Captiva and Sanibel islands captivate visitors with sunsets and shelling

Lee County barrier islands offer more than just shelling and swimming.
The "Sanibel stoop" is a common sight on the beach, as people bend down to pick up shells. [Tampa Bay Times file photo]
The "Sanibel stoop" is a common sight on the beach, as people bend down to pick up shells. [Tampa Bay Times file photo]
Published Feb. 1, 2018|Updated Feb. 1, 2018

In the sultry heat of this lush island, the salty, sweet smell of sea grapes casts a spell on visitors.

On sandy paths to the beach and on strolls down narrow shaded streets, you'll smell those fragrant flowers and secretly wonder how much it would take to live here.

It's no wonder the Wall Street Journal ranked Captiva Island one of the 10 best places in the country to own a second home. The asking price may be steep — say, $1.4 million for a three-bedroom place … not on the water. But it's tempting to dream about it here, where a grouper wind vane sits atop the clapboard Chapel-By-The-Sea and you can easily walk to the beach to see spectacular sunsets.

Even the dead are lavished in nature's beauty. At the seaside cemetery next to the chapel, loved ones leave conchs and smaller seashells on tombstones, including one that says simply: "Sunsets on the beach forever."

Captiva and its bigger sister just to the south, Sanibel Island, are more lush and tropical than just about anywhere in Florida. They're home to thousands of coconut palms, heavy with green coconuts during summertime. Pink, purple and scarlet bougainvillea burst from yards and byways, sometimes intertwining with banana trees, dripping with bunches of sweet yellow bananas.

Double coral hibiscus competes with the pink, fragrant flowers of frangipani. The orange flowers of royal poinciana trees fill the skies and then bike paths and sidewalks when they fall, and trees along Captiva Drive burst with yellow orchid-like flowers that turn garnet before floating gracefully to the ground.

All that beauty prompts residents to name their homes as poets title their poems: Blue Heavens, Paradise Found, Aloha Baby, Captivating, Captured.

And who wouldn't want to be captured here on these two barrier islands west of Pine Island and Fort Myers in Lee County?

Karen Haymon Long originally wrote this story in 2015. Click here to read the rest.