There are plenty of “locals only” secrets you learn from spending a lot of time on Sanibel and Captiva Island. The locals that live here year round have taught me things that I more than likely would never have noticed or found out on my own. Here’s just a few of those tricks:
Avoid driving on Periwinkle Way from 4PM to 6PM at all costs
This is without question the busiest time of day for traffic on Periwinkle. If you don’t know this already, Sanibel traffic can be pretty infuriating. During high season (like March) it can take up to an hour to get from one end of this road to the other, and it isn’t even 5 miles long. Luckily, our next tip offers an alternative that few drivers use to avoid the Sanibel traffic gridlock.
Use the beach roads instead of Periwinkle if possible
If you take West Gulf Drive to Casa Ybel Rd to Middle Gulf Drive then finally to Lindgren you can completely bypass the gridlock of Periwinkle. Why people don’t know how to do this I’m not sure, but for your sake and mine I’m glad they don’t. Here’s a (crude, but you get the point) map where I highlighted this route in green:
A bizarre No-See-Um repellent that actually works the best
This is going to sound really strange but bear with me. Years ago I had a constant battle with No-See-Um’s while visiting Sanibel. After trying just about every type of bug spray available at Bailey’s Hardware Store, a local lady (who noticed me looking frustrated/itchy next to the bug sprays) gave me a tip that I didn’t believe at first. She told me that some beauty product called Avon Skin So Soft will keep these nasty No-See-Um’s from even going near you. I said thanks for the tip and chuckled to myself inside.
Fast forward a couple weeks and I heard someone say the same thing. So now I’m wondering if this is some scheme put on by the pushy Avon sales ladies or if there is actually some merit to a “Bath Oil Spray” (that’s what my bottle says) being good at keeping biting insects from terrorizing you. So I bought a bottle. Man does it work! I don’t exactly know why it works and I really don’t care, because those old ladies were 100% right. I don’t bother trying to track down an Avon sales lady (go right ahead if that’s your thing), you can just buy a bottle from this seller on Amazon, check the price here (its usually around $10 for a big bottle): Amazon: AVON Skin So Soft Bath Oil Spray with Pump
Try Jerry’s Foods for a delicious and cheap breakfast or lunch
This is truly a local secret, I would have never thought to eat here if I wasn’t told about it while having a conversation with an older local man on the fishing pier. Yes, the restaurant (more of a diner really) is in the grocery store. It seems weird at first but once you find this gem you will be back every trip. It is one of the only places on the island where you can get a generous lunch for under $10. The unlimited soup and salad bar is $9.99 and is top notch. The breakfasts are fantastic as well. I like to get Jerry’s Famous Cinnamon Bread French Toast. It comes with 3 HUGE pieces of french toast and bacon or sausage for $8.99. I don’t think that there is a better value on the island than what you will find here, and you hardly ever have to wait for a table.
If you want to find the best shells, go right after a storm
If you see someone out scouring the beach right after a storm, often at night with a flashlight, there’s a good chance they are a local. The storms that often roll through quickly in the evenings churn up the water. This can bring shells onto the beach that you won’t find any other time. You can usually find tons of the more common conchs and whelks too. Some of these will be alive, so be careful with what you throw in your shell bag. The next time you are visiting and you have a storm roll through, throw on a sweatshirt and grab your flashlight. This is the absolute top time for shelling.