We have been coming to Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island since our first year with our “training” RV, The Barracuda, a 1978 GM Motorhome, and we have returned a couple of times a year ever since. As we have likely mentioned before, Periwinkle Park is your only RV option on Sanibel or Captiva unless you know someone with a house with room for you to park, or you snag one of the coveted work-camping jobs at Ding Darling National Preserve (for which there is a waiting list.)
So with Periwinkle being the only game in town, they can charge steep prices: $58 a night, all in. OK, so you are willing to bite the bullet and pay that price, but can you even get a reservation? The park offers “right of first refusal” for the upcoming year to their regular Fall and Winter seasonal customers (The Forty-Niners, so named because originally there were 49 RV sites,) all of whom have been coming for more than a decade.
It’s not just shells in Sanibel: there is some fantastic driftwood as well.
This means that if you want to stay for any significant length of time in the high season, you need to have been coming for years, slowly building up your stay length as the park management begins to remember you from previous visits and as one of the regulars stops coming. And Forty-Niners are dedicated: we have met several that, once they became uncomfortable driving their rig all the way down from the north, they started storing their in Fort Myers and paying someone to deliver it to Sanibel, timed to their arrival. After six years of repeat visits, we were able to lock in a full month this year, our longest stay, between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Medium sized gator swimming away in that pic.
Oh, and the big monthly rate discount you often see at RV parks? Here it is roughly a 16% decrease from the daily rate, and nothing more than that for an entire season. This is not the most expensive place we have ever stayed, but it is certainly the priciest RV campground that we regularly visit. Such an expenditure requires an offset, which is why we have stuck with the Naples Pine Ridge Farmers Market despite the inconvenience of driving their each Sunday and our variable success we have had.
So the day after our afternoon arrival in Sanibel, we were up at dawn to take the heavily loaded Loki off island for our first of four reserved markets there. It turned out OK, but not great. This is sort of what we saw last year with the weekend immediately following Thanksgiving: mediocre sales as, I’m guessing, people were burnt from Black Friday and we aren’t close enough to Christmas. Ah well.
Honestly, we are victims of our own inertia, having defaulted and financially committed to the Naples event (you have to pay the vendor fee for four weekends in advance) due to our previous participation before we did the research for closer options. We have done that research now, and found market options in the greater Fort Myers area for nearly every day of the week, which will involve a noticeably shorter drive the next time we come to Sanibel.
Good God look at the size of that kitty!
Enough griping. We are on Sanibel, and it is fantastic. The severe red tide they experienced for much of the Summer and early Fall has mostly dissipated, i.e., we could not detect it at all from the campground, and only noticed it on two visits to the beach, and the shelling has been solid. Our familiarity with the island means we know which beaches to hit, and, for the most part, which establishments to patronize.
Typical Sanibel Shell Mound
That includes the Sanibel Public Library, a really excellent example of what a local library can be with sufficient support. In addition to the books and DVDs, the wifi is free and reasonably fast, the staff knowledgeable, and you can check out passes to three local things that normally charge an entry fee. Thus in our first week we returned to the National Shell Museum, a place worth visiting even if if you have to pay the regular entry fee.
Finally, having been coming for six years, though for admittedly brief stays, the regulars are starting to recognize us, particularly those that attend the evening social hour at the covered seating area near the pond. Though attendance was light that first week; many of the Forty-Niners have not yet arrived for the winter. So far, we are generally loving our stay and have no regrets about securing a full month here.