Sanibel is world-renowned for its beautiful shelling beaches (ranked 3rd in the world). This special island that remains the way nature intended, with over 2/3 of the island dedicated as a wildlife sanctuary, and 22 miles of bike paths for hiking, biking, and experiencing nature. Adding to the natural, laid-back atmosphere, you won't find a traffic light or any building over three stories. Wildlife is in abundance on Sanibel, with some of the most fabulous birding found right here. If you like kayaking or canoeing, this is the place for you. From nature to boating, sailing, and fishing, to bicycling, golf, and tennis, this spectacular tropical island has it all!
Sanibel is a city in Lee County, Florida, United States, on Sanibel Island. The population was 6,469 at the 2010 census, with an estimated 2012 population of 6,741. It is part of the Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area. Sanibel is a barrier island – a collection of sand on the leeward side of the more solid coral-rock of Pine Island.
The city incorporates the entire island, with most of the city proper at the east end of the island. After the Sanibel causeway was built to replace the ferry in May 1963, the residents asserted control over development by establishing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1974 helping to maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island's ecology.A new, higher bridge, permitting passage without a bascule bridge (drawbridge) of tall boats and sailboats, was completed in late 2007.
Due to easy causeway access, Sanibel is a popular tourist destination known for its shell beaches and wildlife refuges. More than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges, the largest being J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The Island hosts the Sanibel Historical Village and a variety of other museums and theaters, as well as many non-profit organizations like the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, and the Sanibel Sea School. In August 2004, Hurricane Charley hit the island causing mandatory evacuation for the residents and resulting in the most storm damage to the island in 44 years.
Sanibel and Captiva formed as one island about 6,000 years ago. The first known humans in the area were the Calusa, who arrived about 2,500 years ago. The Calusa were a powerful Indian nation who came to dominate most of Southwest Florida through trade via their elaborate system of canals and waterways. Sanibel remained an important Calusa settlement until the collapse of their empire, soon after the arrival of the Europeans.
In 1765, the first known appearance of a harbor on Sanibel is shown on a map as Puerto de S. Nibel (the "v" and "b" being interchangeable); thus, the name may have evolved from "San Nibel". Alternatively, the name may derive, as many believe, from "(Santa) Ybel", which survives in the old placename "Point Ybel", where the Sanibel Island Light is located. How it would have gotten this name, however, is a matter of conjecture. One story says it was named by Juan Ponce de León for Queen Isabella I of Castile; the island may indeed be named for this queen or the saint whose name she shares, either by Ponce de León or someone later. Another attributes the name to Roderigo Lopez, the first mate of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), after his beautiful lover Sanibel whom he had left behind in Spain. Like most of the lore surrounding Gasparilla, however, this story is apocryphal, as the above references to recognizable variants of the name predate the buccaneer's supposed reign.
Sanibel is not the only island in the area to figure prominently in the legends of Gaspar; Captiva, Useppa, and Gasparilla are also connected. Sanibel also appears in another tale, this one involving Gaspar's ally-turned-rival Black Caesar, said to have been a former Haitian slave who escaped during the Haitian Revolution to become a pirate. According to folklore, Black Caesar came to the Gulf of Mexico during the War of 1812 to avoid interference from the British. In the Gulf he befriended Gasparilla, who allowed him to establish himself on Sanibel Island. Eventually the old Spaniard discovered Caesar had been stealing from him and chased him off, but not before his loot had been buried.
Legendary pirates' dens aside, the first modern settlement on Sanibel (then spelled "Sanybel") was established by the Florida Peninsular Land Company in 1832. The colony never took off, and was abandoned by 1849. It was this first group that initially petitioned for a lighthouse on the island. The island was re-populated after the implementation of the Homestead Act in 1862, and again a lighthouse was petitioned. Construction on the Sanibel Island Lighthouse was completed in 1884, but the community remained small. In May 1963 a causeway linking Sanibel and Captiva to the mainland was opened, resulting in an explosion of growth. The City of Sanibel passed new restrictions on development after it was incorporated; these were challenged by developers, to no avail. Currently the only buildings on the island taller than two stories date before 1974, and there are no fast food or chain restaurants allowed on the island except a Dairy Queen and a Subway, which were on the island before the laws were enacted. A new causeway was completed in 2007; it replaced the worn out 1963 spans, which were not designed to carry heavy loads or large numbers of vehicles. The new bridge features a "flyover" span tall enough for sailboats to pass under, replacing the old bridge's bascule drawbridge span. The original bridge was demolished and its remains were sunk into the water to create artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The main town is located on the eastern end of the island. The city was formed in 1974, as a direct result of the main causeway being built in 1963 to replace the ferry, and the rampant construction and development that occurred afterward. Developers sued over the new restrictions, but the city and citizens prevailed in their quest to protect the island. The only buildings above two to three stories now on the barrier island were built during that period.
The city is on Gulf coast of Southwest Florida, and is linked to the mainland by the Sanibel Causeway. A short bridge over Blind Pass links Sanibel to Captiva Island. More than half of the two islands are preserved in its natural state as wildlife refuges. Visitors can drive, walk, bike, or kayak through the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The island's most famous landmark, the Sanibel Lighthouse, is located at the eastern end of the island, adjacent to the fishing pier. The main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is where the majority of stores and restaurants are located, while the Gulf Drives (East, Middle and West) play host to most of the accommodations.
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, a not-for-profit organization, has also been a key player in helping to curb uncontrolled commercial growth and development on the island. Since 1967, SCCF has been dedicated to the preservation of natural resources on and around Sanibel and Captiva and has led efforts to acquire and preserve environmentally sensitive land on the islands including critical wildlife habitats, rare and unique subtropical plant communities, tidal wetlands, and freshwater wetlands along the Sanibel River.
The city's best-known resident is former CIA Director Porter Goss, who spearheaded the island's incorporation, became its first mayor, and represented the area in Congress from 1989 until his appointment as CIA Director in 2004.
The Wall Street Journal selected Sanibel and Captiva Islands as one of the 10 Best Places for Second Homes in 2010.
Source : Wikipedia