Sanibel Island Florida Travel Guide
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Captiva and Sanibel Islands Area Florida
Sanibel Island is an island located on the Gulf coast of Florida, just offshore of Fort Myers. At the 2000 US concensus, it had an estimated population of 6,064 people. Sanibel is a barrier island located within Lee County. It’s a collection of sand on the leeward side of the Gulf Stream from the more solid coral-rock of Pine Island.
The city of Sanibel comprises the entire island, and most of the city proper is located on the east end of the island. In May 1963, the Sanibel causeway was built to replace the ferry , after which the residents fought back against overdevelopment by establishing the Sanibel Comprehensive Land Use Plan in 1974 to help maintain a balance between development and preservation of the island's ecology. A new bridge with a greater height but without a bascule (drawbridge), open for tall boats and sailboats, was completed in late 2007.
Because of this new causeway, Sanibel is rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination known for its shell beaches and wildlife refuges. More than half of the island consists of wildlife refuges, the largest one is the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Hurricane Charley hit the island in August 2004 causing mandatory evacuation for the residents and resulting in the most storm damage to the island in 44 years.
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About 6,000 years ago, Sanibel and Captiva were formed as one island. Calusa were the first known humans who arrived in the area about 2,500 years ago. Sanibel remained an important Calusa settlement until the arrival of the Europeans, after which the settlement collapsed.
In 1765, the first known appearance of a harbor on Sanibel was shown on a map as Puerto de S. Nibel, and it is believed that the name may have evolved from "San Nibel". Many others believe that it was derived from "(Santa) Ybel", which survives in the old placename "Point Ybel", where the Sanibel Island Light is located. However, there are different backstories which are cited as responsible for the evolution of this name. One story says it was named by Juan Ponce de León for Queen Isabella I of Castile. According to another tale, it was named by Roderigo Lopez, the first mate of José Gaspar (Gasparilla), after his beautiful lover Sanibel whom he had left behind in Spain. However, above references to recognizable variants of the name predate the buccaneer's supposed reign, all these stories are mere hokum.
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