Sanibel Island a Southwest Florida Treasure
History and Points of Interest
Sanibel and Captiva formed as one island about 6,000 years ago. The first known humans in the area were the Calusa, who arrived about 2,500 years ago.The Calusa were a powerful Indian nation who came to dominate most of Southwest Florida through trade via their elaborate system of canals and waterways. Sanibel remained an important Calusa settlement until the collapse of their empire, soon after the arrival of the Europeans.
In 1765, the first known appearance of a harbor on Sanibel is shown on a map as Puerto de S. Nibel (the “v” and “b” being interchangeable); thus, the name may have evolved from “San Nibel”. Alternatively, the name may derive, as many believe, from “(Santa) Ybel”, which survives in the old placename “Point Ybel”, where the Sanibel Island Light is located. How it would have gotten this name, however, is a matter of conjecture. One story says it was named by Juan Ponce de LeÛn for Queen Isabella I of Castile; the island may indeed be named for this queen or the saint whose name she shares, either by Ponce de LeÛn or someone later. Another attributes the name to Roderigo Lopez, the first mate of JosÈ Gaspar (Gasparilla), after his beautiful lover Sanibel whom he had left behind in Spain. Like most of the lore surrounding Gasparilla, however, this story is apocryphal, as the above references to recognizable variants of the name predate the buccaneer’s supposed reign. Sanibel is not the only island in the area to figure prominently in the legends of Gaspar; Captiva, Useppa, and Gasparilla are also connected.
The main town is located on the eastern end of the island. The city was formed in 1974 as a direct result of the main causeway being built in 1963 to replace the ferry, and the rampant construction and development that occurred afterward. Developers sued over the new restrictions, but the city and citizens prevailed in their quest to protect the island. The only buildings above two to three stories now on the barrier island were built during that period.
The city is on Gulf coast of Southwest Florida, and is linked to the mainland by the Sanibel Causeway. A short bridge over Blind Pass links Sanibel to the unincorporated town of Captiva on Captiva Island. More than half of the two islands are preserved in its natural state as wildlife refuges. Visitors can drive, walk, bike, or kayak through the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge The island’s most famous landmark, the Sanibel Lighthouse, is located at the eastern end of the island, adjacent to the fishing pier. The main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is where the majority of stores and restaurants are located, while the Gulf Drives (East, Middle and West) play host to most of the accommodations.
The Wall Street Journal selected Sanibel and Captiva Islands as one of the 10 Best
Places for Second Homes in 2010.
Browse our listings of Sanibel real estate or contact one of our Sanibel Island real estate agents so we can do the search for you. We’re here to help find your dream home.