While in Florida we often stay on Sanibel Island. It is kind of expensive but well worth the cost.
Sanibel is a barrier island in the gulf coast located near Fort Meyers. It is the home to many great beaches which are great for people watching or shelling. I have even seen porpoise come fairly close to the beach to watch all of the crazy tourists.
Staying on Sanibel also makes the trips to Ding Darling NWR pretty short, but you do not always need to go to the refuge to spot wildlifeWe spotted this immature red-shouldered hawk perched on the outskirts of the residential part of Sanibel. Red-shouldered hawks, osprey and kestrels are the most common raptors that we have seen on all of our trips to Florida. We have also seen eagles, barred owls and several other types of hawks on our trips. The next time that we visit, we plan to go and find some burrowing owls because we did not have the time in 2006.