There are dozens of side trips that can be made from Sanibel, if, indeed, you are willing to leave Paradise.
For most travellers who come to Sanibel Island for a week or two, a trip off island is of no interest. As mentioned in an earlier blog post there are many things to do on island and many boating excursions to other islands right from Sanibel. Why leave Sanibel at all, and especially by automobile?
But for renters who spend a month or more on island, there may come a time when they just have to explore.
And there are several nice destinations that one can drive to in relatively short time that really offer something different.
Very near and off island on stunning McGregor Boulevard, an avenue of Royal Palms, are the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. These are not lavish homes, but the homes and the grounds are beautifully maintained and give the visitor a good sense of the area in the times when Thomas Edison and Henry Ford frequented. Most definitely deserving of the 30 minute or less drive from Sanibel.
Heading south, it is worth a drive into Naples to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Although it is unlikely you will see any animals or birds you can not see on Sanibel, the environment at Corkscrew Swamp is very unique. The perfect eco balance of the swamp keeps it mosquito free….or at least seemingly so. It’s a nice micro environment of the whole of Florida , only 1.5 hours, from Sanibel, and one which the visitor can experience in a comfortable and quick trip.
And, if you really want a special treat, drive north up to Sarasota to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. This truly is worth the 2 hour drive, though you may want to consider staying overnight near by to better see all the exhibits. The Ringling’s home on beautiful Sarasota Bay, Ca d’Zan Mansion, is a lavish estate filled with art and decorative pieces purchased by the Ringlings. In addition to the art and decorative pieces in Ca d’Zan, there is a separate museum of fine art on the grounds which features some splendid work by Titian, Veronese, Rubens, Hals, and Velazquez. But perhaps the most charming aspect of the Ringling Museum is the miniature circus on the gounds.
The Howard Brothers Circus model is a replica of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus from 1919 – 1938. Complete with eight main tents, 152 wagons, 1,300 circus performers and workers, more than 800 animals and a 59-car train, the model is built in ¾-inch-to-the-foot scale replica and occupies 3,800 square feet. The “world’s largest miniature circus” was created over a period of more than 50-years by master model builder and philanthropist Howard Tibbals. It is absolutely amazing and if you really wanted to pay attention to all the details, it could absorb hours of your time.
Of course, you can always forgo any trip off island and plant yourself into the sand on Bowman’s Beach. And who would blame you?