Sanibel Jewels

Each time we visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands, we realize what a long trip it actually is. We are staying at the blue dot, St. James City on Pine Island, FL. It’s only about 6 miles from Sanibel by boat but by car it’s 48 miles which equates to two hours because of all the twists and turns and beach goer traffic. The dark blue line shows the route we take each time we venture over.

We went to Captiva Island for dinner on Wednesday after visiting the Shell Museum on Sanibel Island. WE thought we were getting there early as we left the campsite at 2:00 for  an early dinner. We headed to the Mucky Duck Pub which everyone says has terrific sunsets but even at 4:00 people were already there eating and drinking and there were no parking places for our big truck. We drove to a nearby plaza and had ice cream and made a shirt purchase (sign said we couldn’t park there unless we were shopping there so I was just trying to follow the rules).  We were able to finally find a seat at the bar at the Mucky Duck.  People were lined up on the beach with chairs and all of the outdoor seating was filled and we just happened to be standing next to two people who left the bar so we grabbed their seats. We had already decided we would take our pictures of the sunset and then find another place to eat, but luck was with us. And yes, the sunset was beautiful. I was almost as intrigued with the number of people watching as I was with the sunset.

Yesterday we returned to Sanibel to spend our last day shelling. In case I haven’t mentioned it yet, shelling is my new favorite activity. If I lived here I would do it EVERY DAY.  Today we are sorting the shells and cleaning them with a little bleach in hopes that they won’t break on the ride home. We found out the best places to find conchs and were able to find the most we had ever found. Some areas have more shells than others and when we would see a large amount of shells on the beach, we would go to the edge of the ledge and watch them come over the ledge. Catching them before the tide sent them back  into the ocean was a real challenge but so much fun. I bought a few books that gave more information on the shells and one thing that we learned was that lightning whelks can be left handed or right handed. one in 10,000 Lightning Whelks are right handed. All that we found were left handed. The last picture below shows two of the whelks, one left and one right handed. Now we are trying to decide how to best display our shells when we return home.

Today we are cleaning up around the campsite and preparing for our travels back to NC this weekend. Tomorrow we will drive to the Jacksonville/St. Mary’s KOA campground for an overnight stay, then home to NC on Sunday!Screen Shot 2018-02-23 at 8.49.49 AM.png



Hooked on Shelling

We went shelling AGAIN on Cayo Costa the state park but today wasn’t as productive as the last time. Shelling is best when done at low tide and low tide was at 9:00 am this morning and the Ferry got us there around 10:00. For the first hour or so we had lots of success but after the tide started coming in, we weren’t quite as lucky. We found lots of olives and some whelks and lots of shells but not much more. The day was perfect weather-wise and I would highly recommend the trip for someone visiting Pine Island. We took the ferry over from Jug Creek in Bokeelia and spent about 6 hours at the state park on the island. There were campers staying there as well in cabins and tents, but there’s no electricity and no air conditioning of course, so I’ll stick with “glamping” in my Montana.

Showing how clear the water is. You can see my feet and HEY I found an olive while taping this video!!!!

This is our “ferry” coming to pick us up. It’s an old Disney boat!! Retired from Disney and ended up in Pine Island. Too slow for Disney!!







Shells, Shells, and More Shells

My new favorite pastime is collecting shells and learning more about them. I like learning their names and who lived in them. Below are some of my favorite ones that we’ve found.

Some of my favorite shells that we’ve found so far. Kitten’s paws, conchs, cockles, whelks, and scallops, just to name a few.

Here are individual pictures of some of them:

Here are some different  videos of the campground, one of the largest from our travels.

Captiva Shelling

Our days are full and I haven’t blogged for the past three days!! We took a break from the record breaking heat and went to an RV dealership and checked out some buses. This one is a Newmar that we really liked. This salesman was VERY informative and gave us lots of good information for comparisons to different buses.

The next day we went golfing again at Alden Pines. Last day for that course; too much water and fairways aren’t in very good shape. Monday we will play a different course!

Yesterday we did our new favorite activity. This time we parked on Captiva Island and tried the shelling there for a while. Had some luck but nothing like the state park we had visited a few days before. We also tried shelling on Sanibel again but only found a few conchs and olives; no big shells or sand dollars.

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These are olives.                                     Some conchs we found.


The slope of the beaches is much different from what we experience in the Carolina beaches. They all have ledges and are sloped. I guess that makes the shelling better as the waves pound on the ledges pushing shells up onto the beaches. We went at low tide which is the best time to get the most shells. This put us leaving in the heavy traffic though as we can’t stay away too long because of our little dog. The islands are actually only about 6 miles from our campsite as the crow flies but they’re actually a 38 mile drive. The drive home took us two hours as the traffic getting off Sanibel was very heavy. That took an hour and it’s only about a ten mile drive. Driving through the fishing town of Matlacha is very time consuming as well as everyone seems to go to dinner/bars quite early and the roads are narrow and heavily traveled. Did you know the word Matlacha comes from a Calusa word meaning “neck high water”. Before a channel was dug in Matlacha Pass to create a causeway for the bridge, people could wade from Pine Island to the  mainland at low tide. There’s your history lesson for today!

Cayo Costa Shelling

We are camping on Pine Island which has three “cities” we have visited. Matlacha, Saint James City, and Bokeelia. We could easily ride our bikes to center city of each of those towns. Matlache (pronounced Mat la shay) is shown below. That’s the town right over the bridge onto Pine Island. Kinda looks a little like a smaller version of Key West with the small shops and bright colors and eclectic people. It’s actually a fishing village and fish markets and boats are everywhere! That’s also where we go to get our ice cream.

Yesterday we went to the town of Bokeelia and caught a ferry boat out of the town to the island of Cayo Costa which is the green island on the map below. There are no roads to the island so the only access is by water. It was about a 50 minute s..l..o..w boat ride to the island which also has a camping ground. It’s primitive so camping is by tents only and there is no electricity on the island unless you have a generator. I’ll stick to camping on Pine Island at the KOA. The blue dot shows our location when I checked the GPS on my phone while on the boat!

Once we got to the island we began to look for shells and after about 5 minutes, Greg found a huge, perfect, arrowhead sand dollar. We thought, shelling is going to be easy today, but not so. That was the only one found during the day; beginner’s luck!! But we found many, many other cool shells throughout the day. The islands all have a ledge about two feet out into the surf and as the waves pound onto the shore, the shells get caught going over the ledge. You have about 2-3 seconds before the water retreats. This is the time in which you have to quickly look for shells. Our backs were definitely hurting at the end of the day from so much stooping over!!! Then for dinner we hit the Ragged Ass Saloon which is a favorite biker bar. The food was delicious!!

All in all I would say it was a wonderful day of shelling!!!

Fore and Fish

The first set of pictures shows a little bit about where we are located. We are on Pine Island where the blue dot is shown on the map. To get to the other islands, we must go back up the island and cross the waterway and go to Fort Myers. Then we can take the bridge over to Sanibel and Captiva. I enlarged some of the maps to show the canals that are located all around the area. People live on the canals and have boats/docks with a road between each canal. That allows for many, many people to live on the water and have easy access to boating. When we go bike riding, we ride all around St. James City and check out the canals and homes in the area.

Last night we went to Woodys for dinner. It was a bar/restaurant located on a canal. People drove or would boat up to the restaurant and the views were very pretty. Today we played golf. I had 5 pars and the rest weren’t pars. Enough said about that. The weather was perfect and the wind was strong, often blowing our balls to places they shouldn’t have gone. But it was our first day out and was lots of fun. Tomorrow we will bike ride, go to the pool, and wash clothes. Time to spend a day closer to the camper and Coco as we will have a long day Tuesday as we take the ferry from Bokeelia to Cayo Costa State Park to search for more shells. We have better equipment for hopefully we will have more success.

Sanibel’s Beach Bling

Today we spent the day on Sanibel and Captiva Islands looking for shells; otherwise known as beach bling. Yesterday I watched several videos to learn how to find the best shells. I learned to shell at the surf line and tidal pools and I learned to check inside and see if anyone is in there. It’s illegal to keep shells that are living or that have living critters inside them. We packed a lunch and cooler and took the 90 minute ride to the islands to hunt for shells. We learned that there’s more to collecting shells than finding a few beach treasures.  It’s the perfect way to collect memories of peaceful days and to help us focus on the beauty all around us.

The best shelling in the area is found on the beaches of Sanibel Island & Captiva. The islands rank tops in the world for shelling because of geography. Sanibel Island is shaped in a curve along the coastline among a string of other more orderly, straight-and-narrow islands. The east-west torque of Sanibel’s south end acts like a shovel scooping up all the seashells that the Gulf imports from The Caribbean and other southern seas. We walked with the Sanibel stoop which means people walk bent over as if looking for shells. We had a wonderful day at the beach looking for all of our special shells. After shelling, we went to a store and purchased more equipment to do a better job of shelling next time!!

I’ll attach some videos at the end of the pictures to show how the shells were at the shore line and how the waves come in an an angle. We could tell the undercurrent was strong from the way the waves were coming in.  Hopefully I captured some of that in the videos. The wind was strong and the day was cloudy, which helped us not to get burned since we are used to 30 degree weather not weather in the high 80’s.

After completing our shelling adventure on Sanibel Island we rode down to Captiva and had some ice cream and checked out the area for our next trip back to the islands.