There’s the shelling, the island vibe and the feeling that you’re truly out in the Gulf of Mexico when you’re there. 

Sanibel Island remains Southwest Florida’s — heck, all of Florida’s and even one of America’s — crown jewels. And a national magazine agrees.

Travel + Leisure recently rated Sanibel as among the most charming small towns in the state.

The Lee County island city was among 10 other Florida cities rated “the best small towns in Florida with populations of 15,000 or less.”

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Comet Neowise can be seen from the Sanibel Lighthouse area on Sunday night after sunset, July 19, 2020.

Others were Anna Maria Island, Palm Beach, Cedar Key, Mount Dora, Florida Keys, Micanopy, Cypress Gardens, Cape Canaveral and Fernandina Beach — “10 of the best small towns in Florida with populations of 15,000 or less.”

The magazine earlier this month granted another Southwest Florida city a unique distinction, naming Naples the No. 1 beach town to live in in the U.S.

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In recognizing Sanibel, the magazine noted how the island is among the few in Florida that runs perpendicular to Florida’s coastline (most run parallel), “so the shells that wash ashore here are truly one of a kind.”

“Sanibel, located on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida, is known for its picture-perfect Gulf beaches that are a sheller’s paradise,” Travel + Leisure said in its article.

Sanibel’s island feel stands out, and here’s other reasons to enjoy the island: nearby Captiva Island and the fun and colorful Bubble Room restaurant; the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum; and J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a natural treasure that educates about wildlife and Florida history.

The magazine also raved about Sanibel’s other unique features. 

“Less than 7,500 people call Sanibel home, but this quiet community has great beaches, a fishing pier, a 19th-century lighthouse, a national wildlife refuge, and a boardwalk winding through marshes, so visitors will find plenty to do during a relaxed getaway,” Travel + Leisure wrote.

“Plus, its location on the western coast guarantees spectacular sunsets.”

We don’t disagree.

Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @detroitdave88 and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.