Island mini-trip: Sanibel and Captiva

Sanibel and Captiva are close enough for one night, but far enough away to feel like vacation

NEACAP : SANIBELCAP04

Many species of native Florida wildlife can be found at the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. For a fee vistors can walk, bike or even drive through the refuge to catch of glimpse of the beautiful animals Southwest Florida has to offer. Justin L. Fowler/STAFF

NEACAP : SANIBELCAP04 Many species of native Florida wildlife can be found at the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. For a fee vistors can walk, bike or even drive through the refuge to catch of glimpse of the beautiful animals Southwest Florida has to offer. Justin L. Fowler/STAFF

A group of German tourists aren't intimidated by an impending shower as they view the surrounding landscape at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and try to capture jumping mullets with their cameras.  Michel Fortier/Staff

Photo by MICHEL FORTIER

A group of German tourists aren't intimidated by an impending shower as they view the surrounding landscape at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and try to capture jumping mullets with their cameras. Michel Fortier/Staff

We needed a break, but there just wasn’t time for the week-long island vacation we were craving.

So instead, my fiance and I took a short trip to Sanibel Island. It was hard to pack up our bags after a two-day, one-night stay, but we returned home to Naples refreshed and relaxed.

We stayed at the Sundial Beach & Golf Resort, which is on Middle Gulf Drive on the island’s southeast side. Our room was called a “coastal residence,” and it was a one-bedroom condo. It had a nice big lanai with a view of the ocean across the hotel property, a full kitchen, dining, living and bedroom. You could choose a king-sized bed or two doubles, and with a $10 Florida resident discount it cost $169 before taxes.

It was nice to have the big lanai, and wonderful to be steps away from one of the resort’s pools and the beach. We took advantage of the kitchen, bringing bread, cheese, fruit and a bottle of wine for dinner.

The only problem with the room was the television set up. It was a small, very old box TV with poor picture quality and the DVD player didn’t work. It might have been a pain if you had kids, but it didn’t dampen our fun. Overall, the hotel’s service was fine but not exceptional.

We spent our time relaxing in the room and swimming in the pool and the ocean. Before heading back to Naples, we stopped at The Bean, the Island’s local coffee shop, for lunch. For about $20 we each had an iced coffee and a sandwich: the smoked salmon nova bagel and grilled chicken caprese panino, which came with grapes, slices of orange and grapefruit, and chips.

Below are hotel, restaurant and recreation options for a quick getaway on Sanibel or Captiva. The Chamber of Commerce Web site also has a lot of information: (239) 472-1080, www.sanibel-captiva.org

PLACES TO STAY ON THE BEACH

South Seas Island Resort

* Where: 5400 Plantation Road, Captiva

* Cost: Rooms start at $135 weeknights, $162 weekends with Florida resident discount

* Information: (866) 565-5089, www.southseas.com

Sundial Beach & Golf Resort

* Where: 1451 Middle Gulf Drive, Sanibel Island

* Cost: Rooms start at $119 weeknights, $129 weekends with Florida resident discount

* Information: (866) 565-5093, www.sundialresort.com

West Wind Inn

* Where: 3345 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel Island

* Cost: Rooms start at $138

* Information: (239) 472-1541, www.westwindinn.com

WHERE TO EAT

Sanibel Bean

This is a laid-back coffee shop where you can get hot and cold coffees, along with a breakfast, lunch and dinner menu of sandwiches, salads and soups. They have wireless Internet and sidewalk chalk if you want to stay awhile.

* Where: 2240 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel

* Cost: Sandwich and a drink costs about $10

* Information: (239)-395-1919, www.sanibelbean.com

Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille

Author Randy Wayne White’s restaurant is named after the hero and main character in his popular Doc Ford novels. It’s laid back and there’s lots of seafood on the menu.

* Where: 975 Rabbit Road, Sanibel

* Cost: Sandwiches about $10 and entrees $17.95 to $24.95

* Information: www.docfordssanibel.com, (239) 472-8311

The Bubble Room

This quirky, kitschy restaurant is famous for it’s crazy decor. The food is American, with steak, poultry, pork and seafood on the menu.

* Where: 15001 Captiva Drive, Sanibel

* Cost: Lunch from $6.45 to $14.95, dinner from $19.95 to $33.95

* Information: (239) 472-5558, www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com

WHAT TO DO

Boating at Tarpon Bay

Tarpon Bay Explorers offers guided boat and fishing tours leaving from Tarpon Bay in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. You can also rent kayaks or canoes and explore on your own.

* Where: 900 Tarpon Bay Road, Sanibel

* Cost: Varies depending on tour or boat rental, check Web site

* Information: (239) 472-8900, www.tarponbayexplorers.com

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

More than 220 species of birds live in this preserve of more than 5,000 acres. Wildlife Drive, the preserve’s public access road, is a good place to explore the preserve in your car, on your bike or on foot.

* Where: 1 Wildlife Drive, Sanibel

* Cost: $5 per vehicle and $1 per walker/biker older than 15

* Information: (239) 472-1100, www.fws.gov/dingdarling

Public Beach Access

* Sanibel Beaches: Causeway beaches (along Sanibel Causeway, free parking), Lighthouse Beach & Fishing Pier (east end of Periwinkle Way), Gulfside City Park (Algiers Lane off Casa Ybel Road), Tarpon Bay Beach (south end of Tarpon Bay Road at West Gulf Drive) and Bowman’s Beach (only beach with barbecues, off Sanibel-Captiva Road, turn left on Bowman’s Beach Road).

* Captiva Beache: Turner Beach/Blind Pass (not ideal for swimming because of swift currents, either side of bridge between Sanibel and Captiva), Captiva Beach (end of Captiva Drive).

* Cost: Parking costs $2 an hour on Sanibel and Captiva, with cash and cards accepted.

* Information: (239) 472-1080, www.sanibel-captiva.org

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum

Sanibel is famous for shelling, but if you need a break from the beach you can check out more than 30 exhibits of mollusks from around the world.

* Where: 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel

* Cost: $7 for adults 17 and older, $4 for children ages 5 to 16, free for children younger than 4

* Information: (239) 395-2233, www.shellmuseum.org

Connect with Katy Bishop at www.naplesnews.com/staff/katy_bishop

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