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Discover Paradise: 20 things to do in Sanibel Island for Your Ultimate Escape

Discover 20 must-do things in Sanibel Island! From shelling on pristine beaches to wildlife adventures, experience paradise on Florida's serene gem.

Sanibel Lighthouse beach sunset

Welcome to Sanibel Island, where turquoise waters meet sugar-white sands, and every moment feels like a postcard-worthy memory in the making.

If you're seeking the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure in Southwest Florida, you've come to the right place, take it from a local. From shell-strewn shores to vibrant wildlife sanctuaries, 250 kinds of shells, 230 kinds of birds and 0 TRAFFIC LIGHTS, Sanibel is the ultimate beach escape.

And if you are looking for a McDonalds, well don't! The word in town is that the big franchise tried to open one of their restaurants on the island but the locals got together and decided that it was not the type business they were looking to have. In fact, there are no franchise restaurants on the island.

But there are so many wonderful activities and awesome things to see on the island, I am sure, the last thing on your mind would be franchise food.

So, let's dive into 20 unforgettable things to do in Sanibel Island that will make your getaway truly magical.

Top 20 things to do in Sanibel Island

Shelling Secrets and Wildlife Wonders

1. J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Explore this vast wildlife refuge through hiking trails, biking paths, or guided tram tours. It's perfect for birdwatching and spotting other native wildlife.

2. Shelling on Sanibel's Beaches

Sanibel Island is renowned for its pristine beaches and excellent shelling opportunities. Bowman's Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and Lighthouse Beach are popular spots for shell collectors.

Seashells of Sanibel and Captiva Island

Sanddollar on Sanibel Island

3. Sanibel Lighthouse

Visit the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, which dates back to 1884. It offers picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico and is a great spot for photos.

Youtube Video of lighthouse beach

Sanibel island lighthouse beach

4. Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Learn about the fascinating world of shells and mollusks at this unique museum. It features exhibits on shell biology, ecology, and conservation.

Outdoor Adventures and Island Explorations


Explore the island's scenic beauty by renting a bike and cruising along the miles of bike paths that crisscross Sanibel. It's a great way to experience the island's laid-back atmosphere.

6. Kayaking and Canoeing

Paddle through the tranquil waters of Sanibel's mangrove estuaries and waterways. Guided kayak tours are available for those looking for a more immersive experience.


Whether you're a novice or an experienced angler, Sanibel offers excellent fishing opportunities. Cast a line from the shore, book a charter, or try your luck at the Sanibel Fishing Pier.

8.Island Hopping to Captiva Island

Take a short drive or bike ride to neighboring Captiva Island, known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant sunsets, and charming seaside restaurants.

Coastal Charms and Cultural Delights

9. Art Galleries and Boutiques

Explore the island's thriving arts scene by visiting local galleries and boutiques showcasing works by talented artists and artisans.

10. Beach hike to Silver Key Preserve

Discover one of Sanibel Island's best kept secret, Silver Key Preserve. This preserve is only accessible by hiking from Blind Pass or Bowman's Beach and considering many are not willing to walk that much, Silver key preserve tends do be pretty remote.

Silver Key Preserve Sanibel Island Florida

Check out this video to see exactly what I mean and if you are interested in more information about this remote paradise read this Silver Key Preserve blog article.

11. Dining on Fresh Seafood

Indulge in delicious seafood dishes at Sanibel's restaurants, many of which specialize in fresh catches of the day sourced from local waters.

12. Sunset Cruises

Experience the magic of a Sanibel sunset aboard a sunset cruise. Enjoy breathtaking views of the coastline as the sun dips below the horizon.

Leisurely Pursuits and Sporting Escapades

13. Golfing

Tee off at one of Sanibel's premier golf courses, such as The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club or Beachview Golf Club, both offering challenging courses amidst tropical surroundings.

14. Lighthouse Cafe

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the iconic Lighthouse Cafe, a favorite among locals and visitors alike for its delicious pancakes and omelets.

15. Periwinkle Place

Shop 'til you drop at Periwinkle Place, a charming shopping complex featuring a variety of shops, boutiques, and eateries set amidst lush tropical landscaping.

16. Sunset Beach Picnic

Who said you can't have your cake and eat it too? You can when you combine food with one of the most beautiful sunsets.

If you need a little help with setting up your beach picnic, check out this check out this blog article with top tips and everything you will need.

sunset on Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida

Historic Treasures and Natural Wonders

17. Historic Village

Step back in time at the Sanibel Historical Village, where you can explore a collection of historic buildings dating back to the island's early days.

18. Birdwatching

Sanibel Island is a birdwatcher's paradise, with over 245 species of birds recorded on the island. Bring your binoculars and spot ospreys, herons, egrets, and more.

19. Parasailing

Get a bird's-eye view of Sanibel Island's stunning coastline by going parasailing. It's an exhilarating way to experience the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico from above.

20. Relaxing on the Beach

 Last but not least, simply unwind and soak up the sun on one of Sanibel's pristine beaches. Whether you prefer lounging in the sand or taking a refreshing dip in the ocean, the beaches of Sanibel Island offer the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

And to ensure your trip goes smooth and you don't forget anything, check out this article with everything you need for your beach vacation.

Sanibel island beach

As the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico, casting a golden glow upon the horizon, you'll realize that Sanibel Island is more than just a destination—it's a state of mind.

Its beauty and serenity have a way of captivating hearts and soothing souls, leaving you yearning for just one more day in paradise.

So, whether you're wandering along shell-strewn shores, paddling through mangrove estuaries, or savoring fresh seafood delights, cherish every moment of your Sanibel adventure. After all, this island paradise is waiting to welcome you back whenever you're ready to escape once again.


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