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Vacationing on Sanibel and Captiva islands

Max Kim-Bee

Photo: Max Kim-Bee

Several real estate brokers handle weekly rentals of condos and houses on both islands; find their links at www.leeislandcoast.com, the Lee Island Coast Visitor & Convention Bureau's Web site (or call 888/231-6933). Rates fluctuate, depending on the season (mid-January to April is peak). During school vacation weeks, expect to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for a two-bedroom beach condo, half that in the off-season. Rentals are Saturday to Saturday and include linens. Housekeeping and baby-sitting services are often available through your broker, who is also a good person to ask about restaurants and boat charters.

Billy's Rentals 1470 Periwinkle Way; 941/472-5248; bikes from $35 a week. You can rent all manner of bicycles (and kid attachments) by the hour, day, or week, but don't bother going for anything fancy: there are no hills ahead. Free delivery.

Jerry's Foods 1700 Periwinkle Way; 941/472-9300. Grocery with a good bakery and extensive wine selection.

Bowman's Beach Off Sanibel-Captiva Rd. Should you tire of your condo's pool and beach, take a drive to what's considered Sanibel's most gorgeous stretch of sand.

Gramma Dot's 634 N. Yachtsman Dr., Sanibel Marina; 941/472-8138. Standout seafood and salads, served dockside.

J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge 1 Wildlife Dr.; 941/472-1100; closed to cars Fridays. Though most people go to the main refuge on Sanibel-Captiva Road — best at low tide, when the shorebirds feed — the smaller Bailey Tract, 100 acres of spartina grasses and marshes, is worth a visit. And you'll have the place to yourself.

Lighthouse Café 362 Periwinkle Way; 941/472-0303. Terrific fruit pancakes and fish sandwiches at this popular breakfast and lunch spot (and we mean popular — expect to wait at least 30 minutes for a table).

Tarpon Bay Recreation 900 Tarpon Bay Rd.; 941/472-8900; www.tarponbay.com; guided kayak and canoe tours $25 for adults, $12.50 for children under 12. Rent canoes and kayaks for fishing or exploring "Ding" Darling, on your own or with their knowledgeable guides.

Around the Sound Tours 941/849-8687; $200 for three hours. Motorboat charters with Captain Brian Holaway.

Bubble Room 15001 Captiva Dr.; 941/472-5558. A cartoony warren of rooms jam-packed with vintage toys, trains, and Hollywood memorabilia. Some people swear by the food, but I make it a point not to eat in any restaurant with a gift shop and a two-hour wait.

Mucky Duck 11546 Andy Rosse Lane; 941/472-3434. Be sure to have at least a beer here at sunset. And they do serve duck.

R. C. Otter's 11506 Andy Rosse Lane; 941/395-1142. Casual place for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Fried fish, shrimp, salads, microbrews, and kids' fare.

South Seas Resort 5400 Captiva Rd.; 800/227-8482 or 941/472-5111; www.south-seas-resort.com; doubles from $145, two-bedroom cottages from $365, kids under 16 free.

Michael Pollan's latest book is the bestseller The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World (Random House).


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