Sanibel Island Beach Resort is OPEN

Mounds of seashells piled on the shoreline behind Sanibel Island Beach Resort

As Sanibel and Captiva recover from Hurricane Ian, restaurants and resorts are opening slowly but surely. I recently stayed at the Sanibel Island Beach Resort on Middle Gulf and loved the experience. I paid a Florida resident rate (around $240) per night but the amenities are nice — and you’re right on the beach. This is where the old Holiday Inn was, now this resort has a new name and new everything, including a relaxing pool bar and an onsite restaurant call BRGR Kitchen & Bar, open for lunch and dinner.

They have standard rooms, completely redone, doubles, queens and kings. The amenities are good. I love the bathroom with its backlit mirror and amazing shower with subway tile. They supply you with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, and soap. Instead of a standard plastic card hotel key, you can wear a comfortable bracelet that also unlocks your door. It’s soft and flat and won’t snag on anything – and it’s even more comfy than the ones at Walt Disney World.

The beach is awesome, right on Middle Gulf, so you’re close to the lighthouse and close to the west end. Shelling has been fantastic. I know some folks say that shelling in the summer is slack, but not while I was there. I’m talking mountains of seashells, perfect for sitting on top of and just sifting through for hours.

I didn’t eat at the restaurant, I’m sad to say, but the menu offered salads, wraps, burgers, sliders, etc. As I write this, they only have a few Yelp reviews, but they’re five stars! I’ll have to try it later this summer.

Another cool bonus is that they give you a complimentary shelling bag when you check in! I love that! The netting allows the water to drip out but the shells stay in. So, if you’re looking for a nice, clean place on Sanibel that’s right on the water with a beautiful pool area, onsite dining, super friendly people, and a caring staff, try Sanibel Island Beach Resort located at 1231 Middle Gulf Dr. Sanibel Island, Florida 33957. Give them a call at (239) 472-4123.  Let me know what you think!

Pool bar area
Pool bar area with gulf views
path to the beach
Sandy path to the beach
mounds of seashells piled on the shoreline
mounds of seashells piled on the shoreline at Sanibel
Beautiful shoreline behind the Sanibel Island Beach Resort.
Walk for miles on the beach behind the resort.
view of standard room with double beds
clean and bright hotel rooms
well appointment bathroom at the Sanibel Island Beach Resort
Complimentary shelling bag given at check in.
Complimentary shelling bag given at check in!
Photo op at the resort that incudes a surf board.
Here’s a fun place to take a souvenir photo, standing on the surfboard with the resort name in the background.
beautiful sunrise through the sea oats on the beach
Sunrise through the sea oats
Live whelk that went back into the water and a view of the comfortable wrist key card.
Found this beautiful live whelk (that went back into the water!) but you can see the comfortable wrist key card.

Janthina (purple sea snails) in the Florida Keys

a purple sea snail known as janthina, with its bubble raft attached.

When the winds blow, the shorelines of the Florida Keys tend to get sprinkled with delicate, beautiful purple sea snails known as janthina janthina. That’s not a typo, they’re so pretty, you have to say the name twice. Ha ha.

I’d been looking for these lavender jewels for years and it was my big brother who looked down and found one in the weed line at Old Settlers Park in Tavernier. When he gave it to me and told me I could keep it, I was thrilled!

Then we really started to search and wowza — we found a handful. I’m glad I decided to take more of these empty shells than I thought I might need, as half of them broke on the way home. Ugh. Don’t you hate that?! When I say they’re delicate, they are super fragile. Even just rinsing them under water to clean them is a task as they shells break apart.

According to Wiki, “Janthina janthina is a species of holoplanktonic sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk in the family Epitoniidae.” They are also known as violet sea snails or purple sea snails — and these pastel beauties will eat just about anything. (And turtles like to eat them since they float on ocean currents on mucus-y “bubble rafts” that trap air.) Another cool fact is that they are a pelagic animal — that means it lives its life in the open ocean.

Have you ever found a janthina janthina?

Beachview Cottages on Sanibel

View of Beachview Cottages
View of Beachview Cottages

A colorful cottage right on the sand, steps from the Gulf of Mexico. What more could you ask for on Sanibel? Beachview Cottages have exactly what I want when I’m looking for accommodations on the beach – location and good rates. We stayed in one of their smaller units but it was still plenty big. It had a full kitchen, dining room table, separate living area with couch and a bedroom (no door, just a tall wall separating it from the rest of the unit) with two full beds.

Summer rates are good, and they have internet specials so be sure to check out their website (link attached above). Their current special is “When you reserve a room for 3 nights or more from April 10, 2016 through August 31, 2016, we’ll give you a 4th night free on select cottages!” Now, that’s a deal, folks! Did I mention that they’re pet-friendly? Yes, they are! See their exclusions and rules on their site.

Each unit has its own parking space(s) and their location on West Gulf Drive is excellent – away from the condo crowds of East Gulf Drive. (Nothing against East Gulf…I love that side, too, but I am a little partial to less people on the beach.)

Anyhow, I hope you’ll check it out. This place is owned by ‘Tween Waters Resort & Spa and their sister resort is also right next door, West Wind Inn. All good places.


True Tulip in Tavernier

Big true tulip found in Tavernier.
Big true tulip found in Tavernier.

I took a drive to the Keys to get my feet-in-the-water fix and I’m so glad I did. While wading in the very shallow water at the Wild Bird Center, I found this beauty.

back of tulip

It’s the largest one I’ve ever found in the Keys. There were plenty of mini shells like the one below right next to shore, too. Love the black and white coloring!

black and white auger
Black and white auger from the Florida Keys.

I haven’t seen a black and white auger, but it sure looks like an auger to me. It had a tiny crab in it so back in the water it went.

Speaking of crabs, after wading, I drove home and when I went looking for my tulip shell in my backseat, it wasn’t there. Say what? Then I spied it, under my seat. It had crawled away! Yep, there was a stinkin’ hermit crab hiding REALLY GOOD in that big tulip.

meet crazy joe

Since I wasn’t near the beach, I ran him to my saltwater fish tank. Looks like we have a new family member. We named him Crazy Joe, from the character in the kids’ movie, Shark Tale. I put other big shells in the tank for when he needs to trade up.


Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

junonia wheel
Wheel of Junonias – all sizes imaginable

Ok shellers, if you haven’t been to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, you simply must visit! It’s not the same museum you visited years ago, it has so many new additions and it’s full of world record seashells and SO much more.

One of my favorite new things is the Tank Talks. They now have marine biologists on staff that will introduce you to the world of shells like you’ve never known. It is so educational and fascinating. Tank Talks are free with your admission and happen daily.

National Shell Museum sign

Another new item is their daily beach walks. Sign up in advance and take a walk on the beach with a marine biologist. How great is that? You’ll meet up right near the Island Inn on Sanibel and you’ll get an amazing hands-on learning experience. Prices are currently $10 adults / $7 children. Plus, you’ll get half-off admission to the Shell Museum.

There are many intriguing exhibits inside the museum as well – and there is something for ALL ages. Yes, they have a special kids’ area too.

Interior shot of the center of the museum.
Interior shot of the center of the museum.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Children 4 and under: FREE
Youth 5-17: $5.00
Adults 18+: $11.00

(Closed Thanksgiving Day. Open Noon to 4 on New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day & Christmas Day.)

Now, go to shell!


Sanibel Sunsets

Bikes at Sunset

One of my favorite events is watching the sunset on the beaches of Sanibel or Captiva. This one was taken from the Access 5 point on Sanibel on West Gulf Drive.

In the winter, I find it much more enjoyable to take in a sunset as there are no bugs. As soon as it begins to warm up, the no-see-ums will suck the life right out of you! They are less prevalent near the water, so run! The only thing that helps is clothing – wear a long sleeved t-shirt…and pray they bite someone else! There are a few products that my family likes, Skin So Soft from Avon and a no-see-um spray available at Bailey’s General Store on Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay Road.

In the end, the sunset is worth a few bug bites.

Sanibel Shell Show

Golden olive on display at Sanibel Shell Show.
Golden olive creatively displayed at the Sanibel Shell Show.

The 79th Annual Sanibel Shell Show was held March 3, 4 and 5, 2016. This incredible show is put on by the Sanibel-Captiva Shell Club. I have attended this event many times over the years and it always leave me in awe.


There are scientific and artistic divisions that shellers can compete in, and there is also an area for purchasing goods, like books, jewelry, and more.

Water lilly created from angel wing shells.
Water lily created from angel wing shells.

The shells you will see at this show are incredible! If you have never been, you should really try to attend next year.

Huge, dark junonia shell at Sanibel Shell Show.
Beautiful junonia at Sanibel Shell Show.

Plus, in the parking lot, there are vendors selling seashells, food, clothing, gifts and crafts.

First place winner: Flat scallop, hinged, and gorgeous!

Check out these true tulip egg casings, did you know what they looked like? I know lightning whelk casings, so this was cool to see.

True tulip egg casings.
True tulip egg casings.


Enormous true tulip found in the Bahamas.
Enormous true tulip found in the Bahamas.


Crown conch found on Sanibel. (Also known as a King's Crown.)
Crown conch found on Sanibel. (Also known as a King’s Crown.)

Aren’t these specimens incredible? I went crazy looking at the displays, I’m sure you will, too! Hope to see you there next year.

Key Largo Must-Eats: The Fish House

Key lime pie from the Fish House in Key Largo.
Key lime pie from the Fish House in Key Largo.

Next time you’re in the Keys, stop in to the Fish House in Key Largo. It’s located at Mile Marker 102 Oceanside (although it’s not on the water). Please don’t let that fact discourage you from dining here — you will miss out on one of the best meals in the Florida Keys.

Pan-sauteed hogfish at The Fish House.
Pan-sauteed hogfish at The Fish House.

The Fish House also happens to be a fish market, so your fish is fresh as fresh can be. While it’s not cheap, it’s not five-star expensive either – but it IS five-star delicious. Their famous dishes are the pan-sauteed fish of the day or Matecumbe style – a topping of shallots, basil, capers, tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice. So fresh, so good.

Also worthy of trying is their smoked fish chunks (dunk them in mustard sauce) and their unique shrimp bundles (shrimp marinated in honey, garlic and lemon and then wrapped in basil and prosciutto). Cracked conch is the BEST here, too. Not chewy, just ooh ooh good.

Anne’s Beach Gave Up Some Beauties

Tulip found at Anne's Beach.
Tulip found at Anne’s Beach.

I got to enjoy a quick visit to Anne’s Beach today in Lower Matecumbe and I found a few beauties. Unfortunately, the one above had a crab in it. (Although in the Keys, you can keep live shells [except conch] if you have a saltwater offshore fishing license.) I put him back 🙂

Banded tulip at Anne's Beach.
Banded tulip at Anne’s Beach.

This fat little banded tulip was empty though! I got to take him home.  Anne’s Beach is great at low tide, but at high tide, it’s near impossible to get in the water and search. I can always find shells over by the mangroves.

The mangroves at Anne's Beach in the Florida Keys.
The mangroves at Anne’s Beach in the Florida Keys.

Anne’s Beach does have picnic tables and bathroom facilities. You will also find two parking areas about 1/4 mile apart.

Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada

Your day is made in the shade at Amara Cay.

Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada is a new favorite. It opened this summer (2015) at the site of the former Hampton Inn (and Outback Steakhouse) at Mile Marker 80. For those of you who grew up in the Keys like I did, this was also formerly the site of Ocean 80. Now that you know where it is, let me tell you what they offer.

Interior of lobby at Amara Cay.

The lobby is cool – ultra cool. They have these swing chairs that make it fun to wait for someone. And the restaurant in the lobby, OltreMare, offers Italian seafood in a comfortable setting. They make their own pasta every day! The fettuccine is so creamy and the presentation will make you go, “Oooooh!” I also had fresh cobia (chef’s special that day) and I think it’s the best I’ve ever had. Meatball appetizer also fantastic. It’s one dinner that’s worth the money.

Interior of an oceanfront room at Amara Cay.

Their rooms have been redone in a simplistic, modern-chic design. The rooms reminded me of a bachelor pad, in a very good way. Clean walls with little artwork, couch, big TV, a wine chiller and bar area, comfy beds and a good bathroom. I lucked into an ocean view room and it was spectacular.


Here is a photo of the pool deck. There is a full bar outside here to the right so you can overlook the pool or the Atlantic.

Pool deck on the ocean at Amara Cay.

You can rent kayaks or go diving with their onsite dive center, Sea Monkeys. Great way to go explore for seashells 🙂

Kayaking from Sea Monkeys Dive Center at Amara Cay.