Sanibel and Captiva Island is located North West of Fort Myers and boast some 17 miles of white sand. It is believed that over 5000 years ago they used to be only one island.Today you have to take a boat to reach North Captiva.
Its rich history dates over 2500 years ago when the Calusa Indians dominated the region including Fort Myers Beach or Estero Island. The Calusa indians were ahead of their time and skilled craftsmen and builders of huts on top of mounds.Some of these mounds are still intact today. The Calusa Indians were forming a fascinating advanced society which depended mostly on shrimp, shells, crab and trout.They were a well armed and class divided society with nobles and warriors on top and labors running their water system and fishery, which was very extensive.Its is believe that their capital was then "calos" or Mound Key. Mound Key State Arch aeological Site, The Calusa Indiand also occupied Pine Island for over 1500 years, another favorite of many South West residents and visitors, because it has kept this old Florida look and has many properties over 10 acres.
It is clear that the Calusa indians had mastered water systems as there are still some remnants of canals from their time. Sanibel and Captiva are barrier islands and the Calusa Indians controlled over 15 settlements. The reason why they moved to the coast line is clear. They strived with the development of a complex fishing system.They preceded the Spaniards some ten years after Ponce De Leon declared Florida part of Spain 1513.. But the Calusa people were not going to go away calmly. Their population reached over 10,000 strong and they did collide against the Spaniards on 3 occasions in 1513, 1517 and 1521.In 1517 the Calusa Indians even defeated the Spanish. Much is still left for archeologists to find more about these Calusa warriors who lived along the beaches of Sanibel and Fort Myers. Today it is one of the pristine islands in Florida.
Explorer Ponce de Leon had the dubious role of discovering Sanibel Island as they imported fatal European diseases and yellow fever which little by little killed most of the Calusa Indians until they were almost wiped out by the 1700's. It is said that while fighting the Calusa Indians in the 1520's Ponce De Leon suffered not only a defeat but also was hit by an arrow and retreated and left to Cuba where he died. The Spaniards were never able to build a permanent settlement in Sanibel while he was still searching for this "Fountain of Youth". Sanibel is short for Santa Izabela or "Ybel" named after De Leon's Queen Isabela.
In 1819 the USA bought Florida from Spain. These years were under the wild "terror "reign of Jose Gaspar aka Gasparilla ( a thief who ran away from Spain ) who it is said attacked and looted 400 Spanish ships and stashed away a fortune of over 30 million dollars,His reign ended in 1891 when he was sank by a heavily armed US navy warship called the USS Enterprise and still today rumors say that parts of the loot are along the Peace River.
IN 1837 the Calusa Indians were pushed out of Sanibel towards the South of Florida towards Seminole territory which started the Seminole wars. The same Proud Seminoles who refused to be annexed by the government and which name means "run away".
Today Sanibel and its 6,000 residents ( 22,000 in winter ) is looked upon as a model island and a favorite destination from all around the world. Sanibel became a separate city in 1974 .Since 1946, 6000 hectares were declared a national wild life refuge now called JN Ding Darling and now held in Public Trust. Thanks to The Comprehensive Land Use Plan Sanibel shines as model of beauty and preservation. No building may be much higher then a palm tree and one may enjoy numerous activities such as boating, fishing, or shopping or of course sea shelling along Captiva, or enjoy a fine meal at Doc's Ford Restaurant owned by local celebrity randy Wayne Wright and New York Times best selling authors of such books as "dark Limits" or "Sanibel Flats".Sanibel is certainly not only for the discriminating traveler or new resident.It's beauty, pristine white sand beaches laid-back charm and tranquil charm will make you a discriminating one.