Best Things to Do in Sanibel, Florida

Best Things to do Sanibel Island


Sanibel is a beautiful island off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida. It’s known for its beaches and shell hunting. You can spend all day exploring this island by foot or bike, or you can hop on a boat for a scenic tour of the barrier islands. There are plenty of fun things to do in Sanibel, but these four activities are our favorites:

Search for Shells

Shells are an iconic part of the Sanibel experience, and finding one is a great way to remember your trip. The best times to go shell hunting are from early morning until about noon, when it’s bright but not too hot yet. Head farther down the beach than where you’re staying for the best chance at finding shells—the winds that blow in off the Gulf tend to collect shells in this area, so it’s worth exploring there too!

If you’re lucky enough to find an especially rare shell (such as a moon snail), be sure not to take home more than one or two per day because that can cause damage to their habitat. Also, keep in mind that live mollusks such as clams and oysters may also be found on beaches; these should be left where they are so they can continue reproducing naturally. You should never disturb them or their homes by trying to collect them yourself

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Sanibel Lighthouse is a must-see for anyone visiting the island. The lighthouse is open daily, and it’s a great place to take pictures of the sunset or sunrise (the best time to visit). If you’re looking to get away from the crowds on Sanibel Island, this is one of our favorite places to go! It’s just a short walk from the beach and offers breathtaking views.

The lighthouse is open to the public and offers several tours. You can see the inside of the lighthouse, walk the spiral staircase up to the top for a panoramic view of Sanibel Island, or take a guided tour to learn about its history. This is a great place for kids (and adults) who are interested in learning more about lighthouses.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a 5,093-acre (2,131 ha) National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida, managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. It is named for J.N. “Ding” Darling (1875-1956), a noted cartoonist and conservationist from Minnesota who moved to Florida and served as regional director of the U.S. Biological Survey from 1913 to 1919 before becoming one of America’s first wildlife photographers

This refuge has great nature trails and beaches for exploration – perfect for family day trips or outdoor adventures with friends! Learn more about what you can do here:

Beach shelling is a very popular activity amongst visitors to Sanibel Island! Located on the northwest coast of Florida’s Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach is a wide white sand beach with nearly 2 miles of shoreline that attracts locals seeking relaxation as well as visitors looking for opportunities to collect shells and sea glass on their vacations

Captiva Cruises

Captiva Cruises is a great way to get out on the water and see what the island has to offer. If you’re looking for an intimate experience, Captiva Cruises has small boats that can accommodate up to 20 people. For more space, they also have larger boats that can accommodate up to 60 people or so. They have a variety of options with different types of food and drink options. Their lunch menu is particularly popular as it comes with all-you-can-eat crab legs!

The staff at Captiva Cruises are friendly and helpful—they’ll make sure you’re having fun while exploring one of the prettiest places in Florida!

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a must-see for shell enthusiasts and lovers of the natural world. The museum has over 100 acres of land, which include a nature preserve, mangrove forest, and salt flats.

Many exhibits showcase everything you would expect from a shell museum—including shells from all over the world, as well as live animals such as sea turtles and birds. There are also many interactive displays that offer hands-on learning experiences for families with children.

Visitors can take guided tours through areas like the Florida Keys Room or outside on Butterfly Way to see butterflies in their natural habitat. To get more intimate with nature, guests can also go kayaking on Estero Bay or bike along scenic trails at sundown during dusk tours offered by staff members once per month on Saturdays between March and October (otherwise closed). If you plan to visit this museum during your stay in Sanibel Island then make sure not to forget any of these items: sunscreen/hat/sunglasses; water bottle; binoculars; camera!

Periwinkle Park

There’s no better way to spend a day in Sanibel than at Periwinkle Park. Located just east of the main part of town, this park has everything from picnic tables and playgrounds to a wildlife observation platform with telescopes. If you want to explore nature, walk along the boardwalk (which is wheelchair-accessible) that runs through mangrove forests and wetlands. You can also rent kayaks or canoes for an adventure on Shell Point River.

You’ll find several trails throughout Periwinkle Park as well as an interpretive center where you can learn more about native plants and animals like gopher tortoises, alligators, hawks, butterflies—and even snakes! There’s something here for everyone; if you’re traveling with children they will love getting up close with nature while learning along the way too!

Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach is a great place to enjoy the sand and water. There are lifeguards on duty, bathrooms/showers, picnic tables, grills, and a playground for kids. There are beach-side showers to rinse off after your swim.

The water is warm and shallow, making it a great place for children. There is also an area where you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, and other water toys.

Sanibel Farmer’s Market

  • Hours of operation: Saturdays, 8:00-12:30
  • Things to buy there: fresh produce, baked goods, and more.
  • How to get there: You can walk from the beach (about 5 blocks), or drive over the causeway. Parking is free and plentiful on Sanibel Island; no permit is required.
  • The cost of admission is $0!


We hope that you have enjoyed this list of some of the best things to do in Sanibel, Florida. Feel free to leave us a comment below with your favorite activities or places on the island! We would love to hear from our readers and learn about their experiences here on Sanibel Island.

Linda Aiken

Retired soccer mom; Mom of "the boy" (Gabriel); SAHM; and mom to one furbaby, Leo, who rules the house!

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