If you hanker after an exclusive island escape, but the thought of forking out $42,000 a night on magical Musha Cay is leaving you cold, read on. Take a look at this list to discover the best things to do on Sanibel Island in Florida. The good news is you can have a full-on island-style vacation without leaving the country. Here are a few suggestions about activities on Sanibel Island, Florida.
This quaint island that sits on the Gulf Coast only a quick drive from Ft. Meyers is famous for more than its shells. It’s got miles of coastline, breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, and plenty of activities for you and your friends and family.
Sanibel Island, Florida, is so renowned for its abundance of shells that there’s a phrase dedicated to it: “the Sanibel stoop.”
In other words, that’s what you’ll do if you take more than a few steps on the island — stoop down to grab a handful of unique and beautiful shells.
Things To Do On Sanibel Island, Florida
Indulge in the Beaches
Beach time is the main aim of any island holiday, and the white sand Sanibel Island beaches won’t disappoint. They deliver with spacious areas to sprawl out on, dolphins frolicking offshore, and gentle waters to invite you in.
Take a look at these beach webcams for a taste of what to expect. The best beaches for diving into a range of water activities are the Causeway beaches and those on neighboring Captiva Island.
Bowman beach is great for families and shell collecting.
Walk the Coastline
Sanibel is known for its resorts, like these hotels, and its namesake lighthouse, but the number one thing to do in Sanibel is to relax on its many beaches.
The island has an astounding 15 miles of coastline, providing you with plenty of options, some beaches more secluded or busy than others.
Get your Sanibel Stoop on at many of the white-sand beaches Sanibel offers.
Hit the Water
Some of the out-on-the-water action that’s up for grabs on Sanibel Island includes windsurfing, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing.
Fishing is another popular pastime. You’ll find no shortage of charters heading out into the deep blue for fishing or just for fun.
Nature Lover Activities
More than half of Sanibel Island consists of protected areas.
Some of the best natural attractions include:
- N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
- The CROW wildlife rehabilitation center
- Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation
- Pond Apple Park
- Great Calusa Blueway
Here you can indulge in nature walks, relaxing downtime, or kayak trips to see the native birds and animals.
The Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings Resort is another treat for those who love to spend time surrounded by the beauty of natural creations.
Get Inspired at the Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings are a must-see if you appreciate an abundance of plant and garden life!
The resort has been a favorite establishment in the town since 1974. Its first gardener was an avid botanist who contributed valuable time and effort to create a garden sanctuary.
Their tropical offerings include the likes of bromeliads, hibiscus, orchids, palms, roses, and more non-invasive species.
Explore J. N. “Ding” Darling’s National Wildlife Refuge
Much of Sanibel Island is a wonderfully-accessible wildlife refuge.
The refuge center provides plenty of activities, from hiking and biking to kayaking and bird watching.
The refuge is ‘teeming with wildlife,’ letting viewers see birds, a large variety of mammals, countless reptiles, fish, and amphibians, and much more. It’s surrounded by mangrove forests and nutritionally-rich estuaries.
Cook Your Catch at the Lazy Flamingo
There are plenty of seafood restaurants on Sanibel Island that deserve your visit.
And if you’re eating seafood on an island, you can practically guarantee it’ll be fresh. That’s especially if you’re eating something caught same-day!
The Lazy Flamingo is a crowd favorite because they’ll “cook your catch” — so after a day of fishing, you can bring your catch to the Lazy Flamingo where they’ll prepare it to your liking.
Enjoy the Arts
Captiva is a hub of artistic endeavor and was once the home of the famous artist, Robert Rauschenberg. His legacy is an artist retreat at his former residence, where creatives from all over the world gather for a month every year.
You can catch up with the Captiva arts scene at galleries all over the island and on Sanibel. The most notable of these is the Sissi Janku Art Studio, the Big Arts Center, and The Tower Gallery.
Check Out the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
On top of all these other attractions, Sanibel Island beaches crunch underfoot with seashells as far as the eye can see.
There are more species of shells here than anywhere else in the US, including rare specimens like golden tulips and sculpted lion’s paws.
The Matthew’s Bailey Shell Museum is the nation’s only exhibition devoted solely to shells. There’s even a full-time malacologist on-site — that’s a mollusk expert in layman’s terms.
It’s a seriously interesting outlet with displays from all over the world as well as a collection of 19th-century shell art.
And speaking of shells. . .
The Baily-Matthews Shell Museum is a classic on Sanibel Island.
It’s the only museum in the U.S. dedicated entirely to both shells and mollusks.
Their mission is to connect shell lovers and collectors alike, as well as discuss the fascinating creatures that create them.
Don’t Stop There
Once you’ve ticked off these major sights on Sanibel Island, you’re sure to keep finding more ways to entertain yourself. There are also golf courses, several museums, fine restaurants, and great shops to enjoy.
This list is just a glimpse into the many activities Sanibel Island offers. There are plenty of other things to do in Sanibel, from lighthouse perusing, to kayaking the refuge, and beyond. The fun to be had is as limitless as Sanibel’s shells.
Whether you’re wondering about what to do on Sanibel Island, or keen to find out more about budget travel tips, our website has plenty to offer the intrepid explorer. Keep reading!
Find more information about other cool places to visit in Florida.