What to Know Before Visiting Sanibel Island

June 30th, 2022 by

Less than an hour away from Fort Myers, Florida, lies the beautiful and serene Sanibel Island. This popular vacation destination provides the perfect getaway for anyone who wants to slow down and relax. From bird-filled wildlife refuges and pristine beaches to amazing restaurants and water adventures, there’s plenty to explore during your stay. Here are five things to know about visiting Sanibel Island to make the most of your trip.

Escape the Crowds by Visiting a Few Remote Destinations

Boardwalk surrounded by landscaping leading to the beach at Sanibel Island near Fort Myers, Florida

Image by Melissa Mullin free to use under the Unsplash license

If you’re booking a getaway to enjoy some peace and quiet, we suggest heading west once you get to Sanibel Island. While Periwinkle Way is full of fun shops and restaurants, it can get congested since it’s one of the more popular destinations on the island, especially during Sanibel’s busiest season from January through April. Escape the crowds by taking Sanibel Captiva Road out to the western isle of Captiva.

Just outside of this area, you’ll find Blind Pass Beach, which is the perfect secluded spot to cast a fishing line in the water or search for seashells along the shoreline. You’ll also find Bowman’s Beach nearby, which offers a truly remote escape, free of hotels and tourist attractions.

For those who want to explore the eastern side of the island, we suggest visiting the 1884 Sanibel Lighthouse for a relaxing afternoon. Bring your fishing gear to cast a line in the water off of the pier, enjoy dolphin sightings, or simply enjoy lounging on the beach. The Sanibel Lighthouse is far enough away from the main drag to escape the crowds while still being a popular spot to visit.

Rent a Scooter or Bike To Get Around

With over 25 miles of beautifully paved cycling paths around the island, there’s no need to spend time stuck in traffic during your vacation. Rent a scooter or a bike from Billy’s Bike Shop to make getting around both fun and easy. You’ll find plenty of transportation options to choose from, including wheelchair tandem bicycles, gas motor scooters, road bikes, pedal-assist e-bikes, Catrikes, surrey bikes, and flat bar bikes.

After you pick up your set of wheels, cruise down the Wildlife Drive loop, which is a 4-mile stretch of road that extends through the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is home to dozens of reptile species, 32 mammals, and over 245 types of birds. Some birds you might see include the willet, ruddy turnstone, laughing gull, mangrove cuckoo, belted kingfisher, and red-bellied woodpecker.

Book Your Stay Right on the Beach

While many people travel from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island for day trips, there are plenty of luxurious accommodations right on the beach for those who want to spend a little more time soaking up the sun. For an affordable option that’s right on the shoreline, we suggest booking your stay at Sanibel Island Beach Resort. This boutique hotel offers guests private access to the beach, plus an outdoor pool and sundeck. In the evening, head over to the resort’s lively outdoor tiki bar to unwind with a tropical cocktail while you dance under the swaying palm trees.

If you’re looking for a family-friendly place to stay, another great option is South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. Explore over 2 miles of gorgeous beaches, which are perfect for shelling. The resort is located right on a 330-acre wildlife sanctuary where you’ll find all sorts of animals, from bottlenose dolphins and West Indian manatees to great egrets and Cuban anole lizards.

Rent a Boat To Explore the Waters

Spend some time on the crystal clear waters that surround Sanibel Island. You’ll find plenty of places to rent a boat, but one of our favorite local shops is Tarpon Bay Explorers. For a fun afternoon activity, rent a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. If you’re traveling with a large group, you can even rent a pontoon boat big enough to fit everyone. Tarpon Bay Explorers also offer chartered fishing sessions and several guided tours, including a nature and sea life cruise, a kayak trail tour, and a sunset rookery paddle.

You can also book a half-day and full-day water adventure through Captiva Cruises, which offers several charters to nearby islands. Explore Useppa Island, visit the Cabbage Keys, or take a trip to Cayo Costa State Park. Captiva Cruises also offers sailing adventures, sunset cruises, and dolphin and wildlife cruises.

Indulge in the Best Food Sanibel Island Has To Offer

From burger joints to upscale seafood restaurants, you’ll find a dish to satisfy every craving when you visit Sanibel Island. For breakfast, try the famous egg Reuben sandwich or smoked salmon benedict at Over Easy Cafe. This colorful restaurant also features omelets, pancakes, stuffed French toast, and skillets, so everyone you’re traveling with will find something they enjoy.

Before you head back to the beach, stop by Sanibel Deli and Coffee Factory to grab a sandwich to take with you. Order a classic turkey club to go or try something unique, like the Beef and Blue, which features shaved roast beef, onions, and crumbly blue cheese dressing served on panini. If you’d rather enjoy your lunch while overlooking the harbor, stop by Gramma Dot’s in the Sanibel Marina. Enjoy fresh seafood, sandwiches, salads, and some of the best key lime pie in town.

For dinner, treat yourself to a delicious meal at The Mucky Duck. Start your meal with an order of Captiva’s finest shrimp bisque or a delicious smoked fish tapenade, served with garlic bread and seasonal fruit. Then indulge in the seafood platter, which comes with barbeque shrimp, steamed shrimp, a crab cake, fried scallops, and fresh fish. For dessert, enjoy a hot fudge or raspberry sundae on the beach to catch the sunset.

We hope our list of five things to know about visiting Sanibel Island helps you make the most of your vacation. Do you have any additional tips for people traveling to the area? Drop us a line to let us know so we can share your advice in one of our upcoming blog posts.

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