Visit the Captiva Island Historical Society

Captiva Island is filled with a rich history. Turn the corner at any part of the island and see the setting of a famed pirate encounter or fascinating archaeological discovery. Captiva Island has held endless possibilities for its inhabitants, and it is all held and honored by the Captiva Island Historical Society

See the story unfold throughout Sanibel Island history right here through the local historical society. We take a look at what stories are held and what you can discover when digging through the local archives.

north captiva island

What is the Captiva Island Historical Society?

The local historical society preserves centuries of Captiva Island history, and you can learn an assortment of facts about Sanibel when visiting.

A large portion of the archive collections are held in the Captiva Memorial Library. The History Gallery is inside, and it holds pictures, posters, and artifacts for you to explore and read about.

The top thing to see is the Santiva, a replica of a historical mailboat used for years carrying mail to the earliest residents of Captiva and Sanibel Islands. The boat also carried passengers.

At the peak of its use, a ride would cost $1.75 for a full day 72-mile journey.

The gallery is inside the Memorial Library at 11560 Chapin Lane, near our area Sanibel vacation rentals. We recommend you call ahead to confirm gallery hours. While the library’s hours may be limited, you can still engage with the island’s history by visiting local landmarks and reviewing its online collection. This includes over 12,000 items throughout history, the best of which paint a compelling story of the locals. Pictures, handwritten letters, newspaper articles, postcards, and audio recordings give you a great backdrop for what has shaped Captiva Island into the revered Florida destination it is today.

a trolley in historic captiva island

Top Historical Attractions

While the archive is wonderful for a deep dive into the island’s history, it is often better just to get out there and see it for yourself. The Captiva Island Historical Society has specifically recommended nearly 100 top sites on the island history enthusiasts may love to see. While some are no longer standing, we hand-selected our top five favorites you can still see today. They make for some really intriguing things to do on Sanibel.

  • The Black Bart Cottage: Owned by the bizarre and controversial local outlaw “Black Bart” Holzhey, this peculiar Old Florida cottage was the home of Mary Cunningham’s Island Gift Shop for years. It is now relocated to the corner of Wiles and Captiva Drive. 
  • Captiva Historic Cemetery: The island cemetery is home to some of the island’s first residents. Walk the pathways of this historic centerpiece, capturing the story of little Ann Emma Brainerd, who earned herself a small piece of the land for a single coin by calling it the “the prettiest place” she had ever seen. It’s one of the coolest things to do in Sanibel.
  • Memorial Library: The Captiva Memorial Library is memorable for using the book boat- a water bound “book mobile” that traveled to and from the nearby barrier islands once a week with imaginative books. The memorial library’s preservation in 1970 was raised entirely by Captiva and Sanibel residents with no government assistance. The Captiva history gallery, inside the Memorial Library, is a wonderful opportunity to see some local artifacts up close. Both are at 11560 Chapin Lane.
  • Island Store: Dating back to 1915, the Island Store has evolved from a boarding house to a beauty parlor, a school to a restaurant, and everything else in between. You can see little pieces of all these transformations when visiting at 11500 Andy Rosse Lane. 
  • The Mucky Duck: The Mucky Duck restaurant had a deep history, much of it still-rooted in the current restaurant. The structure was built in 1924 and stood as a leading dining hall and inn for visiting socialites. 

These are just some of the sites you can visit on Captiva Island. The Captiva Island Historical Society website carries further details about the island’s rich history. 

Contact us for places to stay on the island. As you plan your trip, don’t miss out on all the fun historically-rich activities you can take part in. Also, don’t forget the fun of the sister island Sanibel. We have a variety of Captiva vacation rentals for you to peruse.