After picking up a map from the friendly Chamber of Commerce staff on-hand inside the most colorful beach bungalow I've ever seen, I took to the quiet, two-lane road; luxurious vacation properties to the East, beautiful ocean views to the West (marvelous sunsets!). The closer one gets to Captiva Island, the more upscale, charming, and exclusive the area becomes, without losing the colorful, quirky beach atmosphere.
At Alison Hagerup Beach Park, a wide, sandy stretch of beach located at the northern tip of Captiva Island; acclaimed as one of the nation's most romantic beaches for its fabulous sunsets (the best view on Sanibel and Captiva), I found myself happy to be visiting in the off-season, for no way would I have been so lucky to find a space in the tiny parking lot ($2/hr), and I wouldn't have had nearly the whole beach to myself! I excitedly laid out my beach towel and wasted no time sifting through the sand for shells, before finding contentment with a few keepers, then happily plopped down for some sunny rest 'n relaxation.
Once satisfied, I drove down to Bowman's Beach Park, perhaps the most popular on Sanibel Island. "Isolated and picturesque, with great amenities and excellent shelling, it's worth the quarter-mile walk from the parking area ($2/hr). The shoreline at Bowman's Beach has experienced little of the intense development seen on the rest of the islands - no homes, hotels or buildings of any kind here."
"Adventurous beachcombers can walk for several miles on unobstructed white sand beaches covered in shells." And they weren't exaggerating. I must have filled 3 or 4 zip-lock bags with a variety of beautiful, fully-intact shells (empty of course!). And I'll never forget diving down below me to grasp something stuck in the earth that was itching the bottom of my foot, and pulling it out of the water to discover a HUGE conche shell (below). THAT was awesome. I shouted to the people down the beach from me as I excitedly held up my find; that was certainly a conversation piece the rest of the afternoon as I chatted with them well into the sunset.
On the way back to the parking lot we walked over a small wooden bridge across an area of freshwater, and spotted a moderately-sized, seemingly hungry alligator getting ready for dinner as he patiently swam back and forth underneath us, wishing someone might accidentally take a tumble, maybe? No such luck for him, thankfully!
I pitched my tent at The Groves RV Resort in Fort Meyers for the night. I couldn't believe how clean and tidy and SUPER spacious the bathroom was! I've really come to appreciate these "little things" I took for granted before doing this trip that has come to include so much wilderness camping. Of course, this was in exchange for completely no privacy, as I was wedged between two giant RVs - no biggy though, since I was only there to sleep, and there was little if any noise or activity around me.