Many Hats of Me: Sanibel Island - Lighthouse Beach and the Seashell Museum

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sanibel Island - Lighthouse Beach and the Seashell Museum

Sanibel Island, Florida



Sanibel Island is located just off the western coast of Fort Meyers. It's a narrow piece of land approximately 10.5 miles long. We had planned to wake at dawn every day to go shelling, but there was a full moon during our visit and low tide was only late at night. 

With this in mind, we decided to try Lighthouse Beach on the eastern side of the island since it has ample parking, washrooms, showers, and is the closest beach to the Causeway. Please check http://saltwatertides.com/ to help plan your Sanibel Island holiday. Low tides are the best time to visit.





Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum
Map of Sanibel and Captiva Island, from the Shell Museum







The Sanibel Island Causeway


Sanibel Island is accessed through a series of white bridges called the Sanibel Causeway. It costs $6 to cross and traffic is heavy to and from the island. The best time to leave for the island is early AM. It's also a good idea to have a SunPass transponder on your vehicle since its traffic line is much faster. Our Budget rental car had a transponder included with the car. It costs $4/day to use for a maximum of $14 for a trip.

There are places to stop and park your car while driving along the Causeway. From discussions with fellow travelers, Causeway Beaches are great places to pick up shells since not many make the stop.

My highlight of Sanibel Island was the Causeway drive. It's long and picturesque; often large sea pelicans and birds will fly parallel to your car.







Sanibel Island Lighthouse Beach



We left for Sanibel Island at around 3:30 PM with heavy traffic all the way. We turned right instead of left, so we only arrived at Lighthouse Beach at 4:30 PM. However, the sun was still high but not burning anymore.

The beach is relatively clean and free of trash, and the sand is fine and white since it's mostly made up of crushed seashells. Even the unpaved parking lot is full of seashells.

We managed to find lots of common white seashells, and broken pieces of iridescent shells. We came prepared for shelling with our $6 red mop bucket from Target and a set of shelling tools (large net and shovel) from the local Publix since Target did not sell beach items out of season.

We stayed until 7 pm when the sun was starting to set. What a great day.



Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island
Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island





Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island


Sanibel Seashell Museum, Florida


Since we didn't manage to see any great seashell specimens, we made a trip to the Baily-Matthews Seashell Museum. It's located on the west side of Sanibel island.

The museum houses a medium-size collection of seashells from around the world. Most of the collection is made up of seashell donations from patrons.


Eustrombus Goliath from northeastern Brazil, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Tierney
Eustrombus Goliath from northeastern Brazil, donated by Mr. and Mrs. Tierney









Shells from Panama
Shells from Panama






Shells From West Africa
Shells From West Africa




Shells from Japan
Shells from Japan





Shells from Japan, detail
Shells from Japan, detail






Shells from Japan, abalone
Shells from Japan, abalone





moon scallop
Moon Scallop





West African Seashells, detail
West African Seashells, detail





West African Seashells, butterfly cone
West African Seashells, butterfly cone





South American Seashells Pink mouth murex
South American Seashells, detail







South American Seashells, detail


Seashell Fossils


Found on Florida beaches are the much coveted, and rare, Ecphora Whelk, which lived along the Floridian coast 30 million years ago.







Ecphora Whelk Fossil
Ecphora Whelk Fossil





Local Seashells on Sanibel Island


Sanibel Island has an amazing assortment of unique seashells.





Seashells of Sanibel Island, from the Seashell Museum


Sanibel Island Seashells belong to the Phylum Mollusca.
Sanibel Island Seashells belong to the Phylum Mollusca. 







Floating or strewn along the beaches are Lightning Whelk egg capsules
Floating or strewn along the beaches are Lightning Whelk egg capsules





Junonia Seashells, Sanibel Island
Junonia Seashells, Sanibel Island





Rare, Left-Handed Junonia
Rare, Left-Handed Junonia





Broken pieces of Stiff Pen and Sawtooth Pen Shells are found along the waterline of the beaches. Although small, the pieces are very beautiful because their interior surfaces are iridescent.



Stiff Pen Shell, Sanibel Island
Stiff Pen Shell, Sanibel Island




Sawtooth Pen Shell
Sawtooth Pen Shell





Seashell Live Specimens


The Seashell Museum has a small display of live seashells from the Sanibel area. The volunteer curator allows some of the specimens to leave the saltwater pool for a better look. It's remarkable how large the "Pen" clams were, measuring almost a foot long.





Live Florida Fighting Conch


I was able to observe a live Florida Fighting Conch at the museum. This snail is a vegetarian and it uses its muscular foot in a "slapping" action to scare away predators. Notice the little eye-like structure on the right. I think he was taking a peek at me.


She Sells Sea Shells


Opened over 30 years ago, She Sells Sea Shells is world famous for it's lovely and well-priced sea shells. It's located on the west side of Sanibel Island, a few minutes drive from the Causeway on the left-hand side of the road.

They sell both local and internationally sourced seashells, ranging from $1 to hundreds of dollars. I was amazed at the variety, size, beauty and price of the seashells.






Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



Starfish, sand dollars, and snail shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells
Starfish, sand dollars, and snail shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



Starfish, sand dollars, and snail shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells
Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



kings crown snail shell and lynx cowrie
Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



brown tonna snail shells and black murex shells
Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



lambis shells
Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



Florida Queen Conch Shells
Florida Queen Conch Shells




Starfish for Sale



Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells



Abalone Shells for sale at She Sells Sea Shells


conch shells
Conch Shells



The store also sells sea shell art





Puffer fish




UP NEXT: 

Fort Meyers and Sanibel Island - Places to Eat



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