Category Archives: Beaches

Lovers Key Beach State Park

Lovers Key Beach State Park is a barrier island just south of Ft. Myers Beach in SW Florida. It consists of 712 acres of beach, shrub habitat and salt water waterways winding their way through the island. Beachgoers will find the two mile long beach a great place to find shells of different kinds, clean Gulf of Mexico swimming and interesting places to gaze at the long beach and driftwood washing ashore. There is also an abundance of wildlife on the island and an interesting place to view birds.

There is a nominal fee to enter Lovers Key Beach State Park but it is worth it. One of its’ nice features is a tram that will take you from the parking lot to the beach and across some pretty bridges. No heavy carrying of beach chairs and towels required at this place. There are also concessions to rent bicycles and kayaks at this place. Clean bathrooms are available here also.

Lover Key takes a heavy pounding during the winter storms each year so the beach has to be re-nourished frequently by barges pumping sand back onto the beach. What I liked most about Lovers Key is the cleaner water it has to swim in than other beaches north of there.  I think it is less affected by the large inlets that lie next to Sanibel and Ft Myers Beach which churn up the sand and mud on the bottom.

The Gulf of Mexico  temperature gets pretty warm during the summer months and its easy to drive into without getting cold. Once you drive off the island there are plenty of restaurants just south of the beach in Bonita Springs or north of the beach on Ft. Myers Beach. The website Trip Advisor gives Lovers Key State Beach Park very positive ratings. You can also visit the official state website to learn more about the park.

Click on the pictures above for larger images

 

Shells of SW Florida

The Shells of SW Florida are a great collection of marine life that have washed up on beaches including Sanibel, Ft. Myers Beach, Naples, Lovers key State Beach and others. Sanibel is one of the best beaches to collect and view sea shells that have washed up on the beach because of its unique shape which has a long shoreline which faces the Gulf of Mexico and whose currents  deposit new shells each day.

Some of the photos above are a partial collection of shells you will see on the beach. One artistic person made a dolphin out of shells on the beach which is not uncommon among the shell collectors on the island. Some of the popular shells of SW Florida include the Lightning Whelk, Lace Murex, Alphabet Cone, Florida Fighting Conch,  Lettered Olive and Banded Tulip. Visit the Ft. Myers Sanibel website to see the “Sanibel Six” Sea Shells.

Technically a sea shell is a hard outer covering that is made by a marine sea creature that lives inside called a Mollusk. Mollusks are soft bodied animals without backbones but contain other organs and have feet or a foot that allows them to crawl into out of the shell. Once a mollusks dies or crawls out of it shell, the shells are carried by the ocean tides to the beach and other places. It is against the law in SW Florida to collect live shells or shells containing mollusks.

The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island has a great collection of shells from the local region as well as from around the world. There is a live touch tank inside the museum. The staff at the museum also gives daily walks to nearby beaches. I found another interesting website with great shell art at Pinterest. To see larger images of the shells above, click on their images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine Island Sound

Pine Island Sound is one of the five aquatic preserves of Charlotte Harbor that  is nestled between the barrier islands of Sanibel and Pine Island in Lee County. It consists of over 58,000 acres of salt water preserves and islands. Some of the more popular places to visit that are located in or next to the Pine Island Sound are Cayo Costa State Park, Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve and Useppa Island. There are boat excursions to each one of these places if it is not accessible by car.

Pine Island Sound  has been a great boating and fishing location for residents and tourists. Fish that are caught in the sound include, Trout, Redfish, Mangrove Snook, Snapper, and many others. The sound is used also used by paddleboarders, kayakers, wind surfers and others who use the waters for it wide open waterways and plentiful supply of wind. Another popular activity is shelling along the beaches of the sound and barrier islands.

Pine Island Sound has been under attack for many years by pollution from runoff of water from nearby lands and polluted water coming from estuaries such as the Caloosahatchee which carries nutrient laden waters from inland lakes and streams. The sound contains environmentally sensitive mangroves which serves as nesting and feeding areas for fish and birds. The Pine Island Sound also contains sea grasses and oyster beds which are necessary to feed Manatees and marine life and also to keep the water clean. The Enviironmental and Scientific Organization which monitors the health of the ecosystem withn the Pine Island Sound includes the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) They have monitoring locations which tests the water for nitrogen, oxygen, salinity levels and other important water quality measurements.

Click on the pictures above for a lager view. I took these photographs from different locations looking at the Pine Island Sound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SW Florida Beaches

SW Florida Beaches are what brings many of the visitors to Naples, Bonita Springs, Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. The blue-green tranquil waters of the Gulf of Mexico and  white sandy beaches attracts thousands of winter weary northerners every year.

SW Florida Beaches often rank in the top ten in the nation by travel magazines, Some of them include Lovers Key State Beach, Wiggins State Park, Naples Beach, Barefoot Beach, Clam Pass Park, Bowmans Beach, Sanibel Beach and Captiva Beach.

One of the favorite pastimes of beachgoers is shell collecting besides walking along the pristine white sandy shorelines and looking at the thousands of shells that wash up on the beach every day. Some of the shells include the Horse Conch, Lightning Whelk, Junonia, Lettered Olive, Angel Wing and Lions Paw to name a few. If you visit Sanibel Island, there is a famous shell museum called Bailey-Mathews National Shell Museum, www.baileymatthews.org  The museum has a collection of shells from all over the world, a live touch tank and guided walking tours of nearby beaches.

Another good website to visit for information on beaches of Lee County is “The Beaches of Ft. Myers and Sanibel”. Click on one of the photos above for a larger image.

Bowmans Beach, Sanibel Island

click on any image to enlarge

Bowmans Beach is one of the few public beaches on Sanibel Island and well worth the visit for beachgoers and shell collectors. The beach is located in the middle of the island at the end of Bowmans Beach Rd. There is a public parking lot a short distance away where parking costs a few dollars an hour. There are also showers and public bathrooms at the beach. The white sandy beach at Bowmans stretches for several miles and the water is usually aqua marine blue and green and very inviting to swim. Shell collectors like the beach at Bowmans also for its variety and abundance of shells to collect. Collecting live shell is not permitted. Fisherman can also fish from the beach. The only other public beaches I know of on Sanibel are located near the lighthouse at the southern end of the island and the beach at Blind Pass at the northern end of the island. Visitors who have been to Bowmans Beach and rated their experiences on Trip Advisor have rated it mostly excellent to very good. Make sure to bring sunscreen, chairs and an umbrella as the suns rays and UV light are very strong. Other attraction nearby are the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum. There are also many good restaurants on the island.  The Sanibel Island Chamber of Commerce has good information for people that want to stay on the island or do more than just visit the beaches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salt Water Marshes and Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida located in the northeast corner of the state just north of Jacksonville is a beautiful barrier island with 13 miles of beaches. Salt water marshes surround much of the island and provide protection against beach erosion as well as providing a rich marine environment for aquatic marine life. The beaches are deep and long and provide people with plenty of room to walk, jog, lay out a blanket and enjoy the surf and views. Amelia Island has a rich history and has belonged to 8 different countries during Americas’ history . The name of the island came from Britain who named it after Princess Amelia, daughter of King George II.

During my brief stop on the island I enjoyed looking at the historic section of the island that has been preserved, the beaches which seem to go on forever, a long pier jutting out into the Atlantic ocean and the beautiful salt marshes which surround much of the island.  The salt water marshes provide food, spawning areas and protection from predators. Other coastlines and barrier islands like those which used to protect the Louisiana coastline near New Orleans could learn a lesson from the healthy salt marshes that protect Amelia Island. Amelia Island has a good website with additional information about this barrier island.

 

Pine Island Sound – Picture Gallery

I took these pictures over a course of about 2 years. They were all taken from the Sanibel Causeway with the exception of one. Pine Island Sound can be seen from a lot of vantage points including many from the Sanibel Causeway, Punta Rassa on the Ft. Myers side, Sanibel Island and Pine Island which I do not visit much because of the long drive. As you can see from the pictures there is a lot going on in the sound. The fishing is great there and people fish from boats as well as land. There are strong currents moving through Pine Island Sound so be careful when you take a boat out or swim in its waters. There are some really neat islands you can visit if you are traveling by boat including Useppa Island or Cabbage Key. Captiva Island has a cruise company which can take you out for dolphin viewings, shelling or dinner cruises. Visit Captiva Cruises to find out more about their excursions. I like Pine Island Sounds accessibility by anyone willing to drive a car to the causeway, put in a small sailboat or kayak or fish from its shores.

Pictures in this gallery are of a sunset over the Pine Island Sound, Kayak with a dog perched on front, 2 Laughing Gull Shorebirds flying over the water, Blue Heron, Windsurfers, Sailboat, View of Pine Island Sound and Kayakers and Paddle boarders.

Click on any picture to see  a larger image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures in this gallery are of a sunset over the Pine Island Sound, Kayak with a dog perched on front, 2 Laughing Gull Shorebirds flying over the water, Blue Heron, Windsurfers, Sailboat, View of Pine Island Sound and Kayakers and Paddleboarders.

Pine Island Sound

Windsurfing off Sanibel Causeway

Windsurfing off Sanibel Causeway

Sailing on Pine Island Sound

Sailing on Pine Island Sound

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pine Island Sound is an Aquatic Preserve and body of water that lies between Pine Island, Sanibel Island and Charlotte Harbor and covers approximately 54,000 acres of water. The Sanibel Bridge crosses the Pine Island Sound and you can get a good view of the aquatic preserve and watch people fishing, kayaking, swimming, and bird watching when you drive across the water and land bridge. I have kayaked , fished and photographed birds in the sound and enjoyed being followed by dolphins while I kayaked. I have included some of my own pictures of the sound in this article and a You Tube video of a fish boat captain cruising through the waters of Pine Island Sound. 

Pine Island Sound is ecologically diverse containing seagrass beds, oyster beds and mangroves which provide food and habitat for many types of fish and marine life. Dolphins and manatees are regularly seen swimming through it waters. The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation located on Sanibel Island is a scientific and research organizaion which monitors the health of the coastal habitats of Pine Island Sound and provides restoration efforts like restoring oyster beds, sea grass beds and mangroves.

The Great Calusa Blueway crosses Pine Island Sound and many people take advantage of the scenic views and waters in and around Pine Island Sound. The Florida Dept. of State contains some basic facts about Pine Island Sound and a map of its location in SW Florida. The waters of Pine Island Sound mix with the salty and brackish waters of the Charlotte Harbor, San Carlos Bay and Caloosahatchee River estuaries which helps to make it unique and rich in marine life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sandbar and Shelling near Blind Pass

Sandbar near Blind Pass

Sandbar near Blind Pass

Shells near Blind Pass

Shells near Blind Pass

Blind pass is located at the intersection of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. There is s small bridge connecting the two islands and there has been a lot of activity there over the past several years to keep the pass open which allows water from the Gulf of Mexico to travel through the pass to the back bays of Pine Island Sound. It is also a popular spot for beach goers who like the clear water and shelling opportunities. It also has nice beaches for swimming. The currents and tides bring sand and shells to the pass which creates a problem in keeping the waterway open. The residents of Captiva and the State of Florida have spent large amounts of time and money to keep the pass open. It seems mother nature has other plans and the pass keeps getting blocked with sand and mud. There is public parking on both sides of the bridge so it is easy to get to. The sandbar in this picture is unique in its size and shape which is not unusual for the mouth of the pass just before water passes underneath Blind Pass bridge. I have not seen a larger collection of shells washed up on any beach on Sanibel or Captiva. If you collect any shells make sure they are not live shells with mollusks living in them. You can take as many empty shells as you like.  There is a good website called Sanibel-Captivaonline.com/blind-pass-sanibel.htm.  which provides a lot of information about places to go and stay on the Islands and elsewhere.

click on pictures for larger images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida’s Beaches – Sanibel Shelling

Sanibel Island Shelling

Sanibel Island Shelling

Sanibel Shells

Sanibel Shells

People come to Sanibel Island from all over the world to collect shells. walk it’s beaches and to see it’s sunsets. There are millions of shells that wash up on the beaches because of the unique shape of Sanibel and how it lies along the coastline. It’s banana shape and curve allows it to scoop up shells that are carried by the currents and tides of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. Some of the more commonly seen shells are Lightning Welks, Conch’s, Junonia’s, Cockles and Scallops.

Shells can have living animals in them called mollusks which secrete a liquid which then form’s that hard outer covering we recognize as a shell. Not all shells have living mollusks in them but the ones that do are prohibited from collecting. Shells can be single shells such as welks and conchs or bi-valves whose shells open and close. Bi-valves include clams, oysters and scallops.

The best time to collect shells are at low tide after the currents have deposited them on the beach or at Spring low tides at new or full moons. Another good time to collect shells are after storms. The smaller shells are located at the southern or east end of the island near the lighthouse. The larger shells are located near the western or northern part of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, however any place on the island is a good place to collect shells. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is a great visit for those who want to see shells from around the world.

Some travel companies have rated Sanibel Shell collecting as the 7th best attraction in Florida. You can read about the list and more about shell collecting on Sanibel at Sanibel-Captiva.org. So what do wetlands have to do with salt water shells ?  Estuaries which are a mixture of fresh and saltwater and originate inland carry nutrient laden waters to the coastlines and affect the marine life and water quality of the Gulf of Mexico and our beaches. That’s what all the hub bub has been about lately in the news regarding citizens wanting the state to buy more land in Florida to collect this contaminated water before it affects our shores.