Travel to Sanibel Island in Florida with a Small Dog
During our stay in Naples, the bipeds decided that enough was enough and that I too deserved a beach day. Preferably a beach that was large and had no unruly “pounce on you enough to kill you” sized out of control dogs. When speaking on the phone to the cousin (our out of town lovely hostess), Sanibel Island was mentioned as a perfect day trip. So we planned our travel to Sanibel island in Florida with a small dog… me! All the beaches are dog friendly, as long as you are on a leash and – humans must clean up after dogs. There is a patrol, and if the dog is not well behaved, you will be asked to leave. These are not off leash dog beaches. They are family beaches – and dogs are welcome as well behaved family members.
So, the bipeds started packing the beach gear. I was wondering what was going on. No one had consulted me I was still in the dark about these plans. Expecting to be left behind again … I heard the magic word “Come!” … and did I ever! I RAN to the door and into the passenger seat of the car as fast as I could before they changed their minds. This was the first time I had ever done this – my bipeds were left flabbergasted. Here I was all of 2.4 pounds and I had leaped from the ground into the passenger seat of the car. All that agility training was paying off!
The drive is straight forward, the signs well marked. Our cousin had given us directions that were easy to follow. Of course if you have GPS, you are fine. It took a little over an hour but we were taking out time.
Then, we saw the islands …. It is an interesting approach: just the one big bridge connecting the main land to the islands. The bridge goes up and up and up! I found myself barking out the window at a pelican flying at eye level keeping speed with the car – yet well over 20 stories above the water! I swear to you I could smell the fish in his gullet!
As soon as you get on Sanibel you will find the lovely and really well appointed tourist bureau. There we went to confirm with the ladies’ that the beaches were dog friendly. “Oh yes!” one of them assured us. Petting me on the head and asking if she could hold me. As I lingered in her arms, she took out a map and showed the bipeds what beaches she recommended for us. Sanibel is dog friendly in their beach laws … but the next island over isn’t. She also mentioned the Wild Life/Bird Reserve you can drive through (very very very slowly) and that I was also welcome there – again as long as I remained on leash at the outposts – mostly for my on safety seeing that alligators tend to sun bath on the side of the roads. The bipeds were pleased and off we went.
We stopped at the closest beach and all I can say is … WOW. There’s no loud music and cars aren’t allowed on or even near the beach. Instead, Sanibel is unspoiled and natural. It is a shell collectors dream! And my nose was going insane with the aromas of ocean, kelp, and fish and … Oh I can’t even begin to describe the fine bouquet! All along the beach are piles of shells to be sorted through, although a seagull told me you need to go at sunrise to get the best ones! But there’s still plenty of sand and I set to work on my “dig to China”. I encountered many shells in my digging. I recommend you split the sand from the shell pile. It keeps the sand from falling back in the whole. The bipeds took the now damp sand I was tossing out, and built a sand castle with it. We called it Château D’If of course.
We went back to town for lunch at around noon. The sun was getting too hot for Mom’s pale and delicate skin. Sanibel is small and quaint, and authentic Floridian – the way it used to be. There’s no traffic lights on Sanibel and you won’t see very many of the big chains on the island. It was heaven to not see it spoiled by a McDonalds or worse a Senior Frogs. Instead, we found plenty of good restaurants and cafes and most allow dogs on their patios (check out Over Easy Cafe and their delicious breakfasts served until 2pm!) although not all places are dog friendly – so do ask. As a rule if you have to go through the indoor restaurant to access the patio – you are out of luck!
After a lovely meal, we decided to go to the Wild Life Reserve on the island. We paid the small fee and drove in. And driving is not really the right term – I think we could have walked faster. But the speed limit is important – it is there to protect the wildlife. We saw SO much I can’t even begin to tell you all about it. We saw tree crabs, and Cormorants, Cranes, Anhinga drying their feathers in the sun, Blue, Green and Night Herons, White Egrets, ‘Gators and King Fishers. We saw this one massive Wood Stork with a big heavy beak. Mom picked me up when she saw some Vultures land not 7 feet away from us and Osprey in the sky above. I think that was a good idea! We saw more but the list is just too extensive to continue. It is possible we saw every type of water bird Florida has to offer.
Trivia Note: Florida tree crabs are vital to the health of the mangroves. They eat all the parasites. These crags never go in the water. The area was certain they would loose all the mangroves when they believed a great frost killed the crabs exposing the mangroves to disease and illness from parasites. No one knows WHERE the crabs went – but they returned a week later as if nothing had happened. It remains a mystery.
After we left the reserve, we headed to another stunning beach to watch the sunset. Mom put on her new bikini she had bought after lunch, and I set to work on another dig. We enjoyed the late afternoon and early evening warmth and the bipeds got all romantic. Those two are so cute. I tried to give them privacy by acting “busy” or snoozing under the beach chair. Dad enjoyed a cigar … and I heard them say “This is really perfect”.
I want to take a moment to say that each beach has fresh water showers, complete with foot rinse taps and bathrooms. The bipeds loved these and we ALL rinsed sand and salt off before getting back in the car. We left as the pink horizon winked to nothing in the rear view mirror of the car and we all promised we’d go back again. There is still so much we haven’t done or explored!
In review: travel to Sanibel island in Florida with a small dog is TOP notch dog friendly and a wonderful experience. In fact I would even say, if you can stay on the island a while … just do it. It’s the real Florida. There’s a long list of pet-friendly accommodations – mostly small motels or cottages. Don’t expect over-the-top luxuriousness – but you will not regret it!