Along Florida’s southwestern coast is an island getaway for nature and bicycle lovers: Sanibel Island. This 12-mile-long island also is popular for its pristine beaches and abundant shells. Overview article tells you how to get help planning your stay and suggests excursions to nearby attractions including Cayo Costa State Park, the Everglades, Naples and more!

Tucked along Florida’s southwest coast is a virtual Mecca for bicycle enthusiasts. On a barrier island west of Fort Myers lies Sanibel Island, a 12-mile-long island destination for nature and bicycle lovers.

While drivers in Florida beach towns are used to braking for swimsuit-clad pedestrians roaming the streets, on Sanibel Island it seems the bicyclists easily outnumber foot travelers. Like the postman who makes his rounds in rain, wind or sleet, you can find a bicyclist on the trails well after sunset or in a downpour, clad with a poncho. You may prefer to bring your own bike, but there’s really no need. There are plenty of bicycle shops which rent to island guests.

Plan ahead to get the best deals and make the most of your excursion to this distinctive community between Port Charlotte and Naples, west of Interstate 75. Those who enjoy camping may want to investigate the Periwinkle Park & Campground, which offers campsites for recreational vehicles or tents.

On your way onto the island along Causeway Road, it is well worth a short stop at the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center. If you don’t already have reservations, the chamber can tell you which lodgings have vacancies available for the day, their minimum night stay requirements, and pet policies. Also available is literature to help you plan your activities while on the island, including restaurant, excursion, and real estate advice.

Sanibel has off-the-road trails which connect lodging, shopping areas, and restaurants, making it a convenient form of local transport. But perhaps the most interesting biking opportunity is at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which allows bicyclists, hikers, boaters and drivers to see nature up close. Taking the $5 drive-through in a car makes it easier to tow fishing and photo gear, or stop and fish. Kayak and canoe tours or rentals are available, as well as sea cruises and tram rides.

Sanibel Island also is popular for shells — best found during a low tide. Bring beach shoes with firm soles and a pail to scour the shoreline for shell mementos of your visit. Tum them into unusual necklaces, make your own earrings, or even use the larger ones as attractive paperweights. You also can visit shell shops on the island.

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