The History of Sanibel Island

DATE: June 18, 2014

In older posts, I have talked about the more recent history of Sanibel Island but I thought today I’d go a little further back.

Sanibel Island was not the quiet island community and vacation destination it is today. The island’s long history has played a large part in the evolution of the island from its roots to the place we know and love today.

The first original inhabitants of Sanibel Island were the Calusa Indians, who preceded the Spanish. The Calusa dominated the region until they were decimated by the diseases brought by Spanish fishermen. These fisherman profited by trading with the Seminole Indians who lived in Fort Harvie, now known as Fort Myers. Once Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819, the Florida Peninsular Land Company developed a small colony on the island in 1832.

A lighthouse built in 1884 was the island’s first major development and is still run by the Coast Guard today.


The island’s first schoolhouse followed shortly after in 1896.


Then by the 20th century, Sanibel Island was home to farms growing avocado, citrus and eggplant, among other crops. Finally, in 1963, a causeway was built linking Sanibel to the mainland, resulting in an explosion of growth.


Thanks to this easy causeway access, Sanibel is now a popular tourist destination known for its shell-strewn beaches and wildlife refuges.

I am so proud to be a part of this island’s ever-changing story.

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