Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book Review - The Sanibel Captiva Handbook

I recently won a copy of the 2013 edition of the Sanibel Captiva Handbook and it is so good that I just had to share it with you!  Whether you’re an experienced Sanibel traveler or  a new island visitor, this book is stuffed full of information that will delight you.  

The Handbook is written by long time Sanibel residents who know what they’re talking about and they take pride in sharing their knowledge with the public.  Not only is it an excellent all-purpose guide to the islands filled with in-depth maps, it’s also overflowing with tidbits of history, practical advice and the names and phone numbers to virtually any place on the island that you may need.  Let me break it down a little for you.
First of all, I love the convenient travel size – at 4.5" x 7" it has the  perfect dimensions to toss in your handbag, beach bag or glove compartment.  The handbook contains 24 chapters and some of the highlights are as follows:
Chapter 1 jumps right in with information on how to get to Sanibel from the airport, climate and seasonal expectations, quick facts about the island, and the all-important speed limits.
Chapter 2 gives a thorough overview of the island, a definite plus for first time visitors, but as a frequent vacationer I could perfectly picture each stop in my mind’s eye.  The tour begins at the Lighthouse and heads west to Captiva and then back again.  Complete with attractions of note along the way, I particularly liked the way they included approximate mileage from point A to point B.
Chapter 3 is fun for the history buff in your group because it shares a brief history of the islands and the major players involved in its development.  I was pleased to glean some new fun facts from this chapter.
Let’s face it – part of the draw of Sanibel is the miles of beaches and they are well documented in Chapter 4.  I especially liked the useful information about accessing the beach area in front of the residences, the names of all the beaches, where they are located and what the charges are for parking.  Parking laws are strictly enforced, so pay attention to the regulations.    
I couldn’t wait to get to Chapter 5 because it’s all about the shelling!  This chapter starts off with a humorous nod to the famous “Sanibel Stoop” and its northern counterpart.  Only I’m not going to tell you what it is – you’ll have to get the book to find out!   There is a wide abundance and variety of shells on Sanibel and the handbook explains why this is a shelling mecca, how to begin and plan your shelling excursions and is followed by a vibrant 8 page guide showing  some of the more popular Sanibel shells.
If fishing is your thing, then Chapter 6 is written with you in mind.  Do you need a fishing guide or want to know where the fishing specialty shops are located?  The book has that covered.  Confused about local species, size and limit requirements?   You should be able to find out everything you need to know about whatever fish you’d like to catch, all right here.  As for actually catching the fish – well you’re on your own!
Chapters 7, 8, 9 and 10 cover local water sports like jet skiing and boat rentals, bicycling around the islands with detailed maps and rental establishments, hiking along the documented walking trails and where the golfer in your party can get his golf on.
Bird watching is a popular island pastime and Chapter 11 will tell you how to do it and where the best spots are.   There’s also a handy list of some of the bird species you are sure to see on your visit.
Chapter 12 details the native wildlife that inhabits the islands and yes, alligators are included on that list.  Pay attention to the advice on these pages and you’ll enhance your wildlife experience.
Are you interested in the local culture?  Chapter 13 will let you know what activities to expect, where to go and what the general island dress code is.
Accommodations are diverse and plentiful and new visitors to the islands are sometimes confused about where to stay.   Chapter 14 has outstanding maps that detail all your options.  The biggest problem you’ll face is trying to narrow down your choices.  Some vacationers find a good place and stick with it, returning year after year to a favored setting.  Others opt to try something new each year.  Whatever you prefer, there isn’t a shortage of accommodations to choose from and it’s really helpful to look at the maps here and see where everything is located.  The end of this chapter has a current list of accommodations, complete with addresses and phone numbers, which I found very helpful.
Chapters 15 and 16 will direct you to the local grocery stores, convenience stores and best of all, the restaurants!   The dining guide comes complete with a map showing all the restaurant locations and a listing of their addresses, phone numbers, business hours and available websites.  This chapter was a huge plus for me and I especially appreciated the web links.
No vacation is complete without a little souvenir shopping and Chapter 17 does not disappoint with its shopping guide map and accompanying store names and phone numbers. 
Is there nightlife on Sanibel?  Well of course, it’s just subjective as to what extent of activity you’re looking for.  Chapter 18 will steer you to the locations where you can sit and watch a sunset or boogie the night away if you so choose.
Chapters 19 and 20 have the “odds and ends” and interesting places to go for the adventurer in your party.
And rounding out the book we have Chapters 21 thru 24 with a thorough phone directory of emergency numbers, quick reference services, important phone numbers and places to visit for Island Worship.
The hand book concludes with Tidal Predictions for the current year and this is a helpful addition for shellers who like to pour over it while they plan their shelling excursions.
Overall, the Sanibel Captiva Handbook would be an excellent addition to your personal library.  It’s written with a light touch and a charming sense of humor by long time island residents.  The book is full of helpful and important information and makes planning a trip to Sanibel a breeze.  It’s really nice to have such detailed maps, phone numbers and information at your fingertips.  From booking a hotel to shelling on the beach, or dining out and ending the day with your feet in the sand and your eyes on the sunset, this book will point you in the right direction.  I only wish I had a trip to Sanibel in the near future so I could immediately put this book to use!
Copies of the Sanibel Captiva Handbook are available on the Sanibel Captiva website and it currently costs $ 13.95 plus $ 3.00 shipping.   The book can also be purchased at about 12 different locations on the Island including Jerry’s, Baileys, CVS and all the bookstores, as well as at South Seas and the Captiva Island Store.
Please come back tomorrow – I snagged an interview with one of the handbook authors JB Reynolds.  JB discusses his personal connection to the islands, the history of the book, and how its evolved over the years since it first published in 1970.  I think you’ll be interested in reading his interview.

I won a copy of The Sanibel Captiva Handbook in a give-away and I reviewed it because of my affinity for Sanibel Island.  All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review.


  1. I would have loved to have that book during my Sanibel Days, when I was spending a month or more there each year! Your review brings back lots of happy memories. :)

    1. Gail, you definitely need to get down there again. A month at a time?? heaven!!

  2. Nice guidebook recommendation. I'll remember this if I ever travel here!

    1. Oh Linda, if you ever go, you'd love it there. Only no snow and no mountains. Maybe I can convert you.

  3. This sounds so good! How many places we've traveled and wished we had something like this with lots of current info! Great review my friend! I wanna go!!!

    1. Diane, you are not too far away you know. Have you ever been there?

  4. Love Sanibel & Captiva...this sounds like a must-have book for me! Thanks for the great review, Kim! :)

  5. It is a nice Book Review - The Sanibel Captiva Handbook. I love it. Thanks for a nice post about the book .


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