Just west of Fort Myers you'll find lovely Sanibel Island, known for its beautiful sunsets, welcoming beaches, outdoor spaces and peaceful tranquility.
Whether you're taking a family vacation for spring break, planning a romantic trip for two or craving an escape from the cold with friends, this Floridian island offers a great place to relax, collect seashells and explore the 12 miles of shores. Because of it's location and geographic orientation, it's acts like a scoop, gathering seashells onto its beaches, making Sanibel Island an excellent place to hunt for these unique treasures.
In addition to exciting outdoor attractions, the island offers a plethora of dining options, from laid-back beach eateries to restaurants specializing in, of course, seafood, to upscale spots for a nice night out. And when you're ready to hit the water, spend an afternoon boating or fishing to truly experience living like a local.
Things to Do on Sanibel Island
- Sanibel Island Lighthouse: One of the coolest places to check out during your trip is the Sanibel Island Lighthouse, which has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974. You'll find it situated on the eastern part of the island, and it was built to mark the entrance to San Carlos for ships coming into the port of Punta Rassa. While the lighthouse itself isn't open to the public, the grounds are and it's definitely worth the trip to see the keeper's quarters, catch dinner at the fishing pier or take advantage of the beach access. The lighthouse also makes for great photographs, so don't forget your camera!
- Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum: Sanibel Island is known as the spot to hunt for seashells, so a trip to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is a must during your getaway. The museum is named after two pioneer families that lived on the island and features the most comprehensive collection of shells in the U.S. Inside you'll see a variety of shells and mollusks, learn about the history of the area and their scientific and artistic importance. Some of the museum's exhibits include Early Sanibel Shell Collectors; Florida Fossil Shells,; Mollusks, Medicine, and Man and The Scallop, Queen of Conchology, among others.
- J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge: Animals lovers won't be disappointed with a visit the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which was named for Jay Norwood Darling, a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and environmentalist. The refuge is home to more than 200 species of birds, more than 50 types of reptiles and 32 different kinds of mammals. If you're hoping to fit in some bird watching, the refuge is an exceptional spot to do so, or you can hit the paths for a bike ride or hike. If you want to paddle a canoe down a winding river path or take a four-mile scenic drive to see all of the natural beauty, like cabbage and sabal palms, red mangrove and a variety of other native plants.
- Sanibel Historical Museum and Village: You'll be transported back in time as you explore a collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings, including Bailey's General Store, Miss Charlotta's Tea Room, Clarence Rutland's home, the 1926 post office, the island's original schoolhouse and more. Inside, all the buildings are outfitted with items from the early 1900s, and as you wander through the village, you'll see a pioneer garden, antique Model T truck and an old packinghouse replica complete with farm equipment.
Dining on Sanibel Island
- Mad Hatter: For a lovely romantic dinner for two, try Mad Hatter, where you'll find a wonderland of delicious cuisine. You'll be treated to stunning views as you dine on options like phyllo shrimp, black truffle sea scallops, Hudson Valley foie gras or grilled filet mignon. Chefs Kurt and Michelle Jarvis offer a cozy, welcoming atmosphere where you can relax and enjoy amazing flavors after a day filled with exploring. Save room for dessert like creme brulee or berry crepes, which you can experience as you watch the sunset.
- The Island Cow: if you want a more laid-back dining experience, head to The Island Cow, which opens for breakfast, so you can have a hearty meal before you start your day. It's also open for dinner when you can eat under the stars on the porch while you listen to live music. Try a po-boy sandwich, cold wildberry bisqueor seafood. You'll get a real feeling of island dining when you come to The Island Cow. There's plenty on the menu here, so you won't be disappointed!