Since our arrival last Friday, we’ve spent some time exploring the resort, doing some bike riding, exploring BJ’s, WalMart and Home Depot (how exciting!). Our only complaint about being at Riverbend is that it is pretty much in the middle of nowhere and at least a 30 minute drive to Fort Myers and an hour’s drive to Naples. There is a market and some other retail however about 15 minutes away. On Tuesday, we set out without a destination in mind, mainly because the weather forecast was a little iffy with the possibility of showers off and on all day.
We drove towards Fort Myers, stopping for breakfast at Mel’s Diner which has a number of locations in Southwest Florida. Decor was fun to look at, food was very good and service was excellent! We’d definitely go back again.
By the time we finished, the morning gloom had cleared, the sun had made an appearance so maybe the forecast was wrong so we decided to take a ride over to Sanibel & Captiva Islands across the bay from Fort Myers. We remembered being there several years ago on one of trips in the van but couldn’t remember much about the islands.
The trip to Sanibel involves paying a $6 toll to travel the causeway which spans San Carlos Bay. The causeway consists of 3 separate two lane bridge spans, which were rebuilt in 2007, and 2 man made causeway islands. Each side of the man made islands has a small park where you can park your car, sit on the beach or even do some fishing. It definitely was a popular place!
Once we were on the island, our first stop was at the Sanibel Welcome Center where we picked up a map and talked to one of the volunteers about where to go and what to see. We both chuckled when we saw the sign on the right! What?? Is this a joke or do they really get snow here?
Mike, the volunteer who we talked to, recommended that we drive through the J.N. “Dink” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. There is a $5 charge for the drive but using our National Parks Annual Pass, it was free. The drive is open everyday except Friday when it is closed to give the wildlife a rest from us humanoids!
The drive is a one way 4.5 – 5 mile long rough paved road with a 15 mph speed limit. You can pull over on the right hand side and stop anywhere along the drive. We saw a lot of birds – ibis, blue herons, white pelicans (hard to see in the photo), ospreys as well as two alligators sunning themselves by the side of the road. At one of the stops, there was a boardwalk in the red mangroves where we saw a lot of tiny tree crabs climbing up and down the tree trunks. Cute little critters (well, maybe not so much)! A tram tour stopped while we were there and the tour guide was explaining that the crabs climb up the trees to eat the leaves but they cannot stay out of the water for long periods of time so they munch for a bit, then they head back down to the water to rehydrate their gills. There’s one in the photo on the right but it is really difficult to see it. There are photos and more information here.
By the time we finished the drive it was well after 2 p.m. and we wanted to head back before rush hour traffic since we had at least an hour’s drive ahead of us. But we decided to drive around for a bit longer before heading back towards the causeway. Lots of cute restaurants (we didn’t eat at any of them), shops, inns and vacation properties, lovely homes surrounded by colorful plants, shrubs and palm trees. And of course, beautiful beaches although parking looked like it was an issue. Definitely an upscale place! The islands were pretty busy – I would hate to see it during the summer! There was a paved bicycle path all around the islands – if the weather forecast had been better and if we had an earlier start, we probably would have brought our bikes and would have done some peddling. Oh, well, maybe next time.
Well, touring around the island probably wasn’t a very wise decision on our part! Around 3:30 p.m. we started to head back. There’s only one road to get to the causeway and by this time, there was a major traffic jam! It must have taken us about 30 minutes to travel less than a mile! Once we were on the causeway, the traffic wasn’t an issue. I think we arrived back at the hacienda after 6:00 p.m.! Overall it was a nice day! At least it beat spending the day at WalMart!