Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida

Sanibel Island, FloridaSanibel Island in Southwest Florida sits prettily in the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s quite famous for its world-class shelling, but there is more to this Florida vacation spot than just seashells.

There’s biking and birding, swimming and sunning, food and drink, all wrapped up in an island that has a tropical atmosphere.

Getting to the Island

You get to Sanibel over a causeway from Ft. Myers.  It’s not a long drive, although it is quite picturesque.  (FYI, it’s also a toll road.)  It can also be congested at times, although earlier in the day seems to have less of a delay.

Touring Around Sanibel

Sanibel is a fairly small island, and the streets are relatively narrow.  However, the bike paths are wide, and biking is a great way to see the island, in a leisurely fashion.

Didn’t bring a bicycle with you?  Not a problem, as it seems like there are a million and one locations that will rent you one.  You’ll see some close to where the causeway joins the island, and plenty more up and down the road.

From late October through the middle of April, the weather is great for being outdoors, and cycling around the island.  It can get chilly in the winter, through, so if you’re visiting December through February, you’d be wise to have a sweater or light jacket handy.

You can certainly drive around the island if you prefer.  However, if you plan to stop at the beaches or go on over to Captiva, and are driving a big SUV, you might find parking a real challenge.

Beaching It!

Starfish on Sanibel IslandThe beaches on the island aren’t large, but what they lack in size. they make up for it in looks.  The waters are clear and the surf is gentle (when it’s even present).  The waters are generally calm and wonderfully warm for swimming.  Bring a snorkel and mask and enjoy exploring the sea life around the island.

Lighthouse Beach is on one end of the island and has the best parking.  It also has, as you might guess, a lighthouse.  😉

Fishing on Sanibel IslandThis beach also has a fishing pier, complete with fishermen.  Bring a pole to wet a line, or just use the pier as a place to look for dolphin, ray and all manner of other fish.

(You can also fish from the shore, and you might even draw a crowd of feathered friends, waiting to see what you catch.)

Walk along the waterline on any of the beaches and you’ll see shells (naturally) as well as starfish, crabs and other water-going animals. And if you don’t have the time or inclination for shelling, not to worry — there is a large store in town that sells shells.

Staying on the Island

The best known of the island’s places to stay is called the ‘Tween Waters Inn, which is at the cut between Sanibel and Captiva islands. It’s mostly bungalows, as opposed to a high-rise, but much larger than the name “Inn” might imply.

There really aren’t a ton of places to stay, as you won’t find hotel chains.  Check the places on West Gulf Drive — two of the better-known ones are the Sunset Inn and the West Wind Inn.  However, you’d best try for a reservation, instead of just showing up and hoping for a room.  Otherwise, you may end up staying in Ft. Myers instead.

Ding Daling National Wildlife RefugeSanibel Island Birding and Boating

Sanibel Island is home to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which holds a plethora of wildlife, and especially birds.  One of the loveliest is the roseate spoonbill, with its pink feathers and unusually-shaped bill.

You’ll likely see plenty of ibis, herons and egrets; look around also for osprey, anhinga and cormorant to show up.  In  the migration season, there is no telling what you might see passing through!

Kayaking and canoeing is great, with a short-ish canoe trail in the refuge. You can also paddle all around the island, although best to stay away from the currents around the cuts.  The waters are shallow around the island, particularly on the side facing the mainland, so boats with more than a foot or two of draft will likely have issues in spots.

What Else?

There is plenty of shopping to be found on the island.  While I wouldn’t call most of the places “quaint”, they are also not just scaled down version of big stores.  Clothing, shells and island paraphernalia are most of what you’ll find.

Lots of places to eat, with the most interesting being on Captiva.As you might expect, seafood is plentiful and delicious.  If you get the chance, try The Bubble Room over on Captiva; it’s the best-known restaurant and very definitely different!

Sanibel Island; it’s a lovely island and a one of the wonderful vacation spots in Florida to explore!

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