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Besides the boating, fishing, hiking, biking, and jogging, Sanibel is also known as one of the best spots in the world for shelling. Start at one of the beaches—Lighthouse Beach and Fishing Pier, Algier's Beach (Gulfside City Park), Tarpon Bay Beach, Bowman's Beach or Blind Pass/Turner's Beach—and find the more than 200 species of shells that come in from the Gulf of Mexico. The Causeway Islands beaches are man-made islands on the causeway in San Carlos Bay and some shelling can be done there as well. The best time of year for shelling is between November and April (or after any storm) and the best time is around any low tide. And there are plenty of charter captains and boats for rent - though the shallow waters of the bay and Pine Island Sound are very tricky to navigate - if you prefer to do your shelling in more isolated areas with less competition for the shells. But wherever you go, be aware that it is strictly against the law to take live shells, which means anything that has a creature inside it, including shells with a resident hermit crab.
Birding is widely popular and Sanibel sits on the North American Flyway. You'll find many seasonal and year round inhabitants. Birding is best done in 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Wading birds, such as great egrets and herons, are most plentiful on the in the bay and sound areas during low tides and diving birds, such a osprey and pelicans, are plentiful during high tides. One good way to see birds in the refuge is to rent a kayak and take it out into the mangroves in Tarpon Bay - Tarpon Bay Explorers (239.472.8900) rents kayaks and runs guided kayak tours. They also run a guided tour bus through the Refuge; it spares you the driving and the drivers are good at spotting and identifying birds and other creatures.
This book is all about Sanibel and Captiva Islands, very informative. They include a "challenge"..a series of 10 places/things to figure out on the island, all outside and lots of fun! A great way to hang out with your family and not spend money. The website is
www.sancapbook.com, you can get the book at a local store on the island, but you can buy online too.