It’s almost FRIDAY! Which means the weekend is coming up. And that it’s “Throwback Thursday”. This week, I’m featuring a quick 3-day trip my mom and I took to Sanibel Island!
Last December, I spontaneously booked a $60 Frontier Airlines flight for my mom and I to Fort Myers, FL. It was only a 3 day trip but felt like a week–in a good way! Coming back home, we both felt relaxed, pampered and rejuvenated to take on the cold Michigan winter. I booked a one-room suite at the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel Island, a place neither my mom nor I had been before. This little island, just off the Floridian Coast of Fort Myers, is the perfect getaway from the city. With no car and just a carry-on suitcase, my mom and I caught a cab (with Island Taxi–they were the BEST and we used them multiple times on our trip) and headed to our hotel.
As we arrived at Sundial, we were greeted by a friendly receptionist who told us that she had upgraded us to a two-room suite! The huge room featured two bedrooms, one with a king bed and a second with two queen beds, two bathrooms, a kitchen, living room and dining area. I felt like I was in a home rather than a hotel room! And, perhaps the best part of our room, was the lanai (balcony), which overlooked the waving palm trees, bright green grass and the Gulf of Mexico. I was in paradise!
Although breakfast was not included in our room reservation, they do provide a reasonably priced breakfast buffet, complete with a waffle and omelette station. We chose to do this two out of the three mornings during our stay. In addition to breakfast, the resort also has a lunch/dinner cafe (Sea Breeze Cafe) in the same area as breakfast, overlooking the pool and ocean. During the two nights we got dinner here, we saw 4 people max. It was so peaceful! We later found out that the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the best time to visit Florida, since most people aim for going down during the holidays and not in between.
The last restaurant in the hotel is the Shima Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Bar. And boy was this place hopping! You need a reservation to go here or else you won’t get a place at a table. It’s quite a popular spot both for hotel guests and outside visitors. Their claim to fame is being the only hibachi restaurant (think Benihana–giant grill and food made in front of you) on the island. On our last night in Sanibel, my mom and I made a reservation for two at a large hibachi table–and we made some friends on the way! At our table sat Vivian, a restaurant owner from Switzerland, her boyfriend Manfred and their friend Piotr, all of whom were plenty friendly, which made for a fantastic dinner. My mom bonded with Piotr (he’s from Poland too!), while I chatted with Vivian about Mallorca and Spain, since at the time, I had an upcoming vacation to the island. After multiple sake shots and grilled Japanese seafood, we called it a night–and what a fun night it had been.
During the day, my mom and I explored Sanibel Island via bike, since we chose not to rent a car. The first day, we rode our bikes to the Sanibel Lighthouse, where we walked on the pier, watched some fisherman clean out their catch and explored the beach park. On our way back, we came across a gem of a cafe, the Lighthouse Cafe. A local favorite, the Lighthouse Cafe has the best fish sandwiches around. My mom had a grouper sandwich, while I stuck with my classic salmon sandwich. The prices were unbeatable–for $10, you get a HUGE sandwich, fries and coleslaw. We loved it so much that we came back the next morning (via bike of course) for breakfast. Though breakfast was much busier, we still got a table pretty quickly. Before leaving, we bought a few things from their “for sale” shelf at the front of the store. My favorite is the “Home Fry Seasoning“, which you can actually buy at their online store now too!
Besides the white sandy beaches and top rated food, Sanibel is also known for their wildlife refuge, JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Most people take a “Wildlife Drive” through the refuge on a paved, 4-mile path. My mom and I decided to walk the path so we could get a closer look at the animals along the path (also we didn’t have a car and got here via taxi). On the way, we saw hundreds of birds of all different species, turtles and (I think) a few gators lurking in the waters below! The cool thing about Ding Darling is that you can veer off via foot on a dirt path, which takes you away from the small crowds on the paved path. There, you have a better chance of seeing wildlife. My mom and I did the Indigo Trail, which is just a few extra miles through the Floridian jungle to get back to the Ding Darling Visitor Center. We did see a few gators along the banks of the waters, as well as from the observation deck at the end of the trail. I’m really excited to find more wildlife refuges to check out both in Florida and around the country–who knew they were so interesting and beautiful!
Circling back to the Sundial Resort & Spa, my mom and I spent our days paddle boarding on the gulf and evenings walking the beach. Since you have to pay a resort fee to stay here, all their equipment (paddle boards, bikes, etc.), workout classes and more are free!
I can’t wait to stay here again in the future. FLORIDA I MISS YOU!