Sanibel Island, Florida
End of the Line
Article and photos by Jimmy Jacobs.
Finding a watering hole near saltwater that offers cold libations is a soothing prescription for anglers after a day on the water. Throw in some good eats and a connection to fishing and the place is sure to cure the ills of
any traveling fly caster.
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille on Sanibel Island fills that prescription perfectly. One of the partners in the venue is Randy Wayne White, who began career in Southwest Florida working for the Fort Myers Press-Sentinel, then worked as a fishing guide. He guided out of the marina on Tarpon Bay for 13 years, until the federal government bought the marina in 1988 and added it to the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. At that point, White fell back on a secondary career, becoming a full-time mystery writer. And, as it turned out, he became a very good one.
Randy Wayne White. Photo courtesy of University of Florida Press.
White creates some of his fiction while sitting in the Rum Bar before and after hours, and on occasion can be seen at one of the establishment’s two bars. At those bars, you can order their specialty Island Mojito. along with a wide variety of rums from across the tropics. If you are lucky enough to be there when bartender Brian Cunningham is on duty. you’ll likely be entertained by plenty of colorful background on Doc Ford’s and island happenings. He has been tending bar since the establishment opened in 1999.
The upstairs bar at Doc Ford’s.
The restaurant menu features fresh local seafood prepared using recipes from all around the tropic rim. That focus on seafood is rather fitting. since the original site of the restaurant was on the site of a former fish house where White would sell his excess catch during those early guiding days The eatery moved to a new location on Island Inn Road in 2016.
In the ensuing years, three more Doc Ford’s Rum Bars have opened in Fort Myers, St. Petersburg and on Captiva Island.
His series of 25 novels featuring marine biologist and part-time government agent Doc Ford as the protagonist, along with a quirky cast of support characters, have consistently landed on the New York Times best-seller lists. The majority of the action in those thrillers is set on Sanibel Island and the surrounding lands and waters.
Another of White’s literary ventures was editing and writing a portion of the Ultimate Tarpon Book. which is sub-titled The Birth of Big Game Fishing. The 428–page book from the University of Florida Press is the definitive volume on the origins and history of tarpon fishing as it developed in southwest Florida.