Sanibel Island is 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 all over the state.
Things to do on Sanibel Island
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.
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
Great food on Sanibel Island:
Don’t miss eating at the Mucky Duck! The seafood is out of this world and it is reasonably priced!
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
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
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
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?