Every town has its pros and cons. Sanibel Island is no different.
I’ve lived on Sanibel for more than a decade now, so I’m pretty biased. With that said, you know I try to keep it real with you, especially when it comes to finding the right home or community for your family. So here you have it, my very biased but honest pros and cons list of living on Sanibel Island.
I’m sure you can guess many of the pros to living on Sanibel Island, so let’s start with the cons. That’s why you’re reading this anyway.
Sanibel Con List
It’s the “big one” on many people’s list of worries when moving to Florida. The threat of hurricanes can seem even scarier when moving to a barrier island. And honestly, it should be on the top of your mind when considering how to insure, protect and prepare for a potential hurricane or tropical storm.
“But there are alligators!!” I hear this from many people who say they could never live on Sanibel. Yes, we have alligators, bobcats, geikos, gopher tortoise, many unique birds, and the list goes on and on. Sanibel is a sanctuary for wildlife and that, in fact, attracts many wildlife and nature enthusiasts to our island. If you are deathly afraid of Florida wildlife, we wouldn’t suggest Sanibel as a great place for you to move.
Cost of Living
There’s no denying that home prices on Sanibel Island are higher than other inland areas. When you look around, you can see why. This is paradise. Sanibel is a true Old Florida coastal city that has withstood the test of time and preserved its small-town appeal. There’s a toll to cross the Causeway, tolls for beach parking (though Sanibel residents can get annual passes), property values are high, rental values are high, and you might find a slight increase on fuel and grocery items compared to the mainland, though there’s not a huge mark-up. To maintain full transparency, I’ve put this on my cons list.
There are no high schools on Sanibel Island, therefore, it makes the con list. Obviously, as a mother who raised four kids on the island, I know this is not a huge deal for most families. It does, however, require some coordination if your kids have afterschool activities off-island. Carpooling with other Sanibel families will be your lifesaver, and, of course, there are school buses that come on island as well.
There are no hospitals on the island, however, there are fabulous doctor offices here. Still, if you have a specialized doctor or require treatment at a large medical facility, you will likely need to travel over the bridge to Fort Myers to receive that care. This is something you should be aware of when moving to Sanibel Island.
No Big Box Stores
I thought long and hard trying to come up with more cons so that anyone moving to Sanibel is fully aware. Most of the cons actually have a flip-side pro, like the fact that we don’t have big box stores or wholesale giants. I admit, there are times when coming back from the busy Fort Myers Costco that I wish it were closer. Then, I quickly remember that I wouldn’t want that big store and the traffic it attracts to crowd our little island… and the 30-minute drive no longer seems so bad.
Sanibel Pro List
It’s what attracted Jim and me to the island and kept us here for over a decade now. We thought we wanted a quiet, beautiful place to raise our kids and we got so much more. We didn’t realize we’d be starting a family business and have an entire community helping us raise our kids and support our business along the way. What a blessing it has been. I know it has blessed many other families in ways they couldn’t have imagined as well. That’s why it’s number one on my list of pros to living on Sanibel Island.
Natural Beaches & Environment
We talked about our Florida wildlife as a con for some, but honestly, it’s a pro to living on Sanibel Island. Even if you don’t start off as a big nature enthusiast, you’ll find yourself googling the types of palm trees, wanting to know what plants are native to the island, and asking your neighbor about the best time to see wildlife at Ding Darling… The island has a funny way of drawing you in like that!
Let’s not forget the natural shell-lined beaches that you will comb through on your beach walks, just in case you stumble upon a rare shell. The natural allure of the island is why many people choose to move to Sanibel Island and never leave.
Culture & Demographics
I know what you’re thinking, isn’t Sanibel primarily Age 60+, White/Caucasian American? While the census statistics support this, there are a number of younger families and different nationalities on the island. I’ve met some of the most interesting people from many walks of life who retire and live on the island. Most locals share similar lifestyle values that drew us all here for one reason or another. You won’t find a bunch of flashy cars or fancy clothes lining the streets of Sanibel. Even Sanibel’s most wealthy residents bike to the beach and shop a Bailey’s in flip flops and a ball cap.
I mentioned shelling and wildlife as Sanibel attractions, but there’s obviously a slew of water activities to benefit from living on an island! Boating and fishing are a big deal here. It’s what helped our island economy from the early days, and is still a major source of income for many island businesses. Not to mention a true hobby for most residents and visitors of the island.
Getting Around on Island Time
The shared-use path is an “unsung hero” on the pros list in my opinion. The 24-mile paved path is how to easily get around the island by biking, walking, running, or even roller-blading! As you know, Sanibel is a two-lane town with no traffic lights and a speed limit of 35-miles per hour or less. No one is zooming past you or honking their horn. That’s a part of the “island time” you enjoy when living on Sanibel Island.
While there is the threat of hurricanes and the humidity to battle, the weather here is generally FANTASTIC all year round. Seriously, this graphic below shows it best. Almost half of the year is spent in the 80s with very few swings in the 100s or below 70. The “dog days of summer” are usually hot and humid, with an afternoon shower expected to cool things down. The winter months are amazing, with very few cold front interruptions.
I hope you enjoyed reading this insider info about the pros and cons of living on Sanibel Island from a local’s perspective. Please don’t hesitate to shoot questions my way! Susan@McCallionRealty.com or 239-472-1950 to reach me and my team.
More Sanibel Resources