“For those who would have informed me that we’d be right here 8 months from that day for this event, I might have needed to sip no matter it was you had been ingesting,” SanCap Chamber President and CEO John Lai quipped on the festive June 6 grand reopening of the chamber customer middle — after Hurricane Ian had ravaged the constructing and the remainder of Sanibel and Captiva Islands on September 28, 2022.

Instantly following the storm, the earliest predictions for island restoration foresaw a timeline of greater than a 12 months as a result of the category-five, high-surge storm had washed out the Sanibel Causeway connecting the islands to the mainland in a number of spots. Because of state assist and pure island drive, bridges reopened inside 30 days and companies started the arduous journey to restoration and reopen shortly thereafter.

Quick ahead to June 16, and the timeline now hits one other excessive word as the town of Sanibel opens the final of its main, and one in every of its most well-loved, seashores. Because the chamber likes to say: “Not good, however nonetheless paradise,” the islands supply loads of causes to go to now, amongst them to assist ongoing restoration of one in every of Florida’s dearest locations.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Photograph credit score: Kati Davis / Shutterstock.com

1. Lighthouse Seashore Park

Sanibel Mayor Richard Johnson made it official with an announcement on the chamber reopening. Probably the most anxiously awaited seaside reopening had a date. Islanders and guests yearned for entry to the Lighthouse Seashore Park leisure and beachy choices at Sanibel’s east finish. However most of all, they anxiously awaited laying eyes, shut up, on the long-lasting lighthouse that withstood the storm and the lack of one leg — a logo of island resiliency.

Professional Tip: A barrier at the moment separates the construction from direct entry to the lighthouse base, and the park’s common fishing pier has but to reopen.

2. Chamber Customer Heart

Situated on the entrance of Sanibel Island, the colourful, island-style cottage has restored its state-of-the-art digital shows and refashioned its area for optimum welcome, respite, and knowledge. VISIT FLORIDA named the SanCap Chamber Customer Heart one in every of 13 official Florida Licensed Tourism Info Facilities within the state. Its Wander Map App is a priceless, free useful resource for monitoring what’s open on the islands.

3. Reinvented Eating places

A number of eating places on each Sanibel and Captiva have reopened in place. A number of have moved, reconfigured, and newly reopened (or quickly will). The islands’ solely French restaurant, Bleu Rendezvous, with French-born Chef Christian Vivet within the kitchen, misplaced all the things to Ian, uninsured. Vivet and his spouse, Mari, made the choice to stay it out and transfer to a brand new intimate area on Sanibel, and dependable followers rejoiced.

Hurricane Ian destroyed former Mexican restaurant 400 Rabbits, however Rosalita’s Cantina opened its third restaurant within the U.S. to fulfill native starvation for margaritas and positive south-of-the-border fare. It feels so genuine, there’s even a votive-light station to purchase heavenly favors for a contribution to the Catholic church throughout the road.

On Captiva, Tween Waters Island Resort was the primary to simply accept friends after Ian again in late 2022. Now, it makes information with two new eating places because the storm. Within the works pre-Ian, The Shipyard opened in June. Previously The Crow’s Nest, The Shipyard expanded the bar, lightened issues up, and adjusted the main target from a hearth and dance ground to home windows overlooking the gulf proper throughout the highway. It’s a favourite for breakfast (spice issues up with the artichoke chorizo benny topped with chipotle hollandaise), but additionally serves seafood-centric lunch and dinner with sundown views. The totally new and elevated — figuratively and actually — Crow’s Nest restaurant is slated to reopen quickly upstairs as a high-end steakhouse with whiskey and sushi bars.

4. Lodging Returns

Close to the lighthouse, Tarpon Story Inn joined Island Inn to convey Sanibel’s lodge stock to twenty-eight on June 2. Small, with solely eight rooms, Tarpon Story nonetheless made a present of energy that different island lodging promise to comply with. Seahorse Cottages, one other small inn, has reopened close to the lighthouse. Sanibel Island Seashore Resort plans a September return. Sundial Seashore Resort has reopened its much-used, top-rated pickleball services. On Captiva, the island’s largest resort, South Seas Island Resort, hopes to open about 25 rooms by the top of summer season. Its marina and Starbucks store have already come again totally.

J.N. “Ding” Darling Nationwide Wildlife Refuge

Photograph credit score: Dimitris Timpilis / Shutterstock.com

5. Nature Sights

Recognized for its good nature, Sanibel is a sanctuary island largely occupied by small preserves, nature points of interest, and the grand presence of the J.N. “Ding” Darling Nationwide Wildlife Refuge. The refuge at the moment has reopened its Customer & Training Heart, 4-mile Wildlife Drive, trails at Bailey Tract, and Tarpon Bay Recreation Space. Tarpon Bay Explorers runs paddlecraft leases on a restricted schedule from the recreation space, together with narrated paddle and Wildlife Drive tram excursions.

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) has reopened its Customer Training Heart Monday by Friday and has resumed reside animal shows on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 11 a.m. Captiva Cruises and different non-public constitution companies are providing dolphin and wildlife sighting excursions for a first-hand expertise viewing island critters of their habitats.