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Things to do on Sanibel Island

Things to do on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is located about 45 minutes from Fort Myers, Florida. So if you fly into the Fort Myers and rent a car, you and your family can easily be exploring this island in no time.

The island of Sanibel is nestled in a chain of barrier islands off of the West coast of Florida.

It is a hidden gem of sorts that is kept free of the touristy things that are found all over the state.

We’ve seen a lot of questions regarding Sanibel Island lately and we’ve decided to tackle them below. 

Is Sanibel Island dog friendly? 

dog friendly beaches on Sanibel Island

The answer to this is a resounding, YES! In fact, Sanibel was named one of the 8 top dog friendly beaches in the country. 

You should check out Algiers Beach in Gulfside City Park if you plan to travel with your dog. 

Just a note, your dog does need to be on a leash no longer than 8ft while on Sanibel Beaches. 

If you plan to do more traveling with your dog, check out our post about traveling with your dog.

Where is the best place to hunt for sea shells on the island? 

Hands down the answer is Turner Beach. The reason? There are relatively low numbers of tourists visiting the beach. 

This means that the shells are left untouched and you can find types of shells that you wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. 

What are the best places to eat on Sanibel Island:

Mucky Duck: The seafood is out of this world and it is reasonably priced!

The Island Cow – Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their menu is huge, so there is something for everyone in your group. They also have fun things to keep you busy if you have to wait for a table. 

The Sandbar – The Sandbar is a place to plan to eat when you want to have a special dinner. They only serve dinner and their prices are in the ‘treat yourself category’ but it is worth it! 

Sunset Grill – Serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The prices are reasonable and they cover a wide variety of different types of food. 

Lazy Flamingo – The lazy flamingo is a laid back, used to be best kept secret on Sanibel. But, the word got out about the fantastic food and it isn’t so much a secret anymore! 

George and Wendy’s Seafood Grill – You can find lunch, dinner and a late night menu here. And they have a whole separate extensive dessert menu. My family has a tradition of having dessert for dinner, so this is perfect for that. 

Sanibel Grill – Serving breakfast and lunch. Mom and dad will find the flavors that they like and the kids can have traditional classics like pancakes and French toast. 

What are the best things to do on Sanibel Island?

Things to do in Sanibel Island Florida

First off, Sanibel Island is a very small, some might even say tiny, barrier reef island in the Gulf of Mexico. My family loves to spend time at the beach in the Gulf, the waves are calmer and well, we love it.

There is so much to do when visiting Sanibel, even though it is a small island it packs a lot of punch.

The Bailey Matthews National Seashell Museum

Seriously, this place is a shell lovers dream! They do daily beach walks where you walk as a group and discover the shells that are washed up on shore overnight. There is an interactive lab for children (read, don’t worry about little hands touching things!), an exhibit of shells around the world.

The J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Rescue Center

The center is just as the name sounds, it is a space where the center houses wildlife that has been found sick or injured. There is so much to see and learn about while you are visiting the center! This refuge is 5,200 acres was established in 1976 to protect previously under-protected ecosystem. Now there are many of the migratory birds that call this refuge home.

Wildlife tours

Take a kayak tour around the island or a wildlife tour with Tarpon Bay Explorers. They offer so much to do that allows you to get out and see the area! Feel like catching a few fish? No problem, they do that too!

Everglades Day Safari

The Day Safari is a certified Everglades eco-tour, led by a naturalist who guides you into the Everglades and explores the four main ecosystems, including the pine savannas, cypress swamps, mangrove forests, and sawgrass prairies. Prices start at $145

Shell Hunting

Shell Hunting is tons of fun!

If you love shells then you need to head over to Blind Pass. Blind Pass is a great place to hunt for shells and the fishing is fantastic! If it storms while you are in town it is even better to go the next day, the shells are in abundance!

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Sanibel Lighthouse is a fun activity while you are visitng

This is another great spot to check out during your visit! If a destination has a lighthouse we always stop for a visit, at this point, my children are still impressed by lighthouses so, we take advantage of it! Just note it isn’t your ‘typical’ lighthouse

Go Shopping

Old Town Sanibel is an area with quaint shops and local restaurants. I don’t know about you but when I travel I want to pick up unique gifts that I can give later in the year!

Have a day at the beach

Plan a day to hang out a the beach and enjoy the sound of the waves and the sand between your toes. I have learned the hard way that packing your days full of non-stop things to do and see may sound like fun, but I have learned the hard way that it makes for cranky travelers both young and old!

Take a dolphin cruise

We love taking dolphin cruises when we head to the beach, there are several different companies that take people out on the cruises. 

See the area by Segway!

If your family members are old enough, 16 and up, take a Segway tour! These tours aren’t cheap, but they are very unique and tons of fun!

Go to Sea School

In sea school you’ll be exploring the marine habitats that make up Sanibel Island. You may even see a sea horse or a manatee and many other tiny sea creatures that live on the island.

Prices start at $55 for half day programs. You can see the line up of classes here.

Take a ferry to Cayo Costa State Park

Visit Cayo Costa State Park by Ferry

Accessible only by boat or kayak, this former fishing ground of the Calusa Indians features nine miles of undeveloped shoreline for swimming, snorkeling, shelling, fishing, birdwatching and exploration along with several walking and bicycling trails through the island’s interior. Shorebirds are numerous and one might spot manatees, porpoises and sea turtles offshore.

The fee to visit is $2

Pick up some goodies at the Sanibel Farmers Market.

One of our favorite things to do when we are in a new town is to pick up some of the local cuisine. If we are staying in a condo or a hotel that has a full kitchen, we like to have a night in where we cook. A great place to pick up the supplied for that meal is at a farmer’s market.

Have you and your family visited Sanibel before? What did you do while you were in town?

If you are headed to the beach, take a look at our beach packing list, you may find something you hadn’t thought of before! 

Love the Gulf Coast as much as we do? Take a look at some of our other family favorite beach destinations, like Gulf Shores and Navarre Beach! 

Headed to Sanibel Island but not sure what to do? We've covered the best places to eat, things to do and of course the best spot to get sea shells.