The best things to do on Sanibel Island, Florida

  • Post last modified:June 4, 2021
  • Reading time:6 mins read
The best things to do on Sanibel Island, Florida

The beautiful Sanibel Island has wonderful beaches, shelling called the best in the world and a special bond to nature. You don’t find any high rises or flashy billboards on Sanibel Island. Instead, the best things to do on Sanibel Island include unwinding and enjoying the amazing nature that you find wherever you look.

1. Bike around Sanibel Island

It’s maybe no big surprise that biking is a popular way to get around on the island. Certainly, the size of Sanibel Island is very reasonable for going on a bike excursion. But most importantly, there are about 25 miles (40 km) of paved bike trails for you to explore.

So hop on the bike and get ready to discover some of the best things to do on Sanibel Island by bike. Soon you find out that some of the best beaches are the beaches that most people don’t find.

Sanibel Island bike
Sanibel Island by bike.

2. Visit J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

For anyone, not just the bird lover or photographer, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel is a big experience. More than 200 bird species have been sighted in the refuge, and that’s just the sighted ones. So look for pelicans, spoonbills, cardinals and egrets among others as you take in the beautiful surroundings.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best things to do on Sanibel as it represents the old and natural Florida. So this is a great spot to find the real you and getting back to nature.

Bird watching in Florida.
Bird watching on Sanibel Island.

3. Amazing shelling is a must thing to do on Sanibel Island

Sanibel is literally made of shells and shelling is one of the most popular and best things to do on Sanibel Island. Its shores scoop up the beautiful shells of different types from the Gulf of Mexico. So anywhere on the southern coast of Sanibel from west to east is a good place to go for a hunt.

The shelling on the island is world famous and a fun Sanibel thing to do for all ages. If you go shelling on Sanibel during low tide and in the morning you improve your odds to find beautiful shells even more.

For instance, popular beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island are Blind Pass Beach, Bowman’s Beach, Tarpon Bay Road Beach, Gulfside City Park and Lighthouse Beach. Why not make it a thing and try them all to see where you find the most wonderful shells?

Shelling on Sanibel Island
World-class shelling.

4. Head over to the Sanibel Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Beach Park is located on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island. This charming area is one of the top places to visit on Sanibel and it offers a a beautiful beach, some of the best shelling on the island and a fishing pier.

But the most iconic part of Lighthouse Beach Park is of course the lighthouse itself. Sanibel Island was built in the 1800s and has watched over Sanibel Island since then. Visiting is one of the best things to do in Sanibel Island and the beautiful views of the lighthouse are best taken in as you enjoy the beach and Gulf of Mexico.

Shelling on Sanibel Island
The Sanibel Lighthouse.

5. Go for a peaceful beach walk

The bond to nature is special on Sanibel. Above all, here you don’t need to hurry around and can focus on just yourself and those who mean the most to you. In other words, Sanibel Island is the perfect place to relax.

And all the quiet and picturesque beaches make up for dreamy beach walks that help you to unwind. A peaceful beach walk is a soothing thing to do on Sanibel Island. As you walk along the shore it’s only you, the sand and the waves.

Cottage and palm trees on Sanibel
Relaxing times on Sanibel Island.

6. Explore Captiva Island

One of the best things to do when visiting Sanibel is to go to the even more remote sister island Captiva. Captiva Island sits north of Sanibel, and doesn’t have a direct connection with the mainland. But the two islands are connected by a bridge where the northern tip of Sanibel meets the southern tip of Capitva.

Captiva has many of the same traits as Sanibel with beautiful beaches and tropical Florida nature. However, Captiva Island manages to be even quieter and more laid-back than Sanibel as it’s further away from the mainland.

Captiva Island outlook
Overlooking Captiva Island.

7. Enjoy a Sanibel sunset from a prime location

Warm evenings, clear skies, a cold beverage in your hand and a beautiful sunset as day turns into night. Is there a better Sanibel Island thing to do than ending a day like that?

The best sunsets on Sanibel are on the western side of the island, where you get to see the sun disappear right in front of you. Therefore, anywhere on or near Bowman’s Beach is a great sunset location. And enjoying the beautiful Gulf Coast sunsets is one of the best things to do on Sanibel Island.

Florida sunset.
Sanibel sunset.

Best things to do on Sanibel Island FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the best things to do on Sanibel Island, Florida.

What is Sanibel Island known for?

Sanibel Island is well-known for the picturesque shelling beaches and adjusting life to nature. And a large portion of the island consists of J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a wide range of birds and other animals.

What’s the best time of the year to visit Sanibel?

Sanibel Island is a tropical gem that’s popular to visit year-round. However, outdoor acitvities are more comfortable during spring, autumn and winter. So avoid the summer if you want to dodge the hottest temperatures.

How long is the bridge to get to Sanibel?

The Sanibel Causeway that takes you from the mainland to Sanibel is 3 miles (4.8 km) long from end to end. But the mental distance is even further as Sanibel is so different compared to the mainland.

Are there alligators on Sanibel Island?

Most visitors never see alligators on Sanibel Island. However, Sanibel and its more than 2,200 acres of freshwater wetlands are home to a substantial population of alligators. In other words, they are there but mostly prefer to keep by themselves and not interfere with humans.

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