Sanibel, Captiva landmarks in path of Hurricane Ian

There was something about Sanibel.

We loved its beaches and vibe. Its boutiques and resorts. It was the place for a weekend getaway for people in South Florida looking to get out of town, but not that far.

And those shells on the beach.

Sanibel Island was home to about 6,000 residents and 160,000 yearly tourists. And it was home to a collection of landmarks that are likely damaged, and now cut off from the rest of the world after a section of causeway collapsed during the assault of Hurricane Ian on Southwest Florida.

With the lone causeway crumpled by the force of Category 4 Ian, Sanibel Island is now an isolated barrier island.

READ MORE: Causeway to Sanibel Island severed as Florida wakes up to Ian’s trail of destruction

As the storm’s eye blasted picturesque Sanibel and Captiva islands and Fort Myers Beach, and with its access artery severed, assessing the number of lives lost and businesses torn apart will take some time.

But it’s safe to say we will miss some of these lost landmarks, lost for now, along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Many locals and tourists used social media posts to lament the storm and its damage to their favorite vacation getaways.

IMG_2270 (1).JPG
Sanibel-Captiva islands were an idyllic destination for tourists from Florida and the world over. The pristine beaches, with plentiful seashells for collectors, proved popular with beachgoers as this file photo shows from June 26, 2015. Howard Cohen [email protected]

Here are some of the local landmarks that were in Ian’s path.

Sanibel

Sanibel, a 12-mile-long barrier island, is a tourist hotspot known for its beaches dotted with shells that wash ashore from the Gulf.

Sanibel Lighthouse, also known as Point Ybel Light, was one of the first lighthouses on the Gulf Coast. Its light, which stands 98-feet above sea level, first illuminated the beach and pier on the east end of the island in 1884.

Sanibel-Lighthouse
A 2006 file photo of Sanibel Island Lighthouse and the keeper’s quarters. Candace West Miami Herald

lighthouseTropicalWeather.JPG
The Sanibel Isalnd lighthouse is seen after Hurricane Ian, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in , Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) Wilfredo Lee AP

It’s still unknown if the historical landmark was damaged.

Casa Ybel Resort, with its beach-facing suites, provided a secluded retreat where travelers could enjoy the sunshine, feel the wind and listen to chirping seagulls.

Casa-Ybel.jpeg
Casa Ybel Resort is a popular vacation spot in Sanibel. Casa Ybel Resort

Visitors could savor tropical drinks at pool-side restaurants, explore the island’s bike paths or sway in a hammock under a coconut palm.

City live stream cameras, which went down early into Ian’s arrival on Wednesday, showed intense floods in the area around Casa Ybel. The resort’s live stream also went down.

The original Chico’s, located in Periwinkle Place, started in 1983 as a small boutique selling Mexican folk art. As the store grew its inventory, the founders kept the same rich colors, prints and artisanal details in their products.

And Chico’s expanded beyond its home on the island. There are now more than 500 stores nationwide as well as several international locations.

Sundial Resort housed tourists seeking a tropical getaway in condos facing miles of shell-strewn beaches. The resort catered to all, with close views of the Gulf, tennis facilities, swimming pools, a marketplace and a spa and boutique.

The resort was a favorite for beach weddings and boasted more than 23,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

On Thursday, Sundial announced that it will be closed until further notice.

Signal Inn was a vacation hideaway with elevated beach houses surrounded by tropical flora.

The pet-friendly resort claimed a racquetball club, pool and spa and gazebo and barbecue. It was just steps away from the Gulf.

At Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille’s Sanibel location, visitors could enjoy the home to the island mojito in one of the dining rooms or the outdoor patio. Doc Ford’s was a casual destination for drinks and seafood with Caribbean and South American flavors.

The restaurant’s namesake, the fictional Doc Ford, was conceived down the road at Tarpon Bay Marina by a local writer.

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a 5,200 acre sanctuary for migratory bird populations and other wildlife. Established in 1976, it aims to protect one of the largest mangrove ecosystems in the U.S.

Ding-Daling
-A pair of adventurers set out on kayak as they paddle through mangroves in the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, Florida, May 16, 2001. The nearly two hour trip guides you a quiet scene full of wildlife. TONY GUTIERREZ AP

Tourists and locals revere the refuge for its birdwatching opportunities. Named after Joy Norwood “Ding” Darling, a Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist and respected conservation activist, it is also home to raccoons, alligators, bobcats and river otters.

The reserve was previously gutted by 2004’s Hurricane Charley.

Island Inn, a resort of suites and cottages, was surrounded by 550 feet of private beach. The coastline boasted areas for swimming, shuffleboard courts and horseshoe pits.

The inn organized sailing and kayaking expeditions and claimed a pool, tennis courts and an on-site restaurant.

The resort’s live stream, which showed massive flooding near the area, went down on Wednesday.

After Ian, the Island Inn posted a message to its website: “If you have a reservation in the coming weeks, it will be canceled and any deposits will be refunded. Internet and phone services are currently unavailable on Sanibel Island, so please do not call or email the Inn and expect a response anytime soon.”

Captiva

Captiva, a 14-mile-long barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico off Fort Myers, was well named as its name conjures “captivating.”

IMG_2262 (1).JPG
The Mucky Duck, with its Gulf-view location on Andy Rosse Lane, is a restaurant-bar that attracts visitors for its gorgeous sunset location, pub fare and brews. Howard Cohen [email protected]

The Mucky Duck on Andy Rosse Lane, right on the Gulf since 1976, America’s Bicentennial year, boasted a restaurant with a small bar, picnic tables on the sands for exquisite sunset views or quick dips into the ocean between bites and brews. Imagine a British pub serving heaping plates of steamed or fried shrimp or fish sandwiches adorned with creamy cole slaw and savory French fries or a Scottish meat pie that you could eat indoors or on an outdoor porch on the Gulf and you’ve basically described the lively aura of one of Captiva’s hot casual, culinary hot spots for decades.

0010246209.JPG
File photo of The Bubble Room’s sign in Captiva on 15001 Captiva Dr. in Florida from Oct. 24, 2000. Jay Clarke Miami Herald file

The Bubble Room may be a restaurant but it’s famed, too, as akin to a museum harkening back to the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s grand musicals era. Memorabilia of such motion pictures lined nearly every inch of the attraction. Who wasn’t dazzled by its bubbling lights (hence, the name)? Here you’d peruse statues of yesteryear stars like Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante. Pause to take in photos of screen giants Roy Rogers, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland on the walls. There were even classic toys such as trains running on a ledge near the ceiling. Waiters, oft-dressed in Boy Scout uniforms, delivered dishes named for legends, such as the Prime Rib Weissmuller — as in Johnny Weismuller, the Olympian swimmer turned Tarzan. Its black grouper dish was called the “Eddie Fisherman” for, well, you know who.

APRILWG 15.JPG
File photo from March 2007 shows one of several new pools at South Seas Plantation on Captiva, which was ravaged by Hurricane Charley in 2004. Jane Wooldridge Miami Herald file

South Seas Island Resort on 5400 Plantation Rd., was called “the belle of the island” by a Miami Herald columnist in 2006, 18 months after Hurricane Charley in 2004, “ravaged its luscious canopy, battered flat its protective mangroves and destroyed multimillion-dollar beach villas.” But the South Seas Island Resort reopened to tourists after a $140 million renovation 16 years ago. Guests could pick from 465 units with quite the choice: There were deluxe rooms, villa suites, beach homes and cottages. There were beach, bay, marina, tennis or courtyard views and some even spilled out onto secluded beach spots, a Palm Beach Post travel writer reviewed after South Seas reopened.

On Thursday, the resort’s website noted it could be several days before damages can be assessed. “With no access to the island, we are unable to assess the condition of the resort and anticipate it will be several days before we have more information. … We expect the damage to the resort to be significant. Our people are our primary concern.”

Charles Lindbergh Cottage 104 Tween Waters.jpeg
‘Tween Waters’ named a cottage for one of its most famous guests, aviator Charles Lindbergh. He and his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who wrote “Gift From the Sea” after seeking inspiration on its seashell-festooned beaches in Captiva in the early 1950s, stayed at the inn. ‘Tween Waters Resort & Spa.

‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa at 15951 Captiva Dr. has been around since 1926. Reportedly, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote 1955’s “Gift from the Sea” while vacationing in Captiva in the early-1950s at Tween Wates with her aviator husband, Charles. She picked shells for inspiration in writing the essay-styled book. The author was in the right place. The charming inn was still offering rooms, suites, efficiencies and cottages, as well as a marina and, of course, beach access, before Ian’s destruction.

Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts posted on the ‘Tween Waters website that given the difficulties in accessing the island it would take some time to assess damages and expressed gratitude for the love and support. “We are in the process of ensuring our valued staff is safe.”

7441635
U.S. Coast Guard aircrew hoists people from flooded areas near Sanibel, Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian, Sept. 29, 2022. Crews continue to conduct search and rescue operations in affected areas. Joey Feldman U.S. Coast Guard District 7
DSCN0830.JPG
Sunsets on the beach in the Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva area attracted hundreds every night for some of Florida’s most picturesque photo opportunities. This shot was taken June 26, 2015. Howard Cohen [email protected]

This story was originally published September 29, 2022 5:30 PM.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
Support my work with a digital subscription

Profile Image of Grethel Aguila