Dog Days on Sanibel

Sanibel/Captiva Islands

Your dog is in for a treat—literally—if Gary or Diane are working when you pull up to the tollbooth to get to these lush resort islands. The pair are known far and wide for giving dog biscuits to canines who are passing through (after asking permission from the dogs' companions, of course). Fittingly, Sanibel is a dog mecca. Devoted dog owners are known to travel a half hour or more to take their four-legged companions here because, unlike most touristy Florida spots, Sanibel allows the fuzzy set to romp on its beaches. That's enough to make you howl with delight, eh?

Make sure you park where it's legal, though. Otherwise, you may have to pay a $35 fine. Parking legally is the name of the game for doggie access to Sanibel beaches. See the listings below for safe places to park. And please remember to clean up after your dog! Hound-hospitable beaches are increasingly hard to find in the Sunshine State.

Parks, Beaches, And Recreation Areas

Bowman's Beach
Every Sanibel tourist winds up at the beach, and your leashed dog is welcome to join the throng in doing the"Sanibel Stoop." How it works: Try to find the best seashells to add to your collection by slowly walking along the shelly Gulf of Mexico beach, keeping your head slightly bent. Once you've found just the right shell, quickly stoop to pick it up. Sure, dogs don't care about seashells, but they'll welcome any excuse for a morning or sunset walk. (Noon is probably too hot except on the coolest of days.)

Leashed dogs may frolic along any Sanibel beach, but Bowman's Beach stands out because anyone can park at its lot for 75 cents an hour. Most other beach-access parking lots are limited to cars bearing residential permits. For anyone sleeping in nearby Captiva Island, this is the nearest public beach that gives visiting dogs the green light.

Take Sanibel-Captiva Road west toward the tip of Sanibel Island, then turn south on Bowman's Beach Road.

Gulfside City Park
Patient mainland visitors wend their way through Sanibel Island to get to this park, which squarely fronts the Gulf of Mexico and holds out the promise of beautiful sunsets. Still, if your leashed dog prods you to do what everyone else is doing at this beach, you'd better bring a bag to fill with seashells. (And, naturally, bring along a pooper-scooper.)

The parking lot is on Algiers Lane. From the Sanibel Causeway, continue south, turn right at Periwinkle Way, left at Casa Ybel Road, then left at Algiers Lane.

Lighthouse Beach
Pooches who spend the week digging holes in backyards and sighing in locked apartments would love a trip to this renowned canine retreat, which is the nearest public beach for mainland doggies. It takes a special dog lover to drive a half hour or more to take his leashed buddies here—then brave the late-afternoon traffic exiting the island via the Sanibel Causeway. But it's a great way to spend a day and, heck, tourists fly in from hundreds of miles away to collect seashells and take in the pastel sky at sunset. Why not treat your dog?

The park owes some of its popularity to its parking lot, which gives the public access. Most local beach lots are limited to residents. From the Sanibel Causeway, head south, turn left (east) at Periwinkle Way and continue to the eastern tip of the island.

Places To Stay

Caribe Beach Resort : Except in the off-season, it's hard to get into these kitchen-equipped timeshares, which are rented out on a weekly basis. Two cottages and apartments ranging from studio to three-bedroom are available, with rates from $540 to $1,050 in the off season. Ask about two-night stays; sometimes they are available. One dog weighing under 25 pounds is allowed in each unit; the pet fee is $25 per stay. 2669 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-1166 or (800) 330-1593.

Castaways Resort and Marina : On the northern tip of Sanibel Island, the grounds of these blue waterside cottages with kitchens feature a marina with boat rentals, a pool, and a fish-cleaning area for lucky canine anglers. Rates are $119 to $329; pets are $15 extra a day. 6460 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-1252 or (800) 375-0152.

Kona Kai Motel: Small dogs are sometimes accepted at this small motel. It's a case-by-case judgment, the management says. Rates are $60 to $150. 1539 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-1001 or (800) 820-2385.

Mitchell's Sand Castles by the Sea : Your leashed dog can pad down sandy trails to cavort on the beach here, and if she loves the water, she can swim in the Gulf of Mexico. It's the favorite vacation spot of a black Lab named Angel, who every year spends a week here with her chauffeur, Harriet Bonin, taking after-dinner walks on the beach before returning to their beachfront cabin. Rates for these kitchen-equipped beachfront cottages range from $75 to $240 a night, depending on the season and which of the 19 widely varying cottages you choose. The pet fee is $5 a day. 3951 West Gulf Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-1282.

Signal Inn : Small pets may or may not be accepted here. It seems like it depends on how the desk clerk is feeling that day, but we're told that some units are hospitable to pets while others are not. The one- and two-bedroom beachside cottages and townhouses usually are rented for the week, with rates ranging from $830 to $2,790 per week, depending on the season and other factors. Three-night stays also are possible sometimes. 1811 Olde Middle Gulf Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-4690 or (800) 992-4690.

Tarpon Cottage: Just a five-minute walk from the Gulf of Mexico, this duplex on the island's eastern end features barbecue grills, fully equipped kitchens, and bikes for tooling around with your leashed dog—just don't exhaust him. Built in 1954, it was remodeled in 1999. Small pets, please. Rates are about $1,000 weekly. Nightly rentals are possible in the off-season at $149 to $199. 1129 Sabal Street, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-0939 or (888) 400-0939.

Tropical Winds Motel & Cottages: Well-behaved dogs are accepted at these 10 frequently packed units in a quiet residential neighborhood. The furnished efficiencies—with cable TV, air-conditioning, heat, and barbecue grills—are set at the north end of Sanibel Island. Tennis is nearby. "We're not the Ritz, but we're clean," the proprietor says. Rates are $110 to $185. 4819 Tradewinds & Jamaica Drive, Sanibel, FL 33957; (941) 472-1765.

'Tween Waters Inn: Maggie skittered nervously across a polished-wood floor when she arrived at a cottage here many years ago on her first vacation. She seemed to consider the wee cottage her new home, and paced uneasily for about an hour before she finally sat down. It took some getting used to, but she did. Want to to paddle in the bay with your pal? You can rent a canoe here for two hours for $20, and $5 an hour after that. Dogs are not allowed on the beach on Captiva Island, though they are in nearby Sanibel. Some dog owners take the chance, we're told, but we figure you should just head across the Blind Pass Bridge to Sanibel. Rates vary seasonally, from $225 to $350 a night, but you may get a price break if you stay three nights or longer. Expect to also pay $15 per night per pet. Make sure to mention the pooch when you register, as they're allowed only at certain cottages. On Highway 869, just north of Blind Pass, P.O. Box 249, Captiva, FL 33924; (941) 472-5161 or (800) 223-5865.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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