Many of the "islands" off the eastern seaboard are actually sand spits loosely connected to the mainland by narrow bridges of land. Tourists staying in Sanibel Island holiday homes, however, will find that Sanibel is a true island surrounded on all sides by the lush tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Located across from Fort Myers, Florida, Sanibel Island boasts approximately 6,000 permanent residents. A barrier island, Sanibel has sandy beaches that invite visitors to frolic and enjoy themselves, something that cannot be said for all Florida islands, since some of them are composed of coral rock that can be hard on bare feet.
The term "Sanibel" also refers to the city on the island, but its borders reach to the shore in every direction. Sanibel Island is quite easy to reach from the mainland thanks to a causeway that was constructed in 1963; before that, tourists had to take a ferry across a short stretch of Gulf waters.
Modern transportation infrastructure has not marred the natural beauty of Sanibel, however. Within just a few years of the causeway being completed, island residents had established the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan to protect the island's delicate natural habitats from being damaged by overdevelopment. This group has managed to strike a unique balance; a new bridge to the island was opened in 2007.
Attractions that draw visitors across the bridge include a national wildlife refuge and the Sanibel Historical Village.