Most of the people we met while down here were not originally from Florida. Interestingly enough, they were from everywhere but Florida. Cape Coral (and Sanibel) seems to be primarily filled with people from the Northeast who have either moved here full-time or now own a second home here (snow birds). That said, I cannot recommend any hotel accommodations in this journal because we stayed with family. Although Sanibel is the real attraction here, Cape Coral is a nice town with lots of new buildings and a much cheaper option for lodging if you are looking for a weekend getaway.
We found the best way to get into Cape Coral was by flying into Fort Meyers (RSW). What a beautiful and super-clean airport! (Although once you exit the terminal, there is construction everywhere you look.) The only airlines we found that flew direct from New York were JetBlue and Delta. Florida in general is a place where you must rent a car, and these towns are no different. Normally, considering it's Florida, one would think that the rental would be cheap (like Orlando). Not the case. Book this in advance and hope for the best. We paid $180 for three days in the off-season for an economy car!
If the library is something that interests you, the Cape Coral-Lee County library should not be missed. It is located at 921 SW 39th Terrace in Cape Coral. This library is about two years old and absolutely beautiful. They have an area with at least 50 brand-new computers, all set up with Internet and printer access. The Internet access is free once you've provided an ID, and the printer costs $.10 per printout. The library is spacious and packed with just about anything you could need, and there is plenty of parking as well.
Sanibel is best-known for its shelling. Once you cross the "bridge," there is a visitors center with bathrooms and an information booth, as well as charts listing the shells found in the area. You will see people with shopping bags who came to the beach solely for this reason. In fact, on the day we went, the beach was packed, but there were no chairs or towels set up. According to the visitors office, the best times to shell are early morning, at low tide, and after a storm. We found the best shells to be closer to the lighthouse toward the end of the beach. The beach offers parking, but it will cost you. Make sure to pay for a parking ticket, or you will be towed. If you are interested in learning more about shells, there is also a museum called Sanibel's Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, and it’s open six days a week. For those people who love shelling but don't have the time or patience to shell, there is a store called The Shell Factory, and they have a HUGE selection of shells, each more beautiful than the last. They are located off Tamiami Trail in North Fort Meyers. Expect to pay up for the really nice ones, obviously. If you should find a live shell (a fish still inside) and choose to keep it, make sure you pull the fish out and wash the shell thoroughly. If you don't, you will regret it, because the dead fish smells like rotten eggs. It's a perfect day or afternoon spent just shelling, lying out, relaxing, or taking a walk.
See http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/deals/. If you put in the dates of your stay, all the deals in the area will show up.