Casa Ybel Resort

Sanibel Island, Florida

Move over Paris – Sanibel is tops in world

Written by
Laura Ruane, & Dennis Culver,

Pittsburgh residents Jeremy Rosen and Susan Crouch walk along the beach on Sanibel Island on Tuesday. They said the island is one of their favorite vacation spots because it is peaceful. / Dennis Culver/

The dean of U.S. travel writers ranks Sanibel Island first among his 10 favorite places to visit — in the world.

That’s above the island of Bali and Paris, which are Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, on Arthur Frommer’s list.

To be sure, it’s high praise from Frommer, who in 1957 published “Europe on $5 a Day,” which is credited with changing the way a generation of Americans visited Europe.The book launched one of nation’s the biggest lines of travel guides, under Frommer’s name.

Tourism promoters in Lee County, not surprisingly, are thrilled about the compliment, and the media and visitor buzz it is creating.

“It’s perfect timing,” said Ric Base, president of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce. In a few weeks local tourism’s winter high season kicks in. That’s when demand — and lodging rates — are the highest.

Reservations for island lodgings and vacation rentals already are looking very strong, Base said. Frommer’s remarks can help sustain the momentum, according to Base.

About a year-and-a-half ago, chamber staff gave Frommer a “behind-the-scenes tour, all over the islands,” Base said, adding that Frommer is a longtime repeat visitor to Sanibel.

Writing for his Dec. 28 blog, Frommer calls Sanibel an “idyllic haven of white-sand beaches, condos whose sea-front apartments are available for weekly rentals, excellent restaurants, good shopping.” He then singles out for special praise, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, “visited by thousands of birds of every species, who bask in the sun after diving for fish and are one of the great natural sights of wildlife in America.”

Frommer’s remarks also appeared in a column he writes, and which a number of newspapers across the country use.

Favorable remarks “from a person of Arthur Frommer’s caliber means they will be repeated in a number of media outlets. The reach will just grow and grow,” said Lee Rose, a spokesman for Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau.

This isn’t the only recent accolade from important travel sources. TripAdvisor recently named greater Fort Myers as No. 3 among of the “15 destinations on the rise,” based on a significant increase in user reviews for the area on the travel Web site over the past year. Sanibel and sister island Captiva were also recognized by readers of TripAdvisor when they were named the “Top 25 Beaches in the United States & the World” in TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice 2011.

Some visitors to Lighthouse Beach late Tuesday afternoon didn’t hesitate to add their endorsement of Sanibel.

“It’s beautiful,” Jeremy Rosen and Susan Crouch of Pittsburgh said in unison.

“We just love the area,” Crouch said. “We are planning on moving down.” She said they learned about the island through word-of-mouth recommendations.

St. Louis-area residents Camie and Roy Northcutt said they honeymooned on the island 25 years ago, and have been coming back ever since.

Camie Northcutt said she loves the shells, the cleanliness of the beach and the minimal commercialism.

Ray Northcutt said he enjoys the quiet: “It’s not so much a crazy college beach,” he said. “It’s a laid-back beach.”

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Shelling Sanibel: The Sanibel Stoop

As posted in USAToday’s travel section

Every professional travel writer, it seems, has a happy place, a destination where they return not so much to gather new material, but to unwind and relax. For me, that place is Sanibel Island, Florida.

My parents started taking us to Sanibel when I was a teenager. Eventually, they bought a condo there and now spend most of the winter on the Florida Gulf Coast. I’ve visited almost every year since I was 16; I love the area so much that I chose to get married on neighboring Captiva Island.

Sanibel’s claim to fame is the vast amount of shells that wash up on its beach every day. The island has an eco bent, and unlike other beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, resorts and condo associations are forbidden from removing sea debris. That bothers some people, who don’t like seeing seaweed, horseshoe crab skeletons and other things that wash up (I’ve seen everything from starfish to sand dollars to an immense dead sea turtle). But for shellers, it’s paradise.

There’s even a name for the bent over posture of the people who you see walking the beach looking for treaures: The Sanibel Stoop.

The island has capitalized on its shelling reputation for more than a century. In the early 1900s, two of Sanibel’s first hotels, Casa Ybel and The Matthews, used to hold a competition for guests over who could find the best and rarest shell. Hallie “Granny” Matthews hosted the first Shell Show & Fair in her hotel lobby starting in the late 1920s, and by 1931, the event moved to the Sanibel Community Association’s (SCA) Community House.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Sanibel Shell Fair & Show. In honor of the anniversary, businesses and associations will be holding “Shellebration” activities around the island, including an attempt to break the Guinness Book of World Record for number of people on a shell scavenger hunt.

The “flash Sanibel stoop,” so to speak, will take place at 10 a.m. on Feb. 17 at Bowman’s Beach. Anyone who participates will be sign their names and be immortalized in an aerial photo that will be sent to Guinness (the current record is 208 people).

If you’re still confused about what the Sanibel Stoop is, here’s a handy YouTube video that talks about how to do it. Happy shelling!

Shelling Sanibel: The Sanibel Stoop is a post from: Chris Around The World: A Journalist’s Travels on the Road