Guidebook A kaleidoscopic shimmer of seashells

Fort Myers and Sanibel

A kaleidoscopic shimmer of seashells

Sanibel Island has one main draw: seashells, says Canada’s Globe and Mail. “The island juts into the Gulf of Mexico like a giant hook, catching millions of shells that are washed ashore by storms.” As The Guardian explains, “every tide that hits Sanibel is like the upending of a treasure chest … in the morning, the blindingly white beaches of this island off Florida's Gulf coast twinkle with the bounty deposited overnight: a kaleidoscopic shimmer of seashells, in quantities that almost obscure the sand, in sizes from the too small to notice to the big enough to trip over, in such colours that you start to suspect molluscs, as a species, of being outrageous showoffs.”

Sanibel’s unique east-west orientation means that “a bounty of rarely seen seashells wash onto its 15 miles of shoreline,” notes Conde Nast Traveler. Shelling on Sanibel Island is a rewarding pursuit, explains Katie Kelly Bell at Forbes, “simply because it yields intact shells -- the ones with critters have to go back -- but the empties are yours to keep.”

Beachcombing could be considered a “competitive sport” on the shores of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, says Atlas Obscura. “Tourists and residents alike troll the sand at low tide, often before first light, bent over in the ‘Sanibel stoop’ with their special scooping rakes ... sifting for rare prizes including the golden olive, scotch bonnet, or alphabet cone.”

Bowman's Beach is Sanibel Island's most popular, writes Travel and Leisure, “but it still feels secluded,” with a beautiful coastline that entices wind surfers, sailors and shell collectors “who come from all over to pick up conches and cockles.” A bit more “off the beaten path” is Blind Pass Beach, located between Sanibel and Captiva, where the currents bring in “a ton of shells.”

And Sanibel Island is home to the only US museum “devoted solely to shells and mollusks,” reports Getting Stamped. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum possesses “amazing shell exhibits of both live animals and shells.” It includes exhibits about the Calusa Indians “who once called the region home,” writes Atlas Obscura, and showcases “art and craft forms that use shells, including cameos and sailors’ valentines. It’s also a resource for “scientists, students, and research institutions on marine, terrestrial, and land mollusks of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.”

Fort Myers and Sanibel
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