Sanibel Island Travel Guide

USA  #3 in Best Florida Beaches
Credit

Courtesy of Larry Gerbrandt/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Sanibel Island

You're probably in town to pick up a few shells — and everyone agrees that Bowman's Beach is the best place to try the "Sanibel Stoop." Identify your pickings at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, then buy a piece of the best conch art somewhere along Periwinkle Way. Of course, not everything in town is about seashells. The popular J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a terrific diversion for families, and romancing couples should catch a sunset over on Captiva Island

How we rank Things to Do
  • #1
    Bowman's Beach
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    #1 in Sanibel Island
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Bowman's is well known for having beautiful, unusual shells, but you'll have to put a little effort into finding the true gems along this beach. Recent travelers found the best method is to step waist-deep in the water and dig your feet into the sand to find the shells.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Captiva Island
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    #2 in Sanibel Island
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Most people think of Sanibel and its quirky little sister island, Captiva, as interchangeable. True, they're both quiet spots with great shorelines, but there are a few differences. Here's a cheat sheet: Sanibel has better shells on its beaches, but Captiva's dining is more eclectic. Souvenir shopping on both sides

    ...Read More »
  • #3 in Sanibel Island
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    The island's main thoroughfare is home to several restaurants, shopping opportunities and some of the choicest hotels. So there's no real reason to recommend you visit; there's a good chance you'll end up along Periwinkle at some point in time during your trip.

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  • #4
    Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
    View all Photos
    #4 in Sanibel Island
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is small but packs quite a punch. In just a few choice exhibits, you'll be able to learn more about any sea treasures you might have uncovered at the nearby seashore. Popular exhibits include the sailors' valentines (19th century shell art that Bajan women designed for

    ...Read More »
  • #5
    Schoolhouse Theater
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    #5 in Sanibel Island
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    This bright pink Sanibel landmark started out as a one-room schoolhouse in 1896. Now, it’s the 90-seat BIG ARTS Herb Strauss Theater, a performance venue that welcomes Broadway shows, live music concerts and comedy acts. 

    ...Read More »
  • #6
    J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
    View all Photos
    #6 in Sanibel Island
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Named after a political cartoonist and conservationist, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge was originally meant to conserve the Sanibel Island mangrove forest. Now, the refuge (which occupies 6,300 acres of land or half the entire island) shelters those same mangroves, as well as animals like crocodiles, alligators and

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Sanibel Lighthouse
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    #7 in Sanibel Island
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the first lighthouses on Florida's Gulf Coast, this station on the island's eastern end used to light the entrance into San Carlos Bay. Now, this iconic Sanibel Island landmark is a little worse for wear. Recent travelers did not find the lighthouse too aesthetically pleasing and recommended taking

    ...Read More »

Explore More of Sanibel Island

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