Dog Days on Sanibel
The economy of this barrier island is based on fishing and tourism, yet this is a relaxing, untouristy kind of place. You won't find any drive-through restaurants, just the occasional pileated woodpecker or osprey.
The island rose from the sea more than 24 million years ago and today is home to 8,100 year-round residents (plus half that number in the winter). Several communities are sprinkled along the 17-mile island: Matlacha (matluh-SHAY), Pine Island Center, Bokeelia, and St. James City.
People here are proud of the fact that they're still friendly."Mayberry-like" is the way the local Chamber of Commerce puts it -- and Maggie found them quite tolerant of her kind, too.
Parks, Beaches, And Recreation Areas
You get two parks in one here. One is just a small waterside pull-off and parking area where you can wade out into Pine Island Sound with your pooch. It's a great way to cool off on a hot day if you can overlook the fact that it's so small. We met a sandy-haired boy named Jason, about seven years old, who hurried home to get his mutt, Buddy. Jason and Buddy swim here all the time. Unfortunately, Buddy's leash got tangled in Jason's bicycle tire upon their return, and the adolescent puppy and Maggie decided to play a game of "Who's Boss?" while Robert untangled the mechanical mess. You could say Maggie's impressions of this place were fine, while the humans in the crew could have had a more relaxing visit. Things probably will go smoother for you, and with dog-friendly beaches in short supply around here, this is worth a stop.
Across the street from the waterfront pull-off is a group of mounds built by the Calusa Indians, some of the earliest inhabitants of Pine Island. Thousands of years ago the Calusas became Florida's earliest canal-builders, and one of their waterways -- connecting this village with the area of Matlacha, on the eastern shore of the island -- was excavated here. Don't expect huge mountains rising into the sky. Although locals know well where the mounds are located, we drove right past them, only to be told of their existence later by someone at the Chamber of Commerce. Your leashed pooch is welcome to walk around the mound area, according to the Chamber of Commerce, and if you're here in the spring you might even get to watch an archaeological dig.
Take Highway 78/Pine Island Road west from Cape Coral, pass through Matlacha. Turn right at Highway 767/Stringfellow Road. After three miles, turn left at Pineland Road, which will curve to the right to l become Waterfront Drive. Look for the small pull-off area on your left.
Places To Stay
Fort Myers/Pine Island KOA Kampground : The lanes in this quiet, remote campground are named after birds such as wood storks and seagulls, but dogs are welcome, too. The place is not just for campers. You can opt for one of four Kamping Kabins, as long as you abide by the two-dog-per-Kabin limit. Some folks have set up semi-permanent residences in their RVs, whereas others are more transient. Ask for a site with shade, which is scarce here A cattail-fringed human-made lake near some sabal palms offers a place for tenters away from the RVs. It is VERY important to clean up after your pet; other campers are getting upset about dog doo, so you need to do your part to preserve this as a dog-friendly sleeping spot. When we visited we noted a big white shepherd dog walking around on a leash and an Irish setter hanging out under a picnic table beneath an RV overhang, his human friend peacefully reading at his side. Cabins are $40. Camping is $34 to $47. Reservations are a must in the cooler months, but you're sure to get a camping spot in the summer. Cabin reservations are recommended year-round. 5120 Stringfellow Road, St. James City, FL 33956; (941) 283-2415 or (800) 992-7202.
Check out the sound: Pine Island Sound, that is, which has some of the best fishing grounds in Florida. Even if your pooch isn't too excited about sharing his boat with scaly, slimy creatures, he'll enjoy the feeling of the breeze rippling through his coat as you glide across the water. This isn't for misbehavin' dogs or landlubber humans. Nor is it the best choice of activities on Florida's hottest days. But if boating is your kind of thing and the weather is right, you'll find plenty of places to rent boats on Pine Island. You'll see some of the most picturesque places in Florida for inland boating.
Your dog will dig this : In the spring, an archaeologist's thoughts turn to. . . dirt. At least for some of the archaeologists at the University of Florida. The local chamber of commerce tells us your leashed pooch is welcome to sniff around the site of the spring digs at the Randell House tract, also known as Pineland, on Waterfront Drive. Calusa Indians, who lived along the coast and subsisted mostly on shellfish, dominated this part of Florida for thousands of years before being wiped out by diseases imported by Spanish explorers. The mounds they left behind form a network of elevated surfaces, such as pyramids, that archaeologists hypothesize were related to the Calusas' religious beliefs. Dogs with political leanings will be interested to note that John L. Lewis, head of the United Mineworkers Union, was among those who lived here after the Calusas. Last we checked, the state was in the process of buying the place, so access rules may change. For the most recent information, call the Greater Pine Island Chamber of Commerce at (941) 283-0888.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication