruise to Picnic island on December 24.  Book this great tour with the nice folks at Adventures in Paradise and visit with Santa on a deserted island right here in our waters! Holiday fun for the entire family with dolphins as your escort!  It’s a family affair on the Sun Princess with eggnog and cookies, tropical music as the sun sets and the dolphins play for you. Truly a magical moment on the waves on the night before Christmas!

A helpful site for your nightly entertainment updates is found right here.

No matter when you come in December you will not be at a loss for some island time pleasures!  

November Events on Sanibel

Credit: Adventures In Paradise, Inc.

November is a beautiful month for us here on Sanibel Island and we’d like to share that with you here at our Gulf Front Olde Florida Village!

November marks the return of the Farmers Market at City Hall.  Since 2008, islanders and visitors have enjoyed this fantastic outdoor activity where you can purchase local produce, breads, honey, seafood, flowers, cheeses and many other items from different vendors.

Join them Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  You will find parking in the lots at the City Hall, Sanibel Library and BIG Arts as well. For those nights where you want to freshen up your menu with local fresh produce and fun baked goods stop in and check it out!  You won’t be disappointed.

Should your stay with us intersect early in the month mark your calendar on November 5th for the Sanibel Blues and Jazz Fest!  This is an awesomely popular event here which  headlines Matt Schofield and the Marty Stokes Band with Elvin Bishop added to the mix. From noon to 6 p.m. at Bailey’s Backyard at 2477 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL 33957.

Elvin Bishop’s Big Fun Trio is an awesome blend of rootsy, spirit and soul performed by fun loving musicians that love a good time. Matt Schofield hails from Britain and is an inductee of the British Blues Hall of Fame.  And hometown boy Marty Stokes never disappoints in the Blues arena. So come on down and join them for a bluesy afternoon in the sun!

Topping off November events is of course Thanksgiving!

Try a new twist to the holiday by taking Adventures in Paradise’s Thanksgiving Dolphin Cruise.  

This is the perfect Sanibel Island Holiday activity which takes you out on the open water for an hour and a half looking for the spots that dolphin enjoy to hang out and interact with humans.  Birdlife is also on hand with the flocks heading to their evening roosts.  Manatee are on deck as well.  All this hosted by their knowledgeable captain and first mate. Complimentary soft drinks and water available. Book early to assure your seat for this fun sunset cruise in the middle of our natural wildlife habitat!

Events on Sanibel: Taste of the Islands Returns!

You know it’s Fall on Sanibel when the island is buzzing about Taste of the Islands served up by CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife here on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.  The participants were just announced and the lineup of fabulous island-based restaurants that will be on-site for the event is sure to get your mouth watering!

Taste of the Islands is a local dining showcase and festival where select island restaurants prepare food for event attendees to sample and savor! This is the 36th year for this event which will be held on November 12 from 12 p.m. to 5 the Sanibel Community Park. View event info here.

This marks the 8th year in a row that Edison National Bank/Bank of the Islands has been the hosting sponsors.  

Eagerly anticipated by locals and visitors alike, The Taste of the Islands offers up some of our finest eateries best and most delicious samples of their fare. Admission is only $7 and free for children under 12.  The proceeds will help CROW fund its programs which you can view here.

There will be honors given out to restaurants for “Best Appetizer”, “Best Seafood”, “Taste of the Taste” and the “People’s Choice” belongs to you the attendees to select!  

Some of this year’s participants are:  Rosie’s Cafe and Grill, Matzaluna, Il Cielo, Thistle Lodge, Shima, Doc Fords, The Timbers, La Bella Vita and more.  You just can’t beat this great afternoon of culinary fun, so come on over if you are in town and try out the tasty treats offered all the while helping our local wildlife!  

For more information, please visit Crow’s website here.