An Empty Nester Island Getaway

Empty Nest Blessed by Suzy Mighell
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Today I am sharing all the scoop on our favorite island getaway spot! I haven’t done a travel post in awhile, and this cold weather is making me long for the beach! How about you? I think one of the best things about the empty nest is the freedom to get away with without being tied to the kids’ school schedules. Not only does this provide flexibility, but it can also provide significant savings as you take advantage of off-season discounts and packages. This island paradise is easy to get to, and you don’t even need a passport. It’s the perfect fit for affordability, amenities, and adventure, and the perfect locale for a girlfriend gathering, a romantic rendezvous, or even a family reunion. I’m going to fill you in on exactly where to stay, eat, and play! Are you ready for all the details on our special spot?

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The white sand beach at Casa Ybel Resort in Sanibel Island, Florida.

Go

It’s Casa Ybel Resort on beautiful Sanibel Island! Sanibel is an island located on southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast just west of Fort Myers, Florida, just north of Naples and south of Tampa. USA Today rated Sanibel as one of the “Top 10 Best Florida Beach Towns.” The island, along with its sister island, Captiva, features 15 miles of beaches, 25 miles of bike paths, 50 types of fish, 230 species of birds, 250 types of shells and zero traffic lights.

Sanibel Island has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember! I grew up vacationing there with my family, and my parents retired to the island. When their home became more than they wanted to manage, they moved to a retirement community in Fort Myers. Devastated that we might not get to Sanibel again, Bob and I bought a little one bedroom condo on the island just as our nest emptied.

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Sanibel Island is a shell-lovers paradise! Several of these shell cleaning stations are dotted throughout Casa Ybel Resort.
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The island, known for its white sand beaches, is a paradise for those who enjoy seashells and is the home of The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum — the only museum in the U.S. solely devoted to shells. Two-thirds of Sanibel Island is made up of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, giving the island a natural, non-touristy vibe. There are no stoplights, no buildings over two stories tall, and 25-miles of paved bike paths that meander throughout the island. There are direct flights on several major airlines to Fort Myers Southwest Florida International Airport, and the island is about a 45-minute drive from the airport.

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Stay

Our condo is at Casa Ybel Resort. We bought here because the resort has all Gulf-front suites (114, to be exact!), with updated kitchens and incredible views from screened porches. It’s set on 23 acres and features a Gulf-side pool, multiple tennis courts (along with an on-site Pro), beach volleyball and shuffleboard courts and award-winning dining at the lovely Thistle Lodge restaurant. Casa Ybel Resort was named one of the “Best Places to Stay in the World” by Conde Nast Traveler and named a “Best Florida Weekend Getaway” by Trips to Discover. One and two bedroom suites are available, and prices vary according to the season. The island itself tends to get crowded with “Snow Birds” (Northerners who are seeking to escape the winter weather) from November through March.  We think the best time to go is April or October – when prices drop, crowds are down, schools are still in session, and the high temperatures are in the upper 70’s and low 80’s. For a closer look, check out the resort’s live beach webcam.

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Yep, that’s yours truly looking lovely and sweaty after a bike ride to the historic lighthouse! Do you love my helmet? Safety first, people!

Play

In addition to the spots mentioned above, you’ll want to be sure to rent bikes (right at the resort or from Billy’s Bike Rentals) and check out the island’s bike paths. The last time we were there, we rode all the way to the northern tip of the island, which is home to the historic lighthouse and fishing pier.

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Don’t miss the mesquite-grilled grouper sandwich at Gramma Dot’s!

We stopped half-way through our bike ride for lunch at Gramma Dot’s, located right on the waterfront at the Sanibel Marina. This waterfront dive is big with the locals and we always order the mesquite grilled grouper sandwich. For fine dining, you’ll want to check out Thistle Lodge, the award-winning beachfront restaurant right at Casa Ybel Resort.

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Eat

Besides Gramma Dot’s, head on over to RC Otter’s on nearby Captiva Island. Captiva is more built-up than Sanibel, so in general, we don’t go over there very often, but this feet-in-the-sand restaurant has atmosphere to spare and live music every night. The food is fantastic!

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One more spot we always hit when we come to Sanibel is Cheeburger Cheeburger. We love seafood, but sometimes it’s nice to take a break! This spot has great burgers and fries, along with delicious milkshakes customizable from over 30 flavors. Yummy!

If you decide to head to Sanibel, please let me know. I think it’s a winner in terms of accessibility and amenities! Is there a place you love to go with your spouse, girlfriends or adult kids? I’d love to hear about it.  Please leave me a comment and let me in on your special place.

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Suzy Mighell

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Suzy, I may have mentioned this before but my daughter was married at Casa Ybel in December of 2010. The beautiful reception and dinner was at Thistle Lodge. She goes back frequently, as her in-laws own a condo on Sanibel. Our famiily’s Happy place is a lake house in NH and we just got back to TX after the summer there. We are so happy Sanibel has escaped all hurricanes. My goal is to get back to Casa Ybel soon. It is indeed a paradise. Enjoy your vacation!

    1. Aw Holly,
      Thanks so much for letting me know! It IS a special place and we love it here! Your lake house sounds lovely and I’m so glad you have. happy place to visit when you can! We love going new places, but coming back to the familiar is always fun too. Big hugs to you and thanks for your comment! xoxo Suzy

  2. Hi Suzy, Where do you recommend staying on Sanibel Island? Tim and I would love to take a trip there! Thank you so much for all of the information!

    1. Hi Laura Beth!
      At Casa Ybel resort, for sure! http://www.casaybelresort.com
      As you probably know, everything in Florida is “in season” right now – meaning it’s all expensive and it’s crowded! Best bet is to go in May or October for better rates and PERFECT weather! Love you! xoxo Suzy

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