Free Things To Do in Sanibel Island
- #1View all PhotosfreeBowman's Beach#1 in Sanibel IslandBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME 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. (You may want to wear water shoes to protect your feet.)
Beachgoers routinely praised Bowman's for its excellent shelling and expansive sands that let visitors find their own spots with ease. Several also enjoyed riding their bikes to the beach, saying that the ride is easy along the nearby path.
- #2View all PhotosfreeCaptiva Island#2 in Sanibel IslandBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME 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 islands is fairly evenly matched, but Sanibel has an inside edge on art galleries. In short, consider spending your days on Sanibel, then hop over to Captiva for a unique dining experience. Stay a few extra minutes for one of the romantic sunsets along Captiva Beach. Recent travelers found these beaches quieter than the ones in Sanibel. Even so, parking is limited, making it difficult to bring your own set of wheels. There are also fewer facilities on these beaches.
You can access Captiva Island from Sanibel by driving up Sanibel Captiva Road and crossing the Blind Pass Bridge, which connects the two isles. Parking costs $5 per hour at the beaches, but the beaches themselves are free to access. Restaurant and shop hours may vary.
- #3View all PhotosfreePeriwinkle Way#3 in Sanibel IslandFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDFree, Neighborhood/AreaTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The island's main thoroughfare is home to several restaurants and shopping opportunities. 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.
If you do need some pointers, browse through the variety of shops in Periwinkle Place as a starting point, where you'll find everything from kitschy souvenir shops like Tiki Jim's to upscale stores like Congress Jewelers. Hours of operation vary for each of Periwinkle Way's stores, but you can enjoy the picturesque scenery along the street at any time of day.
- #4View all PhotosfreeBlind Pass Beach#4 in Sanibel IslandBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Blind Pass Beach spans across both Sanibel and Captiva Islands. It's a great place to find shells, fish, sunbathe or watch the sunset. One thing you might want to skip at this beach? Swimming. Blind Pass is susceptible to strong currents. Nevertheless, it's a favorite among vacationers for its beauty and excellent collection of shells. They do warn, however, that parking is tricky and the facilities are average as there are only restrooms and showers on the Captiva side.
Parking at Blind Pass Beach costs $5 per hour and the beach is free to explore. It is located nearby Blind Pass Bridge, which connects the two islands. Visit the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce's website for more information.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Sanibel IslandFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDFree, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
This lighthouse was in service from 1884 to 1972, and was used to light the entrance into San Carlos Bay. Now, this iconic Sanibel Island landmark on the island's eastern tip is a little worse for wear. Recent travelers did not find the lighthouse to warrant a long visit and were disappointed that the lighthouse doesn't accommodate climbers. They say the surrounding beach area is good for shelling, but note that it's constantly crowded.
The grounds of the more than 130-year-old Sanibel Lighthouse are always open to the public.
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