By Ann Marie O'Phelan

Outdoor pursuits center around sand, shells and stunning scenery on Sanibel Island.

This article is brought to you by Sanibel Moorings Concominium Resort.

"What a beautiful hibiscus!" my cousin Mary said as she pointed to the flowering pink plant right outside our room. Although the grounds at Sanibel Moorings Condominium Resort are covered with exotic and native tropical plants, this one flower with its large petals was rather notable. Every time I come to stay here, the lush gardens are blooming with something new and stunning, and today was no exception. There were exotic blooms everywhere, and the smell of sweet citrus filled the air.

Watching Mary take it all in, I knew right then that she would love the rest of our stay on Sanibel Island, and I couldn't wait to show it all off. "Let's unpack and hit the beach," I said to her and her son, Patrick, who was eyeing the crystal-blue Gulf of Mexico just feet from the unit. Once we stepped inside our suite, I was the one in for a pleasant surprise, as everything inside was brand new.

Outdoor Pursuits

It was one of those warm, sunny days that are perfect in every way, so we didn't stay in the comfortable room long. After unpacking we headed to the beach for a little swimming, relaxing and hunting for those famous Sanibel shells.

Along the way we enjoyed the colorful and fragrant tropical flowering plants, fruits, palms and citrus lining the pathway. Many of the plants are marked with a name plaque, so we played a guessing game, with Mary naming most of them correctly. Although she already knew her plants, she was thrilled to find out that Sanibel Moorings offers guided native and tropical garden tours, which we participated in the next morning.

While at the beach, we found plenty of conchs and whelks right under our toes. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch, but instead of heading out somewhere I had other plans in store: a picnic in the lush gardens. I figured nothing could be better than firing up one of the grills not far from the pool. After we enjoyed our meal, Patrick took a swim while Mary and I played catch-up in the sunshine.

Island Hopping

After our fascinating and enjoyable garden tour the next morning, we strolled over to the canal where we took out one of Sanibel Mooring's complimentary kayaks in hopes of spotting a manatee. While we didn't see a manatee this time out, we did see seagulls and pelicans, plus 21 new docks with water, electricity and fish-cleaning tables. Mary made a note to bring her boating-loving friends next time for a beach-and-boating island getaway.

Our plans for the rest of the day included a trip to Captiva Island for lunch at the famous Bubble Room Restaurant. Our delicious meal was topped off with a slice of its famous red velvet cake that was so big the three of us shared it. On the way back from Captiva, we stopped at The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, where we identified our earlier shell finds and learned more about Sanibel's shells as well as others found around the world.

Time goes fast when you're enjoying yourself, and this trip seemed to fly by. Before we knew it, it was time for Mary and Patrick to head back home. Luckily Fort Myers' Southwest Florida International Airport is only about a half-hour drive from Sanibel, so we were able to take in as much as we could before it was time to head to the airport.

Just as we were getting into the car, Mary, taking one last look around the picturesque grounds, spotted another lovely hibiscus plant, this one bright yellow. "It's fabulous!" She said. And it was.

Ready to plan your own memorable vacation? For more information on Sanibel Moorings condominiums, visit or call 800-237-5144 or 239-472-4119.