Discover a playground of unspoiled nature, sand, sun and fun
Sure, you’re here to soak up the sun, but what to do first? If you’re venturing to Sanibel Island, you’ll enjoy a host of activities including hiking, biking, shelling, bird watching and, of course, enjoying the beaches. Whether you want to lounge around in the sun or explore the island, you’ll also find some sights that are must-see options. To get the most out of your stay on Sanibel Island, we suggest seven things that you simply must do:
1) See the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Part of the biggest natural mangrove ecosystem in the US, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is known worldwide for its impressive migratory bird populations. Jay Norwood Darling, a pioneer among conservationists, was largely responsible for keeping developers from buying and building on this environmentally important land. With 2,800 acres of Federal Wildlife Area, the refuge safeguards unspoiled wildlife habitat, providing an essential environment for more than 250 species of birds.
2) Explore local beaches.
Sanibel & Captiva Island feature some of the most unique beaches, known nationally for an excellent shelling experience. In fact, Sanibel Island was voted ‘Best Shelling Beach’ by Weather Channel Facebook friends. Each beach on Sanibel Island has its very own character. Causeway beaches are perfect for grilling and tailgating, while the Lighthouse Beach & Fishing Pier is perfect for a relaxing on the beach or exploring nature trails. Check out the many different beaches you can experience on Sanibel & Captiva Island here.
3) Tour the Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic.
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, known as CROW, is a teaching hospital with visitor center dedicated to saving wildlife. They offer state-of-the-art veterinary care, important research, and conservation programs focused on their mission to rescue, care for, rehabilitate and release back into the wild injured, sick or orphaned wildlife. The Visitor Education Center features interactive exhibits with games, quizzes, and other fun and fascinating displays. The small admission fee all goes toward helping wildlife – and children 12 and under enter free.
4) Shop, Dine & Relax at Periwinkle Place.
A vacation isn’t complete without a little shopping. Visit Periwinkle Place for a Sanibel-style shopping experience. This award-winning outdoor shopping area is 41,420 square feet bursting with shops, including the original Chico’s, Sanibel Day Spa and Blue Giraffe Restaurant. Take home a souvenir, shop for clothing and jewelry, and enjoy a delicious lunch.
5) Explore the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
Founded in 1984 to preserve and share the history of the island, the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village covers the Calusa and Spanish eras through the early pioneers who settled the island in the 1800s. Learn of warriors, farmers, fishermen and proprietors who all played a part in building the Sanibel of today. The village includes historical buildings moved from their original sites on the island and carefully restored. Hours vary by season, so be sure to check their website for details.
6) Discover the Shell Museum.
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum offers over 30 exhibits featuring spectacular shells and information on how shells have played essential roles in history, art, culture, medicine, design and more. Learn about local shelling and shell identification, or simply view local shells, Florida shell fossils and record-setting shells from around the world. The daily Island Inn Beach Walk offers you a chance to join a marine biologist and see the beach – and shells – in a whole new way.
7) Visit Bailey’s General Store.
Step back to a time when a town had only one place to shop – for everything. In business since 1899, Bailey’s General Store offers pretty much all you’ll need during your stay in Sanibel. Groceries, produce, a bakery and coffee bar, meat and seafood, hardware, cleaning products, copy and fax services, board games, fishing supplies, grills – even bicycles and gluten-free foods. And don’t forget to try one of Bailey’s specialty salad dressings. They’re so good, you may want to order some to take home!
Want to learn more about things to do on Sanibel Island? South Seas Island Resort offers a convenient guide to area activities.