Sanibel has many features people are drawn to, including its Gulf beaches, the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, Shell Museum, Historical Museum and Village, shops, restaurants and a popular shared-use path that can take you to all of those destinations.
But just across the Sanibel Causeway, near the entrance to the island, is a hidden gem you have probably never seen.
Starting from the Causeway, the first component of the adventure is Pond Apple Trail, which begins at the parking lot for the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, on the left-hand side of Causeway Boulevard just after coming onto the island. This trail traverses a 40-acre wildlife preserve operated by the city of Sanibel.
Set out on this meandering trail and you’ll quickly leave the noise of civilization behind. Cut through an area of thick vegetation, this section of trail will make you think you’ve been transported to the rain forest.
Along the way, keep your eyes open for wildlife. The preserve is known as home to bald eagles, wood storks, alligators, river otters and bobcats. After 0.75 miles, the trail emerges from the forest and circles a complex of large ponds, where a variety of birds often feed. Herons, egrets, anhinga and cormorants are frequent visitors.
On the far side of the ponds, the Pond Apple Trail connects with the new Shipley Trail, opened in March by the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation as part of its new Bailey Homestead Preserve. Connecting the two trails is the Starr D. Thomas Boardwalk, a beautiful raised walkway with railings which zig-zags its way through an area of wetlands.
At the end of the boardwalk the Shipley Trail continues, meandering through an area of tall trees and deep shade and passing by the Bailey Homestead, a charming old-Florida style house that was once home to the Bailey family who were among Sanibel’s earliest settlers. The Bailey home was recently restored by SCCF. Near the home, the trail passes a restoration of the family’s windmill and the remains of the original windmill. The homestead grounds will soon be the new home of SCCF’s Native Plant Nursery.
If You Go
•East end (Pond Apple Trail): Starts at the parking lot for Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce, 1159 Causeway Blvd.
•West end (Shipley Trail): Starts at the parking lot for Roadside Park, located on the north side of Periwinkle Way just west of Donax Street and 0.75 mile west of Causeway Boulevard.
•Parking: There is a limited number of parking spaces for trail users at the Chamber of Commerce parking lot, so trail users may want to start out from the west end of the Shipley Trail at Roadside Park where there is more parking.
•Trail surface: Trail surface is a combination of crushed shell and hard-packed dirt. Surface is ideal for all mountain bikes and hybrids, but can also accommodate narrow tire road bikes. However, watch out for a few areas of loose sand where you’ll need to walk your bike.
•Trail amenities: There are numerous benches and picnic tables along the way where trail users can stop to rest, enjoy the view or have a picnic. Please remember to remove any trash. There are no restrooms at Roadside Park or along the trails themselves. However, restrooms and water are available at the Chamber building during operating hours.
•Food & beverage options: After traversing the trails, you can return to your start point via the shared-use path along Periwinkle Way. If so, you’ll pass by several popular places for food and beverage: Bennett’s Fresh Roast, The Lazy Flamingo and Dairy Queen.
— BikeWalkLee is a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at BikeWalkLee.org.
•Thursday: 35th annual Turkey Trot, Cape Coral Wellness Center 609 SE 13th Court, Cape Coral. 5K run/walk, 1-mile fun run and tot trot, starts at 7:30 a.m.; registration opens 6 a.m. Proceeds to benefit Golisano Children’s Hospital. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
•Saturday, Dec. 6: 36th annual River Run, 10K run and 2-mile walk, across bridges from downtown Fort Myers. Registration 6:30 a.m., run/walk 8 a.m. (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
•Sunday, Dec. 7: Everybody Rides/Runs. Choose a family-friendly chip-timed 5K or half marathon. All finishers will get to run into JetBlue stadium and run right across home plate! 7 a.m. start time for the half marathon. 7:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. (everyonerides.org/)
Cycling and other events:
•Friday: Black Friday Century. Fort Myers to Naples and back. Details at caloosariders.org
•Sunday: Iron Joe Turkey Ride. Begins and ends at Naples Cyclery, Pavilion Shopping Center, Vanderbilt Beach Road and U.S. 41. Fully supported rides: 7:30 a.m. breakfast; 8 a.m. Metric Century (100 km); 9 a.m. 30 mile; 10 a.m. 14-mile family ride; 10 a.m. Beach Walk. (raceroster.com/events/2014/2892/9th-annual-iron-joe-turkey-ride)
•Sunday, Dec. 21: Christmas Sprint Triathlon and Duathlon (run/bike/run), Sugden Regional Park, 4284 Avalon Drive, Naples. (active.com)