As mentioned in our first week in Sanibel post, we locked in a full 30 day stay on the island for the minor monthly discount and the fact that we really love the place. This is our second year in a row doing a full month here timed between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and is likely part of our November to December pattern for the next couple of years at least.
As I have mentioned in past posts, periwinkle park is the sort of place that has a very loyal seasonal patronage, and the park gives “right of first refusal” for the next season to the regulars. You establish that “regular” status after several years of repeat visits building up some sort of informal reputation with the staff as people that support the park and will come back for decades. We have apparently reached the point that, at least at the beginning of the peak season, we get that same “right of first refusal” and have already made our deposit for the same time frame next season.
Why this particular timing? Well, we spend a good portion of the Spring, Summer, and Fall traveling the country in a route that leaves us fairly far north into early October. At that point we head back to Florida in advance of potential cold weather and generally time our arrival to support participation in the late October McIntosh Festival. Then we participate in a few Central Florida markets and visit friends and relatives around the state until late November, along with an annual drop off of the motorhome at Mr Mobile RV in Port Charlotte for whatever work needs done. This pushes us out to late November, so it works really well for us to start a one month stay in Sanibel then.
And yet another factor is we really like to be in Sanibel for the annual Luminary event, occurring on the first Friday in December, when the island lines miles of bike paths with luminaries and many local businesses or charities host parties and provide drinks and hors de ovres. Several of the venues have live music, wine tasting, and various entertainment. Lots of locals decorate their bikes for the the night, and we have really embraced it as a wonderful evening.
This is our fourth year participating after accidentally hearing about it at Periwinkle Park’s social hour back in 2017, and this year did not disappoint. The first year we explored only a mile or two of it, last year we did the full run all the way north, and this year we settled on a Goldilocks point about half way up the path.
The social environment at Periwinkle is another draw for us. Most every evening during peak season with good weather a variable group of the regular RVers (along with a few former RVers who have bought park models and mobile homes in the resort) gather for social hour at the pond side pavilion for exactly one hour between 5 and 6 PM. We have been coming long enough now that people remember us despite our far from season long stay, and for the first time were invited to the Saturday night restaurant group that dines together at a rotating list of local establishments.
We had anticipated that our month long stay would be almost entirely limited to island life, with perhaps a couple of trips off Sanibel for Walmart runs and perhaps some geocaching. Life had other plans, of course, and we ended up spending far more days and taking many more trips to the mainland than we anticipated. As mentioned in a previous post, we had Thanksgiving in Coral Springs with Xavier, Joy, and Melissa, and we had multiple follow up doctor appointments in Venice and Fort Myers.
Another couple of “pull us off the island events” were a pair of market opportunities; one at Koreshan State Park and another at the German-American Society on Cape Coral, both two day affairs about half an hour from our campground. They were sort of late finds by Rosemarie after a motivating sales month in Central Florida.
The Koreshan State Park Annual Art and Craft Show was a mixed bag: we sold OK but only because we got a bit lucky with our site assignment and even improved it by moving closer to the crowds and action after consulting with the event staff. The problem, as we saw it, was that they had spread the vendors out in an almost comically distant matter. In some places there would be 50 or more feet of separation between stalls, and the poor people on the back row, barely visible from the main thoroughfare, really suffered from a lack of traffic.
We have enough experience at so many markets around the country that we can spot a bad set up and we are willing to be the squeaky wheel asking for improvement. We even got our way too laid back vendor neighbor to move her tent, and I’ll be damned if her sales didn’t jump. This market probably could have been fine done in one day rather than two; they just did not have the traffic they expected.
The German-American Society was a lovely event with live music, traditional German food, drinks, and attire, including a traditional European Saint Nicholas. Sure, it probably could have been a one day event just like the Koreshan market, or lacking that shorter by a couple of hours each day, but we did decent business and plan on doing it again next year. There is just something to be said for a craft market that has a reasonably priced beer hall.
We also had a day visit from our Key West friends Stan and Marilyn. It is really nice to meet up with your favorite people from the winter campground in Sigsbee as spring approaches. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy Sanibel with both Stan and Marilyn as well as Rusty and Charito in years past.
A few words about the restaurants on Sanibel: they are generally excellent, we have our favorites, though enjoy finding new places, but have to make smart choices for budget reasons. Because of this we came to a few conclusions about dining in Sanibel. For instance, we really enjoy the ambiance, particularly in the late afternoon, at the Mucky Duck Bar and Grill on the North end of the Island. Unusually, they have easy parking, a beautiful outdoor area to enjoy the seashore and sunset, don’t harass customers for not ordering enough while lingering, and the food and drinks are quite decent. It’s not cheap, but its wonderful.
Another: while I love the fantastic milkshakes at Pinocchio’s/Geppetto’s, Rosemarie is firmly convinced that Love Boat has the superior actual ice cream, so that is our go to spot, conveniently located in the shopping plaza with one of the two grocery stores on the island. And yet another: we have given up on the pizza at Island Time (between two years ago and last year something went desperately wrong, and the slices looked and tasted like dough that had random shredded cheese partially melted on it,) but the meatball Parmesan sandwiches are still quite up to snuff.
Anyways, we did not hit nearly as many places as we expected to this year, and so we look forward to the Periwinkle Park regulars (“The 49’ers,” due to the 49 RV sites in the park) showing us new options during the Saturday night dinners next season. Incidentally, I just checked TripAdvisor, and we have only eaten at three of the top ten rated places on the island, so I think we have a great culinary exploration lined up for our next visit.
OK sure that’s all well and good, but what are we really down here for? The shelling, of course. With our unexpectedly high number of days off the island and a bit of foul weather, we did not get in as many days on the beach as we expected, but we still did a good amount of miles on the shore doing the “Sanibel Stoop.” We went out in good weather, and not so good weather. We explored multiple beaches because conditions can result in dramatically different results even a mile apart.
The beach closest to the park was a pretty big bust this year (despite in past years having provided a plethora of coquinas, lightening whelk egg cases, and sea urchins). The same for Lighthouse Point (which gave a us a lot of tulips and murexs last year) and Middle Beach. But Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass Cut produced nicely for us, especially as you get to where few shellers wander; half a mile or so away from the easy parking areas.
Next up: our awkward route around Florida for Christmas before heading to Key West.