The history of Sanibel Islands and Captiva Islands is full of captivating, fascinating and fewtimes beyond the imagination sagas. Tales of notorious pirates, well-known Spanish Explorers and valiant pioneers are abound on these beguiling southwest Florida barrier islands. Forming thousands of years ago as one island, centuries of storms have cut the island in two forming what we know nowadays as the Sister Islands of Sanibel & Captiva.
1st to inhabit these islands located on the Lee county coast were the Calusa Indians. The Calusa are well-known to have occupied Sanibel and Captiva islands as long as 2500 years ago. The Sanibel island natives were living green thousands of years before it became fashionable. With whelks, oysters, clams, conchs as well as hundreds of species of fish the islands give an abundance of foods for the seafood rich diet of the Calsua. After carving the foods from the shells the Indians would form skillfully crafted tools from them. They too used the shells to create shell mounds which were utilized for high ground to place their huts upon, providing security from high storm tides. Few shell mounds actually still remain intact to this day.
The Calusa lived a relatively peaceful living until around 1513 when explorer Juan Ponce de Leon stumbled across the islands while seeming for the fountain of youth. He named the islands Santa Isybella after Queen Isabella. Ponce de Leon tried for a lot of years to wipe out the Calusa until around 1523 when he was shoting with an arrow while battling the Indians and died. Although the Spanish were unsuccessful in establishing a permanent settlement on the islands they were successful in wiping out the Calusa. European illness such as yellow fever, tuberculosis, & measles, rendered the Calusa population all but extinct by the late 1700s.
Pirates were too known to have called Sanibel & Captiva home. Few say that the islands were home to notorious pirates such as Jose Gaspar. It is said that Gaspar build a prison on Captiva where he stored his female prisoners he was holding for ransom. It is too rumored that Gaspar buried a massive stolen treasure somewhere on Sanibel. Gaspar terrorized these tropical waters until 1821 when he was captured by the Navy. He could not bare the thought of imprisonment so he jumped off the Navy ship & was believed to have drowned.
The islands remained quiet for more than a few decades as indian raids kept most settlers & fishermen scared away. In 1870 the government decided that Sanibel would turn out to be a lighthouse reservation. Fourteen years later in 1884 the Sanibel lighthouse was first lit and actually is still operable to this very day. Within fifteen years of the lighthouse being build pioneers were starting to flock to sanibel. Well maybe not flock but their were 40 families living in the area that is now known as older Sanibel.
Eventually wealthy citizens from up north like Thomas Edison & Henry Ford discovered that Southwest Florida is paradise. The Southwest Florida islands would not be a secret much lengthy. Following the wealthy industrialists south were an array of citizens from each walk of life. Eventually the Casa Ybel Resort was build to house visitors & tourists from the north seeking the sun, sand and sea. But as everybody who visits Sanibel and Captiva island know once you come you will never want to leave. With all the public from the north wanting to call the islands a permanent home a school had to be built. Sanibel citizens built their 1st school house in 1892 and it can still be viewed at the Sanibel Historic Village.
Sanibel island offers a number of activities for its visitors which includes fishing, shelling, wildlife tour and much more. Find a boat charter company that provides knowledgeable guides to enhance your experience. If you're planning an upcoming island vacations in Southwest Florida. Sanibel Island a great place for families with young children.