Sanibel is one of our favorite places in Florida. We typically visit after a string of family and friend stops along with a series of markets, so it has the added benefit of being a restful place capping a couple of months of significant driving and activity. It is, however, expensive; as in one of the three priciest places we stay all year. We get a modest discount for a full month stay, which brings the RV resort fee down from $58 to a bit over $48 a day. Because of this, we want our full 30 day stay, and are loathe to compromise on this.
What this meant this year is that despite having our last Lake Mary Farmers Market on a Saturday, which continues into the early afternoon, we still packed up the rig and drove all the way down to Sanibel upon completion of the event rather than staying one more night in Central Florida and making the trip south the next morning. We had to do this because Periwinkle Park could not slide our reservation even one day due to their fully booked near Christmas status.
We woke up a bit early, I dropped Rose off at the market and helped her with the basic set up before leaving her to do the rest. I drove back to the campground, made the rig ready for the road, drove it to a big supermarket parking lot half a mile from the market, disconnected Loki and then joined her for the rest of the event. It made for quite the long day, but it was worth it just to finally get back to one of our happy places and not “lose” a day of our month long stay.
Periwinkle Park, by the way, is the only RV game on the island unless you secure one of the season long volunteer positions at Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve. What do we love about this place, meaning both the park and Sanibel? I often compare and contrast Sanibel with Key West, and Periwinkle with the Sigsbee RV park in Key West. Sanibel is like a more laid back and far less crowded version of Key West in some ways. It doesn’t have the party bars and pub crawls, but it has an island mentality, easy access to the ocean and seashore, excellent restaurants, and a generally wonderful vibe.
Periwinkle is one of the few RV parks of the hundreds we have visited that possesses a welcoming (and clique-free) social atmosphere even new comers can enjoy. Almost every evening at 5 PM a collection of RVers gather at the modest covered pavilion beside one of the duck ponds for cocktails and conversation. Lots of parks have social events and activities, but Periwinkle strikes me as a cut above most. It does not have the almost insane level of Sigsbee Park’s social activities, but it is quite lovely, and each year we come back we seem to get further involved with the regulars.
But why are we really here, you might ask? For the shelling, obviously. Sanibel’s geographic position as a barrier island mostly perpendicular to the Gulf Coast means that it captures a wonderful array and amount of Caribbean shells. We find tulips, turkey wings, shark’s eyes, Florida fighting conchs, horse conchs, angel wings, lightening whelks, cockles, scallops, murex, olives, coquinas, and twice now the very rare junonia. This is the place that Rose restocks her shell collection to make jewelry and other decor.
We have heard acquaintances report that they did’t find the shelling good at all during their weekend visit to Sanibel: this is because the shelling conditions vary as much as surf conditions. One day Bowman’s Beach might be top notch, another day it is Blind Pass walking south, another it is Lighthouse Point. You have to be willing to check out all the possibilities, but we have never been disappointed with our stay on the island.
While we don’t readily give up days on Sanibel, we made several exceptions this year, a couple of medical appointment visits back in Venice, and of course, Thanksgiving over in Coral Springs with Xavier, Joy, and Rose’s sister Melissa. I had assumed we would all go back to La Vie, the wonderful Lebanese restaurant we had so thoroughly enjoyed last year, thinking this might be our new Thanksgiving tradition. But Joy decided to do the full turkey and sides sit down meal even if it was just the five of us.
We stayed for two days before heading back to Sanibel, about which we will have a lot more to say in a coming post; this one just covers the first week or so.