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When planning a trip to southwest Florida, finding the best places to watch the sunset on Sanibel Island should be a top task on your list. It is one of the most scenic places you can visit and the sunsets on the island are truly spectacular. The best part is that you can explore each and every one of these magical places and have a different sun set every day of your stay.

The best places to watch the sunset on Sanibel Island are:

Each of these places offers a unique atmosphere and reason for watching the sunset there. 

Our guide below examines each of these spots and tells you what you’ll find when viewing the sunset. You’re guaranteed to find the perfect spot to watch the sunset on Sanibel Island.

Best Beaches to Watch the Sunset on Sanibel IslandBest Beaches to Watch the Sunset on Sanibel Island

There’s absolutely nothing like watching the sunset on a beach. If you want to experience a truly breath-taking sunset that you will never forget, you’ll be sure to find a stunning beach on Sanibel Island where you can relax and wait for the sun to dip below the horizon. There’s an unusual loveliness to the beaches on Sanibel Island. It doesn’t hurt that the island is also gifted with an abundance of shells and has won awards for having some of the best beaches in Florida. Sanibel Island has been ranked as one of the top ten places to escape the snow in the U.S. So, even if you’re here for the sunsets, there’s so much more to stay for.

Blind Pass Beach

Bland Pass Beach is right at the tip of Sanibel Island and connects to Bowman’s Beach. There are signs which warn against swimming at Blind Pass Beach due to strong currents. So, while it is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the sunset, taking a dip in the water is discouraged. 

You can find amenities at Blind Pass Beach, including:

Be sure to get there early for a parking spot so you can enjoy the best of this beautifully clean beach.

Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach is pristine and quiet – there are no hotels or beachfront cottages. Here you can find:

This is an incredible beach to watch a sunset – you can park and walk over a bridge to a secluded white, sandy beach.

Gulfside City Park

Also known as Algiers Beach to the locals due to a steamboat of the same name once pulling up there. The amenities include:

This beach is a fabulous spot for picnics, so if you would like to bring delicacies to enjoy while watching the sunset, you will have found a perfect spot in which to do so.

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Waterfront Restaurants to Watch the Sunset

A Sanibel Island sunset can provide a beautiful backdrop to a meal at a waterfront restaurant. Whether you’re enjoying it with family or a loved one, you will have an unforgettable experience in one of these tempting waterfront restaurants.

Thistle Lodge Restaurant

This is a delightful restaurant that’s also considered one of the best romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island. It boasts an award-winning menu blending Floridian, Asian and European flavors to suit even the most discriminating of palates. Here, you can enjoy delicacies such as:

Is your mouth watering yet? And imagine sampling the menu above, all with the Sanibel Island sunset in the background.


For a more laid-back, but equally world-class quality, try Normandie. Their exceptional menu will provide you with tempting offerings such as:

Normandie knows how to treat their produce well to get the best flavors and they also enjoy some of the best sunset views on the island so you can relax with a chilled glass of wine and watch the sunset.

Catch the Sanibel Sunset from a BoatCatch the Sanibel Sunset from a Boat

If you can catch the Sanibel sunset from a boat, then you will have an unforgettable magical experience on your vacation. Take a dolphin tour to truly experience how close by nature is, just a stone’s throw from the beach. You can expect to see a huge variety of aquatic wildlife, including Sea Turtles, Osprey, Manatees and Bald Eagles. If you want to see both dolphins and a sunset while on the water, then there are specially designed trips that can accommodate you.

Sanibel Lighthouse

Easily one of the best places to visit on the island and also one of the quickest to get to if you're just stopping by the island. Make sure you arrive early to get a good parking spot – even with so many available, this popular island destination fills up quickly, especially at peak times. Just make sure you’ve got your bugspray with you to avoid the no-see-ums in the dusk.

See the Sunset on the Sanibel Causeway

Spanning the San Carlos bay, the Sanibel Causeway connects the Sanibel Island with the Florida mainland in Punta Russa. There are beautiful views whenever you cross the causeway, and it has places to stop on either side so you can pause to admire the view and take in the Sanibel sunset.

Find the Best Places to Watch the Sunset Sanibel Island with Royal Shell 

Royal Shell perfectly blends local knowledge and outstanding customer service to offer you the best Sanibel Island vacation rental experience on the market. With over 25 years of experience, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re getting the best recommendations and options for where to stay on Sanibel Island. Whether you are looking for a cottage rental on Sanibel Island or a luxurious, secluded villa, we have properties to suit every taste and budget. 

Check our availability today or give us a call at (855) 842-8316. Our vacation rental experts are ready to help you plan the perfect Sanibel Island vacation.

If you are looking to enjoy a relaxing vacation, Sanibel Island will not disappoint. Located in Southwest Florida, Sanibel Island attracts visitors year after year because of the beautiful beaches and the abundance of wildlife. However, once many travelers step onto the island, they become enamored with the seemingly endless options for shopping. Whether you need a little retail therapy or just want a taste of tropical themed finds unique to the island, Sanibel Island has it.

Shopping on Sanibel Island is an unforgettable experience thanks to numerous unique island shops. From tiny mom and pop boutiques to colorful souvenir stores, there’s something to find for every shopper. 

Our comprehensive Sanibel Shopping Guide below gives you a preview of what to expect and shops on the island that you can’t miss. 

Sanibel Shopping Guide Features Island Boutiques

As mentioned, there are a lot of different types of shops in Sanibel, and firstly, we will take a look at the different island boutiques here. A lot of people comment on how amazing the boutique stores are here, as you can find lots of different independent stores that you are not able to find anywhere else in the world. 

Tahitian Gardens

This is one of the most popular locations on Sanibel Island. Here you will find a shopping mall where there is something for everyone. From the whimsical to the elegant, every door is going to invite you into an exciting and new shopping experience. You will find jewelry, toys, unique collections, designer labels, and much more. There are also plenty of places to stop and grab a bite to eat. After all, we all know how shopping can work up an appetite!

This is a great area for unwinding and relaxing as well, so if you want to enjoy a day out, it’s worth penciling Tahitian Gardens in. There are some really great places here for all tastes. If you are looking for women’s fashions, C. Turtles is a popular shop. In fact, there are a lot of celebrities who shop here, and when you go into the store you can see photos of celebs wearing their latest fashions. 

Periwinkle Place

Another great place in Sanibel is Periwinkle Place. This is located just down the street from Tahitian Gardens. It is a lush paradise of boutique shops that are ideal for relaxing, as you can enjoy the day strolling along this beautiful part of Sanibel Island. One of the highlights here is the original Chico’s, which opened in 1983. Chico’s is a store that sells women’s apparel and clothing, as well as accessories and jewelry. Clothes are available in sizes 0 to 20. If you do visit this part of Sanibel, take a trip to Classic Collections. This is a shop that has plenty of home decor and jewelry, which really captures the island feel here.

Take Home Great Souvenir Shop FindsTake Home Great Souvenir Shop Finds

If you are someone who likes to take souvenirs back with you from your travels, you won’t be short of options at Sanibel Island. In fact, one place where you will be able to find all of your souvenirs is on Tarpon Bay Road at Suncatchers’ Dream. This shop has a diverse and exciting range of gifts available and you can also benefit from a gift wrap service at no extra charge. 

Other local and visitor favorite souvenir shops include:

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Shop for What You Left At Home

We have all been there; you arrive at your holiday destination only to discover that you have left something at home. Sound familiar? You don’t need to worry, though, as there are plenty of places where you will be able to pick up anything you have forgotten. Bailey’s General Store is a good place for this sort of thing. A lot of people get their groceries here. There is a great selection of daily fresh goods, as well as cold and hot takeout. The shelves are stocked with tasty food, so you can fill up your pantry and fridge at your vacation rental. You will also be able to pick up your daily newspaper and all of your hardware needs are covered as well. There is even fishing tackle and bait here too! 

If you have left your book at home and you have nothing to get lost in while you are on the beach, fear not, as you can take a trip to Gene’s Bookstore. This is an amazing place to browse and buy. There is a great selection of books, including non-fiction and fiction on many different topics and also children’s books too.  

B Unique Boutique

We have already introduced you to a number of exciting shops in Sanibel, yet there is more to come! Take a trip to the B Unique Boutique if you are looking to add some stylish pieces to your wardrobe. Here, you will find a great range of bags, scarves, jewelry, and garments, all of which have been curated by the wonderful Miss Sandra. Miss Sandra not only has impeccable taste but she is a caring and warm personality who makes the shopping experience at her store a true delight.  

The Sporty Seahorse

The Sporty Seahorse is another place that is definitely worth a mention. Here you are going to find a varied selection of goods. This includes both women’s and men’s sport clothing, beach clothes, footwear, beach decor, and much more. You will find some great metal craft birds, including pelicans, great blue herons, egrets, flamingos, and much more. There are also some excellent coffee mugs, dishes, glassware, and home decor items. You will be spoiled for choice. 

The Village Shops

Another area that we recommend is The Village Shops. This is a charming part of Sanibel Island. You have the opportunity to shop and be pampered while here. The area is home to the most popular hair salon on the island, so you can always start the day off with a bit of pampering. Then, why not check out the array of stunning, upscale boutiques? These exclusive boutiques are filled with one-off pieces of clothing that you will not be able to find anywhere else. If you consider yourself a bit of a trendsetter, you definitely need to make time to stroll through the Village Shops.

Olde Sanibel Shoppes

Not only does this shopping center have the delightful olde Florida charm but it is actually a pet-friendly shopping center as well. This plaza has become a favorite amongst both tourists and locals. 

There are many great boutiques here including:

Sanibel Shopping Guide for Resort WearSanibel Shopping Guide for Resort Wear

If you are looking to purchase resort wear, there are a number of good spots for this. Of course, the obvious place to start is with Sanibel Resort Wear. The shop is open seven days a week and was established in 1980. It is a family run business, which can be found at Tahitian Gardens. You will find the famous Sanibel perfume here, as well as sterling silver jewelry, sandals, hats, swimwear, and women’s clothing. The items available here come from a number of different brands, including Sun & Sand, Focus, Clara Sun Woo, Comfy, Escapada, and Tribal. 

Despite the name, Fresh Produce does not sell food. It is a clothing store! From vibrant tunics and stylish dresses to carefree skirts and casual tops; Fresh Produce creates feel-good clothes that you can wear on a daily basis. If you want to add some color and personality to your wardrobe, you cannot go wrong here. The store is known for comfortable and easy-to-wear pieces that are flattering on all sizes and shapes. 

Island Pursuit is another store that we recommend. It can be found on Periwinkle Way. It is a store that enables you to live an endless summer. What could be better? The first Island Pursuit store was founded by Michael Valentino in 1983. Today, you will find nautical-inspired and timeless looks for women and men from coast to coast. Buying items from stores like this makes you feel like you are always on your own island pursuit. 

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The Sanibel Shopping Guide Helps Find Fishing Gear & More

When it comes to shopping in Sanibel for fishing gear and such like, most people would recommend taking a trip to Whitney's Bait and Tackle. This has been voted the best fishing equipment store and fishing charter in Sanibel since 2013. You will find a great selection of apparel, tackle, and bait for all kinds of fishing. The staff here are really knowledgeable and friendly. If you don’t know what to look for or you cannot find something, they will always be more than happy to help you. 

Discover Island Treasures in the Sanibel Shopping Guide

If you are looking for some Island Treasures to pick up before you leave Sanibel, there are lots of great spots, so we will end this guide by going over those. 

Wilford & Lee

Wilford & Lee, which is at Tahitian Gardens, is a good spot for purchasing some beautiful coastal decor, which can add color and character to your home while also being a constant reminder of island life. Whether you are looking for a tropical lamp or another type of statement piece, you’ll have plenty to find here. If you visit other parts of Southwest Florida, you may come across one of their other 4 locations throughout the area.

On Island

On Island is another great place for island treasures, designed to help tourists bring the island feel home with them. You will find comfy hoodies, performance wear, fishing shirts, quality t-shirts, and hats for children, men, and women. You are also going to find travel hammocks, pillows, drinkware, beach towels, and much more. If you want to enjoy a beachy shopping experience, you can’t go wrong here. 

Watson MacRae Gallery

The last place that we recommend for island treasures that you will not find anywhere else is Watson MacRae Gallery. This has gained a reputation as one of Southwest Florida’s most premiere art galleries. It offers unique, contemporary, and premium quality fine crafts and arts. A new exhibit is displayed each month ensuring that repeat visitors will be wowed each time they visit. There are 30 regionally and nationally acclaimed artists represented, each with a unique vision. This results in a varied assortment of different paintings and art works with an underlying energy of spirit. If you want to find something truly unique to take home with you from your trip, this is the place to get it!

Plan Your Dream Vacation to Sanibel Island

After a long day of shopping on Sanibel Island, you’ll likely want to relax and unwind. This is where Royal Shell Vacation Rentals comes in. We have an extensive portfolio of world-class vacation rentals on Sanibel Island. With over 25 years of providing these rentals to visitors of Sanibel Island, there’s no better choice.

We make sure that your vacation rental experience is absolutely perfect. From booking your property to saying goodbye to the island, you’ll experience a stress-free, easy process. Whether you’re getting a Sanibel Island vacation home rental for your whole family or a small condo, we can help you.

Contact us today and let our vacation rental specialists find the perfect property for you.

If you’ve planned your vacation to Sanibel Island around visiting the beaches and enjoying numerous outdoor activities, you’re not alone. The island is known for its shelling beaches and beautiful environment. But what is there to do on Sanibel Island when it rains and your plans for an outdoor adventure are gone?

Luckily, there are plenty of things to do on Sanibel Island when it rains. Some of the most popular activities include:

Don’t let a little rain ruin your vacation on Sanibel Island. Our guide below gives you plenty of great activities to enjoy and places to see when it’s raining on Sanibel Island. 

1. Explore Local Museums

There are two main museums on Sanibel Island which offer the perfect distraction on a rainy day. More importantly, for those who visit Sanibel for the first time, the museums, Sanibel Historical Museum and Bailey-Matthew National Shell Museum, provide an insightful journey at the heart of the local history and culture. These should be on your list of places to visit even when the weather is dry and sunny. Both can teach you so much about the past of the island and what gives it such a unique feel. 

The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is a reconstruction of the island history from the Calusa and Spanish eras to the first pioneer families in the 1800s. What makes it a great activity for adults and children alike is the use of interactive displays, introducing visitors to the ways of life of a specific period. The village part of the museum contains no less than nine historic buildings that have been moved from their original sites and restored to their initial conditions. Keep your eyes open for the 1927 Ford Model T Truck hiding in a historic garage! In other words, you want to be sure to have your camera ready when you’re visiting the Historical Museum. 

The other museum worth visiting on the island is the Bailey Matthew National Shell Museum. It is worth mentioning that it’s the only museum in the U.S. that is dedicated to shells and the mollusks that make them. This makes it a must-see for curious visitors with an interest in science. But, be assured that you don’t need to have extensive marine biology knowledge to enjoy the informative tour. Originally, the museum was founded by a shell collector from the island. But it rapidly grew to become one of the most informative resources on shells. Shell collecting being a popular activity in Sanibel, visitors are encouraged to identify and collect shells on the beach. Shells are, after all, part of Sanibel Island’s culture and history. 

Both museums offer a glimpse into the history of Sanibel and Captiva Island that's well worth your time.

2. See a Big Arts Production

The Big Arts venue is a place for the local community to share the rich history and culture of the artists of the island and their inspirations throughout the seasons. The place is alive with artwork that takes visitors through a tour of Sanibel’s beauty and philosophy. In many ways, it’s an open door into the unique mindset of the residents. But the Big Arts museum is a lot more than a gallery for local artists. It is a space that values all authentic expressions of art and makes it its mission to create an accessible path to the artists and their artistic visions. They have a program of events that you can check on their website. There is always something happening, so it’s worth popping in to catch up with the latest painters or life performers. 

Make sure to plan your visit, so you don’t miss the unique Big Arts productions: 

Big Arts is, in essence, the opportunity for visitors to dive headfirst into the rich creative environment of Sanibel Island. The artists from the island have a lot to talk and think about, and their arts vibrate with the roots of the past. In many ways, it’s the closest you’ll get to feeling the beating heart of Sanibel. 

3. See a Movie at Island CinemaSee a Movie at the Island Cinema

If you are used to chain movie theaters, the small 2-screen Island Cinema will transport you into the past. Each theater has only 59 seats, which means that on a rainy day, you should purchase your tickets ahead. Because Island Cinema is an independently owned and managed theater, you will need to be at the box office to buy your ticket. However, don’t let it discourage you. The cinema has a vintage feel that makes every viewing a little more magical. 

You can check their program online. Most movies are played for up to 3 weeks, depending on their popularity. In other words, you are going to find the same new releases you could watch at your local, supersized chain cinema. But the atmosphere on Sanibel Island is intimate and relaxing. You can book a VIP seat for your viewing, as long as you book your ticket at least 60 minutes before the film. However, VIP seat or not, you’re guaranteed to rediscover the true joy of going to the theater. Without all the fluff of a big theater, this little gem hits the nail right on the head when it comes to family entertainment. 

You will find the Island Cinema inside the Bailey’s General Store area in Periwinkle Way.

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4. Check out the Shops in Periwinkle Way

Shopping remains in the top five activities for both residents and visitors of Sanibel Island. Despite its small size, the island has a lot to offer when it comes to shops. Whether you are looking for a cozy café, a fashion boutique, or a stylish salon, there are many exciting choices on Sanibel Island for visitors. Periwinkle Way is the first shopping destination on Sanibel, and you are soon going to fall in love with the diversity of its offering. Indeed, there are no less than four stylish shopping centers in Periwinkle Way or just directly off the street, which makes it a convenient location for the casual shopper. 

You want to check these exciting shopping centers: 

  1. The Tahitian gardens-  This collection of unique shopping experiences features fantastic eateries such as the retro Cheeburger Cheeburger diner. Boutique shops, such as C. Turtles, present a variety of trendy women’s wear brands, including some much-sought for designer labels. For something out of the ordinary for your home interior, head to the Pandora’s Box, which has, as promised, a superb choice of absolutely everything. 
  2. The Village Shops- At this shopping center you’ll find an eclectic shopping experience that combines fashion accessories, jewelry, organic beauty products, and even a hair salon for men and women. If you want to bring a unique gift to a loved one, the Watson Macrae Gallery needs to be your mandatory stop for some of the most original artistic works. 
  3. The Olde Sanibel Shoppes- You can relax at the cozy Over Easy Café, which is a favorite on the island for delicious breakfast and lunch options. Make sure to order their homemade blueberry cobbler; residents go out of their way for this sunny treat. The Olde Shoppes is also the best location for pet-owners as they’ve got plenty of toys and pet products. 

Turning a rainy day into a shopping day is easily done on Sanibel Island. Shopping centers are within walkable distance of each other – but you can drive too – so it’s a great way of killing time while staying dry! 

5. Find a Good Book at the Library

The popularity of the public library is growing again in the U.S. and Sanibel Island is no exception to the rule. The local community has developed a welcoming and entertaining environment for readers of all ages. 

For visitors and residents, the library has a busy schedule of events, including visits from authors on a promotional tour. You may want to check the website to find out more. It’s also fair to mention that Sanibel Island is the inspiration of Randy Wayne White, the creator of the Doc Ford novels, which tell the story of a retired NSA agent. Doc Ford has also given its name to a local restaurant. Be sure to catch up with him at the restaurant or during a public reading tour if the library organizes one for his latest novel! 

For young visitors, the multimedia room offers different options, especially for kids who are too young to read by themselves. 

6. See the Wildlife Refuge’s Interpretive Center

In 1945, famous cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling blocked the sale of environmentally valuable land for urban development and pressed President Truman to create a wildlife refuge. The refuge, J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, is the home of 6,400 acres of marshes, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds, making it the perfect location to safeguard the wildlife and its habitat on Sanibel Island.

On a rainy day, the Wildlife Drive is a fantastic way of exploring the area at a safe distance from the local wildlife. However, you want to check the opening hours on their website. It’s a favorite activity for animal lovers and environmentalists if you don’t know what to do on Sanibel Island when it rains. 

If you want to support the Ding Darling Wildlife Society, you can also buy tickets to charity events and entertainments on the site. You can find many ways of getting involved with the conversation activities at the visitor and education center in the refuge. 

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7. Watch the Rain at a Beach Front RestaurantWatch the Rain at a Beachfront Restaurant

We’ve mentioned it earlier; there are some exciting restaurants to see on the Island. Doc Ford’s Rum Bar needs to be on your to-do list.. The bar serves delicious and exotic food, much in the spirit of the fictional character, and is a fantastic spot to watch the rain while enjoying a Caribbean cocktail. 

For breathtaking beachfront views, the Thistle Lodge at Casa Ybel Resort is a top destination. There is an old Florida feeling to the place that makes it appear almost mystical on a rainy day. 

The top five waterfront restaurants on Sanibel Island that will make you forget about the rain: 

After all, if you can’t have a sunny day, you can, at least, eat like it’s sunny outside! 

8. Cozy Up Inside at your Vacation Rental or Resort

When the weather is wet on Sanibel Island, there’s no need to leave your holiday home to have a nice time. Stay under the duvet and listen to the rain tapping against the window. Because the urban landscape on Sanibel is low – there are not many modern buildings that are higher than two stories –, even when the sky is gray, the island is bathed in light. You can use the quiet time to catch up on your sleep or relax with your loved ones

Ultimately, the best thing to do on Sanibel Island, when it rains, is to let the time pass slowly. There’s no rush; you’re on vacation. So rest indoors and let go of your everyday worries. 

If you’ve borrowed a book from the public library, now’s the best time to read it, along with a fruity cocktail or a cup of freshly brewed coffee. But sometimes, being on holiday is not about doing something, but on the contrary, it’s all about learning to do nothing. 

Plan Your Sanibel Vacation with Royal Shell

If you are planning to visit Sanibel Island, finding a cozy rental where you can relax when it rains needs to be on top of your list. While the weather on Sanibel is sunny most of the year – assuming you avoid the summer season – it doesn’t mean you can prevent a rainy day. Therefore, having a place you can call home for the duration of your stay can make a big difference. 

That’s why we, at Royal Shell, have made it our mission to accompany our customers and help them to find the perfect vacation rental on Sanibel Island. Our rental properties are conveniently located on the island to ensure you are never far from a point of interest or a charming venue. Whether you’re traveling with friends, relatives, or planning a romantic getaway on the island, finding your home away from home will turn any rainy day into an island paradise. From large Sanibel Island vacation home rentals to luxurious condo rentals, we have something for everyone. 

Check availability of our Sanibel Island vacation rentals and book your dream vacation today!

A romantic getaway on Sanibel Island isn’t complete without dining at one of the island’s romantic restaurants. There’s no shortage of options to choose from on the island which makes your biggest decision picking the perfect one for you and your partner. While there’s ultimately no bad choice among the selections below, it’s worthwhile to see what each restaurant offers.

Romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island offer everything from standard American fare to authentic Italian cuisine to island exclusive tropical dishes. In addition to the selection of mouth-watering food, each restaurant also offers a unique atmosphere for you and your loved one to enjoy.

Listed below are 8 of our favorite romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island. We’ll let you know what you can expect in terms of food and atmosphere at each one so you can choose the best one to complete the perfect date night.  

Sanibel Island International Restaurants

Despite its small size, Sanibel Island has got a choice of delicious international cuisine restaurants. First of all, it is fair to mention that the abundance of seafood makes up for a large range of recipes. It’s not uncommon to come across Mediterranean- or Asian-inspired dishes that celebrate fresh fish, shellfish, and other mollusks that can be found directly in the Gulf of Mexico. As such, visitors are likely to come across eclectic menus that marry local recipes with overseas specialties for a delightful explosion of flavor on the taste buds. 

The international gems of restoration on the island have dedicated themselves to bringing out flavors from all types of cuisines. From traditional authentic Italian to Caribbean inspired dishes, Sanibel Island restaurants offer something for everyone.

1. Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen

Can there be anything more authentic and inviting than the taste of Italian cuisine? You’ll feel right at home when you walk into Matzaluna, the only restaurant on the island that bakes its pizzas in a wood-fired oven. Nowhere else will your pizza have that genuinely comforting homemade taste. Matzaluna restaurant celebrates traditional Italian cooking and invites its patrons to relax and enjoy a moment of togetherness in their casual and friendly atmosphere. A romantic dinner doesn’t need to be any more complicated than a fresh bowl of pasta or a crispy pizza. 

Despite its simplicity, however, the restaurant has a lot to offer: 

If anything, Matzaluna restaurant is proof that simple food is all a romantic meal needs. 

2. Il TesoroIl Tesoro

Travelers who love delicate, Italian-inspired cuisine have made Il Tesoro their number one destination on the island. The restaurant is often the first choice for romantic occasions such as an anniversary or even an engagement proposal. The casual but elegant style makes it the ideal place for visitors who want fine food without the hassle of formal clothes. Using only the best of organic ingredients and fresh seafood, Il Tesoro has a great selection of risotto, creamy pasta, and vegetable dishes that will transport you to the heart of Italy. It’s a popular place, though, so it’s best to book your table ahead

Also worth mentioning, the brunch menu has an amazing Nutella-stuffed croissant that is an absolute favorite among visitors and locals. After all, who says romantic meals need to wait until the evening? With Il Tesoro, you can start the day with a casual brunch that makes the moment together a little more magical. 

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Romantic Restaurants on Sanibel Island with American Fare

To the question, can simple local food and romantic setting work together, the answer on Sanibel island is a loud and resounding yes. Indeed, those American cuisine restaurants have designed menus that glorify the authentic flavors of the island without losing any of the magical touches of the place. There is a genuine feel-good atmosphere that hugs visitors in its tight embrace, and it’s hard not to feel welcome and at ease when you sit at your table. Unpretentious and delicious, that’s the promise made by these restaurants with an unmistakable American feel. Proud of their flavors and bold in their decisions, they might be just what you need to recharge your batteries and hold each other’s hand. 

If you listen to the staff and let the menu speak, you might even go on an inspiring journey. Built to celebrate ingredients from the sea and the land, each other of these restaurants tell a unique story. Be prepared to be both moved and entertained during your visit. 


At first sight, Normandie appears like a simple seaside café, but don’t be fooled by its decor. Indeed, its welcoming atmosphere instantly invites you in and makes you feel welcome. Behind an unassuming presence, Normandie is a restaurant that brings people together. The menu uses the best produce to create bright and creative meals day after day. 

If you are planning a visit, these are the things you don’t want to miss at Normandie: 

  1. Holiday specials, including Valentine’s Day, that will wow your partner.
  2. The mimosa cocktail on their breakfast menu is the perfect way to toast to your relationship. 
  3. The simple but delicious Sunset Menu served between 5 pm and 6 pm ticks all the right boxes and lets you enjoy the changing colors of a pre-sunset sky.
  4. Famous lobster bisque

Perhaps its romantic ambiance is helped by the location of the café. Normandie sits at the heart of West Wind Inn, a resort that targets romantic getaways and acts as a wedding venue. 

4.Mad Hatter Restaurant

The Mad Hatter Restaurant is a hidden gem that overlooks part of Blind Pass Beach. Many diners admit they found the place by chance, but they all return for a little more of its delicious eclectic menu and fantastic view. Here, you can bathe in the local island vibes while enjoying new American cuisine. What makes the place truly exceptional for a night out with your partner is the chance to watch the sunset as you eat! However, a word of warning, booking is a must if you want a table on busy evenings! 

When the weather allows, their outdoor dining area is the perfect peaceful spot to relax. You’ll never want to leave this delicious restaurant! Chef Kurt Jarvis has built a creative menu that follows the seasons, which means that you’re likely to eat something different each time you visit. It’s a good idea to check their Facebook page for announcements as they sometimes introduce a tasting menu for special occasions. You’ve got all the qualities of fine dining without the hassle of a sophisticated venue. In fact, what makes the experience even more memorable is its soothing and relaxed atmosphere. The Mad Hatter is a restaurant that makes you forget about everyday worries so that you can reconnect with that special someone. 

5.Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and GrilleDoc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille is a unique place on Sanibel Island. Nicknamed the ‘home of the island mojito’, Doc Ford’s story is a story of dreams and fiction. Indeed, this little paradise of Caribbean food is named after a fictional character, Doc Ford, created by local author Randy Wayne White. With over 20 novels depicting the marine biologist, Randy Wayne White was enchanted by the idea of creating with his business partners a rum bar that is inspired by the eclectic travels and interests of his character. After all, because Doc Ford loves spices and exotic tastes, the rum bar and grill was the most natural idea. The food is just as delicious as you’d imagine, and it has a distinctive Caribbean vibe to it. 

For visitors, it’s a place that reconnects them with nature and the joy of exploration. While it might not be the first venue that comes to mind for a romantic meal, you’ll soon fall in love with the warm welcome and the dreams that make Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille so special. Even though it’s further inland than some restaurants on this list, beautiful views of blue skies can be seen.

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Romantic Sanibel Island Restaurants with a View

Sanibel Islands is renowned for its breathtaking sunset scenery. If you’re planning to spend some time on the island, you need to book a table in a restaurant with an Instagram-worthy view of the sun, the beach, and the sea. Unlike the romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island we’ve mentioned above, these have made the scenery an integral part of the dining experience. 

If you are looking for a venue to propose to your long-term partner or to renew your vows, it makes no doubt that these restaurants will be on top of your list. Does it mean they are reserved for special occasions only? Of course not, they also are the perfect place to watch the sun sets on the horizon in relaxing surroundings. You will not get a better view anywhere on the island, so what’s stopping you from booking a table? 

6.Thistle Lodge Restaurant

Located inside the historic retreat Casa Ybel resort, the Thistle Lodge Restaurant is the child of a love story. Indeed, the retreat was built in the mid-1880s by Rev. George Barnes, who planned it as a quiet holiday cottage. Casa Ybel has welcomed famous guests since its opening, including Henry Ford and Thomas Edison! Additionally, its unique location has made Casa Ybel the first beach resort on the island and a top destination for a unique dining experience. 

The Thistle Lodge was built as a wedding gift by the Reverend for his daughter when she married one of the resort guests. Since then, it has become an award-winning restaurant with an unbeatable serene ambiance. 

The things you don’t want to miss at the Thistle Lodge: 

Needless to say, it’s a popular spot for engagement photos!  

7.Traditions on the Beach

Undeniably one of the best restaurants on the island, Traditions on the Beach was the first dining room opening on Sanibel Island in 1895. Award-winning Chef Aziz has concocted a delicious menu that marries contemporary dishes and island flair to perfection. You can enjoy fantastic tapas, prepared with local seafood and fresh ingredients, in a laid-back atmosphere by the beach. 

It is a favorite for wedding dinners, engagement meals, and romantic anniversary celebrations on the island. It’s easy to understand why: The love for high standards of cuisine and convivial island traditions makes it a unique restaurant. 

When you're finished with your meal here, you and your loved one can go shelling on Tarpon Bay beach. Many locals and visitors consider it one of the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island.


Coconuts is the bar and grille venue at Casa Ybel Resort. Most guests who book a table at the Thistle Lodge enjoy one of their famous frozen cocktails at Coconuts before their meal. You can find a scrumptious selection of appetizers and snacks to accompany your cocktails, but the strong selling point of Coconuts is its setting. 

The beachfront bar that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and maintains a temperature-controlled pool is precisely what holiday bars should be about. You will find fresh smoothies if you prefer an alcohol-free drink, but residents strongly recommend giving their classic Sanibel Iced tea cocktail with vodka and peach puree a go. You are bound to love it; it’s said to make the sunset look a little brighter! 

Book a Romantic Sanibel Island Vacation with Royal Shell

With so much choice, it’s impossible not to make Sanibel island your next holiday destination. The many romantic restaurants on Sanibel Island are a must-see for visitors who want to recharge their batteries, away from the buzz of the city. From bold American fare meals to authentic Italian cuisine with a seafood twist, it’s a paradise for the taste buds! 

We, at Royal Shell, offer a wide choice of vacation rentals on Sanibel Island that are the perfect piece to a romantic getaway. Surprise your partner with a charming cottage rental on Sanibel Island. If you're looking for an even more unforgettable romantic getaway, take a look at our Sanibel Island villa rentals. No matter what type of property you choose, you'll be more than satisfied with the world-class experience that only Royal Shell can offer.

Check availability for our properties now or contact one of our vacation rental specialists.

Every year, thousands of travelers visit Southwest Florida in search of the best shelling beaches on Sanibel Island. The unique geography and location of the island make it a hotspot for shelling. If it’s your first time visiting Sanibel Island to go shelling, it’s worth considering which beaches you should go to.

The 7 best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island are:

Each beach offers its own unique take on shelling and is worth a visit.

Our guide below gives you an in-depth look at what you can expect at each of Sanibel Island’s popular shelling beaches. 

Why Are There So Many Shelling Beaches on Sanibel Island?

The history of shelling on Sanibel Island is wide and vast. One of the reasons that it is so popular is that there are more than 400 species of shells in this location. For this reason alone, it attracts people from all over the world. In the 1980s measures were put in place to protect this beautiful biological asset. But there are still countless shelling areas that you can explore for yourself. 

1. Bowman’s Beach 

You might be looking for a quiet spot when you are seeking out the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island. If so, then Bowman's beach could be one of the best options on our list. Yes, Bowman’s beach provides a quiet stretch of sand that will be perfect for those seeking a relaxing vacation. What makes Bowman’s Beach such a peaceful place?

Well, one reason is that you will struggle to see a single hotel for miles around. This means that the number of tourists combined with the beach is going to be limited. However, those who live close by do love exploring the beach and picking up shells as a wonderful little past time. If you visit in the evening, you are also going to discover quite a few people, sitting on the sand, enjoying the sunset. 

The beach is located on the Northwest side of the island, with wonderful waters that are also quite popular for fishing for those that travel there. Bowman’s Beach is also a popular spot for power walking and you’ll find a lot of fitness enthusiasts on the sand too at certain points throughout the day. Do be aware that while this is a fun activity, we wouldn’t recommend it while shelling. If you are walking too quickly along these sands then you are definitely going to miss more than a few beautiful shells that you will definitely want to add to your collection. Pay particular attention to smaller shells that shimmer in the sun. 

2. Lighthouse Beach ParkLighthouse Beach Park

When you are exploring the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island, it’s highly recommended that you don’t forget about Lighthouse Beach Park. It’s important to note that this is one of the most popular beaches on the island. You are going to see a lot of “stoopers” combing the sands here and you might just be too slow to pick up a particularly rare and beautiful shell. The beach can be found on the eastern section of the island at the particularly narrow tip. It’s worth noting that the shore meanders around San Carlos Bay up to the Gulf of Mexico. 

It’s a great spot if you are looking for some smaller shells that you will no doubt find scattered around this area. One point that is particularly interesting is that the lighthouse in the name is actually a working place. There is also a beautiful fishing pier and a wonderful nature trail too. This is going to take you on a winding path through the wetlands where you are guaranteed to see some beautiful scenery. There are plenty of other reasons to visit this beach as well. 

The sands themselves are glorious and almost as white as salt. The beach can seem to stretch for miles before it disappears over the horizon. As such, if you’re looking for a serene spot for shelling on Sanibel Island, the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach and park is a great spot. 

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3. Blind Pass Beach

If you are searching for the best place to find some larger shells, then it sounds like Blind Pass Beach could be the perfect place for you to start. It’s highly popular with those who consider themselves to be serious shells and another popular name put forward for the title when considering the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island. The beach here has a gentle slope into the water. As such, if you have a net, you can travel into the shallow depths. In doing so, you might just be able to scoop shells off the seafloor. This is a fun experience and one that may just provide you with some more rare shells. Just make sure that you put back any live shellfish that you accidentally catch. That is always going to be a possibility when you choose to try shelling in the water instead of on the beach. This beach can be found on the Northwest edge of Sanibel. There is a bridge that crosses over to Captiva Island as well. As such, it could be a great spot for a day trip. 

Blind Pass Beach, while popular with experienced shellers remains quiet, even though the busier seasons. As such, if you are keen to shell in peace, then this could be the perfect spot for you. It’s also a rather beautiful location. There are clear waters here where you will be able to see the fish swimming around your feet. Do make sure that you check for any beach fishers before disturbing the water. 

4. Turner Beach

Many people will often compare Turner Beach to Lighthouse Beach when exploring shelling on Sanibel Island. Both are argued to provide the absolute best shelling experience. However, there are key differences to be aware of here. Lighthouse Beach is going to be perfect if you’re looking for a vast variety of shells. Be aware though that this is an incredibly popular location and as such is always going to be quite busy. 

Turner Beach is different because it’s a little more secluded, out of reach, on the Northern tip of the island. As well as being a popular place for shelling, many people love this location for fishing too. As such, you can get a wider variety of different activities. 

Turner Beach is also a beautiful spot for shelling because of its rather unique rock jetty. The structure starts on the beach and reaches out into the ocean. A key benefit is that it prevents the beach from corroding and at the same time can provide a great point for taking photographs. Visitors are also often thrilled with how many shells often end up in this location, piling up. As such, you’ll find it easy and accessible if you are looking for a place where you can reach down and grab some shells.

5. Silver Key Beach

If you are looking for a spot that is a little more cut off from the rest of the island then we encourage you to explore Silver Key. When searching for the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island, Silver Key beach is often considered to be a best kept secret. It’s not hard to understand why either. 

The beach is hidden in by growths of green that sprout up along the edge of this narrow beach. It’s actually on a few meters across when the tide is in and there are spots where you will need to wade through the water to access small islands of sand. Don’t let that put you off though because the waters are shallow. This makes is another spot where you can have fun with a net as long as you ensure that you put any live shells back into the water. 

You won’t find many other people on this beach either. For many, this makes it a shelling paradise. It doesn’t quite have the beauty of other options on this list. But if you’re searching for a feeling of near-complete isolation and serenity, you’ll find this beach is difficult to match. Due to the secluded nature of the location, it’s also a great spot if you’re keen to see the Sanibel Island wildlife. The water is also clear enough to spot fish swimming in the shallows, assuming there aren’t any fishermen wandering the shores. The beach stretches around the coast with lots of little alcoves where you might find a particularly unique shell. 

Before you hit the beaches on Sanibel Island for your shelling adventure, take a look at our shelling tips.

6. Gulfside City ParkGulfside City Park

Another popular choice is Gulfside City Park Beach. While this is a great spot for shelling, one of the biggest benefits of this beach is that it has a family atmosphere. You’ll find that there are picnic tables and BBQ grills, so if you are keen to take your kids on a shelling excursion then this might be the spot for you.  

You’ll find it located mid-island on Algiers Land. There’s free parking here too and there are also restrooms, making it a great place to spend the day. It is a truly beautiful beach with a wide stretch of gorgeous white sand and great surf. It can be quite popular but you should still be able to find a spot where you shell in peace. You can walk about a mile in either direction when you are looking for shells. 

If you are particularly lucky, you might find a sand dollar or here too. There are quite rare, but they have been known to crop up on occasion. There is a bicycle path to explore here as well. If you follow this long enough, then you will come to an old, hidden cemetery. It’s quite a unique place to explore and just one of the reasons why we recommend Gulfside City Park Beach. 

There are wooden boardwalks along the beach as well. The benefit of this is that it ensures the beach is easily accessible for everyone. If you don’t want to follow the sand the whole time while you are walking, then there’s no need. You can dart on and off the boardwalks whenever you spot a particular shell you can’t miss. 

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7. Tarpon Bay Beach

This is an interesting beach to consider because it is located mid-island. As you might have noticed, it is named after a type of fish and you can certainly try your luck fishing for this species here between shelling. You just need to make sure that you do have the right license for this particular activity. 

This is different from the other beaches on the list because it has high sands. As such, you are guaranteed to find a wide variety of shells that you may not be able to discover anywhere else on the island. There are plenty of hotels and condos around this location. So, if you’re looking for a beach with places to stay close by then this could be the ideal spot for you. The buildings are low-rise, which means that they are not going to ruin your view and you don’t have to worry that the beach is going to be bathed in shadow when you are there. 

Are you taking your dog with you shelling? Another great benefit of this beach is that it is dog-friendly. You just need to make sure that you keep your furry friend on a leash. However, there is nothing stopping him from digging up the shells too, as long as he is well trained. 

If you are looking for the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island, then Tarpon beach could certainly be the right choice. Particularly if you want a short walk from a luxurious location. 

Discover the Best Beaches for Shelling on Sanibel Island

As you can see, there are numerous fantastic choices when you are searching for the best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island. Indeed, we would argue there is a great choice, regardless of the types of shells you are searching for or the type of experience you are seeking. 

There are beaches that are going to provide you with a quiet spot where you can find some incredible shells. Alternatively, there are also locations that are a little more popular with tourists and offer some unique experiences. When you take a break from shelling, some locations provide options for fishing, swimming, and even snorkeling. It all depends on the type of trip that you are searching for. 

Planning a Trip to Sanibel Island?

Of course, one of your top considerations should always be where you are going to stay. Sanibel Island is the perfect spot for the ideal shelling vacation or trip. At Royal Shell Vacation Rentals, we’re happy to help you find the perfect rental that matches your needs. Many of our rentals are close by and even within walking distance to some of the most beautiful and best beaches for shelling on Sanibel Island. 

When you’re ready to book your trip, take a look at our Sanibel Island vacation rentals that are available. Properties book quickly and you don’t want to miss your opportunity for your dream Sanibel Island vacation. Check our availability now or speak to one of our vacation rental specialists.

Nestled on the stunning southwest coast of Florida, Port Sanibel Marina is a great place to dock your boat and explore the surrounding areas. With an exceptional array of amenities, spectacular storage facilities, and an unrivaled climate, the Marina is the perfect place to enjoy the Sunshine State. From relaxing water cruises to high-octane adventures, Port Sanibel Marina is the ideal location for your next excursion.

Situated within the Greater Fort Myers area of Lee County, Port Sanibel Marina is just a short drive from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). Within 20 minutes of touching down on the runway, you can be relaxing on the water’s edge or touring the coast on your very own charter cruise. At the Marina, you’ll find a wide range of amenities and attractions. This includes charter cruises, boat rentals, nature trails, a waterfront restaurant, and more.

Our guide below gives an in-depth look at everything you’ll find at the Port Sanibel Marina.

Port Sanibel Marina Gateway to Southwest Florida

With warm winters and super hot summers, there’s never a bad time to visit the southwest shores of Florida. If white, sandy beaches, glistening waters, and luxury boat tours sound like your perfect trip, then Port Sanibel Marina will certainly exceed your expectations.

Close to the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), Port Sanibel Marina is in a prime location. If you want to spend your time on the water, there’s no better place to be. Whether you own your own vessel, or you plan to hire a boat to explore the area, you’ll find all the amenities you need close by.

Boat Tours from Port Sanibel MarinaBoat Tours From Port Sanibel Marina

A boat cruise or tour is the ideal way to take in the ocean air and marvel at your unique surroundings. With numerous options available, you can opt for a shorter tour or plan a full day excursion. What’s more, there are plenty of charter tours available, so why not be the captain of your own destiny and plan a complete boat cruise for you and your travel partner?

As well as enjoying the scenery, a boat tour gives you the opportunity to pack some southwestern activities into your itinerary. The waters surrounding Sanibel are perfect for saltwater fishing, so be sure to bring your fishing gear or rent it from the marina. Catch trout, tarpon, mackerel, snook, redfish, and even shark before shelling on Cayo Costa or dolphin watching in the bay.

From sightseeing tours and evening excursions to wildlife boat tours, fishing charters and sea life encounters, there’s a boat tour for everyone at Port Sanibel Marina. Charter captains make it easy to plan your own excursion, so why not take advantage of the boat rentals available? Whether you opt for an eco tour, a wildlife adventure or a spectacular sightseeing cruise, a voyage around Sanibel Island will ensure you have a trip you’ll never forget.

If you’d rather set your own course, there are 6 boat models available for rent from the marina. Reservations must be made ahead of time and can be rented for a half day, full day, or an entire week. Boat rentals can even be delivered to you for a fee if you’re staying on Sanibel or Captiva Island.

Docking at Port Sanibel Marina

For boat owners, top quality docking facilities are essential for any excursion and you’ll find them right here at Port Sanibel Marina. Wet slips are available for short-term and long-term docking, so you can customize your trip as much as you choose. Although, with the opportunity to dock your boat for weeks or months at a time, you’ll be tempted to stay forever!

Port Sanibel Marina has over 100 stationary docks, as well as additional boat storage facilities. All stationary docks have tie-off pilings and finger piers, so you’ll find it easy to moor your vessel. Of course, you can always contact staff members at the marina if you require any assistance. As well as standard channels of communication, VHF Channel 16 is consistently monitored by staff from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day.

Dry Boat Storage in Port Sanibel Marina

In addition to docking facilities, Port Sanibel Marina is home to three dedicated dry storage buildings. With room to house over 120 boats, dry boat storage is easily accessible. Furthermore, the exceptional supporting facilities make docking or storing your boat easy and effortless.

At Port Sanibel Marina, you’ll find:

As well as ensuring you can store or dock your boat with ease, our state-of-the-art equipment, and dry storage facilities enable you to keep your vessel in superb condition. Protecting every aspect of your boat, the unparalleled storage and service on offer makes Port Sanibel Marina your first choice for boat storage and docks in Southwest Florida.

With docks and storage for boats up to 34 feet, Port Sanibel Marina is exceptionally well-equipped. Whether you’re looking for a secure boat storage facility or a temporary haven to enjoy, Port Sanibel Marina combines effortless docking with outstanding on-site amenities.

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Nature Trail at Port Sanibel Marina

When you’re visiting Southwest Florida, you’ll want to explore the wide range of onshore attractions, as well as those on the water. Rich in wildlife, Sanibel Island is the ideal destination to wander through picturesque mangroves and stroll down winding lines.

The Port Sanibel Marina Nature Trail is a must-see attraction for everyone who visits the island. A mile long, the forest provides a natural canopy for this awe-inspiring walk. Giving you the perfect opportunity to enjoy the shade and explore Old Florida, the Port Sanibel Marina Nature Trail offers glimpses of rare birds, fish, plants, and wildlife.

Although manmade, the Nature Trail complements its surroundings and allows you to experience nature at its finest. Taking around 30-45 minutes to complete, you can incorporate a stroll through this exquisite outdoor attraction into a day of adventure.

If you’re eager to see more Sanibel Island wildlife, take a trip to J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge. A haven for birdwatchers, the refuge spans 7,600 acres and is home to 32 species of mammal and over 51 types of amphibians and reptiles. Keep your camera ready for glimpses of alligators, otters, and bobcats near the water and look to the sky to see over 200 species of birds.

Of course, boat cruises and tours are always a great way to experience local wildlife in their natural habitat. The warm waters surrounding Port Sanibel Marina attract manatees to the area, so you could be in for a special treat if you catch a glimpse of these stunning creatures. Springtime means loggerhead turtles on the beaches of Sanibel, while iguanas and alligators can be seen throughout the year in the wetlands, lakes, and rivers.

Birdwatching on Sanibel Island

Birdwatchers flock to Sanibel Island to spot rare species and watch them soar around the sky in their natural habitats. You’ll see an array of wading birds, waterfowl and shorebirds near the island, particularly when low tide occurs fairly early in the morning. These conditions make it easy for wading birds and shorebirds to catch fish, so you’ll see the most variety when you time your birdwatching activity according to the tide. With well over 200 species spotted around Sanibel Island, you can see a fantastic variety from almost any location, including:

Even nesting pairs of bald eagles have been spotted on Sanibel Island, so be sure to keep your camera at the ready when you’re on the lookout for local wildlife! Needless to say, the birds of Sanibel Island are a must-see when you're visiting the island. 

Port Sanibel Marina Rental Gear & MorePort Sanibel Marina Rental Gear & More

The exceptional amenities at Port Sanibel Marina make it easy to access everything you need. No matter what type of excursions or activities you want to take part in, you’ll find a range of rental options available. From fishing equipment to renting a charter boat, there is no end to the range of rental gear available.

Boat rentals are extremely popular on Sanibel and the Marina makes it easy to select the perfect vessel. You can rent a boat in Port Sanibel Marina for half a day, a full day or an entire week, although custom packages are also available. Offering the largest fully Coast Guard equipped fleet in the entire area, you’ll find vessels of all sizes available for rental. You can even arrange to have your rental boat delivered straight to your unit upon arrival.

When you rent a boat at Port Sanibel Marina, you’ll have plenty of space to enjoy cruising on the water. Rental boundaries extend to the Intracoastal Waterway, right up to the North tip of Cayo Costa and up to the Fort Myers Yacht Basin on the Caloosahatchee River, as well as up to Lovers Key on the Back Bay on the Estero River.

Watersports on Sanibel Island

As well as boat rentals, there’s plenty of additional rental gear available at Port Sanibel Marina. Why not try paddleboarding on Larry’s Lagoon or take an eco tour around the shores of Sanibel? With guided paddleboarding tours and paddleboarding lessons available, you can rent the equipment you need, join an excursion with fun in the sun rentals or explore on your own with just your paddle to guide you!

In addition to this, Port Sanibel Marina offers fantastic canoe and kayak rentals. As one of the most popular water sports in the area, it’s the ultimate way to explore the waters. Rent a single canoe and set off on a solo adventure or buddy up in a double kayak for extra fun. With the option to rent canoes and kayaks by the hour or for a full day, you’ll have endless fun with a view from the water’s surface.

Arrival at Port Sanibel Marina

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning for another day of fun, arriving at Port Sanibel Marina is always exciting. No matter how you get here, the warm weather, extensive amenities and helpful staff make every trip fun..

As well as superb water-related amenities, the onshore facilities are just as impressive. From paved parking areas and laundry facilities to trailer storage and Wi-Fi, you’ll find everything you need for the perfect excursion.

When you first arrive at Port Sanibel Marina, you can relax in lush, park-like surroundings and watch the sun set slowly over the water. Perhaps you can’t wait to set sail? If so, you can use the wide range of amenities to launch your boat into the water. Alternatively, you’ll find it easy to arrange the boat rentals when you’re at Port Sanibel Marina.

If you’re feeling peckish, head to the Lighthouse waterfront restaurant for a sumptuous meal and wind down with access to a full liquor bar. Alternatively, why not stretch your legs with a walk through the immersive Nature Boardwalk? No matter how you choose to spend your first few hours in this stunning location, you’ll revel in the unparalleled atmosphere of the Port Sanibel Marina.  

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Ship Store at Port Sanibel Marina

When you’re in need of the essentials, or even a few luxuries, the Ship Store at Port Sanibel Marina is your first port of call. Here, you’ll find everything you need to make the most of your time in Southwest Florida. For last-minute provisions, essential extras or anything you forgot to bring, Ship Store will save the day.

Amongst a variety of other products at the Ship Store, you’ll find:

The Ship Store is also the perfect place to stock up on snacks and beverages before you head out for a day of fun. If you’re planning an excursion, setting off on a boat tour or exploring the area on foot, be sure to get your supplies ready with a trip to the Ship Store.

For even more shopping opportunities, check out Port Sanibel Marina’s Coast Outfitters store. With a fantastic range of apparel and outerwear, you can grab some necessities or treat yourself to a whole new wardrobe. In addition, you’ll find exclusive fishing gear and equipment, as well as sports and activity wear. Coastal Outfitters features some of the finest brands, including:

When you’ve furnished your wardrobe with Florida-inspired styles, it’s time to explore the homewares, artwork and unique gifts that are also available at our Coastal Outfitters store. You can treat yourself to something special and take a piece of Sanibel Island home with you when you pick up a spectacular souvenir at any of our well-stocked stores.

Port Sanibel Marina Amenities

As well as being perfectly situated on the Southwest Florida coast, Port Sanibel Marina is well served by a variety of top-class amenities. In fact, you’ll find everything you need to make your trip complete.

The Lighthouse waterfront restaurant is a wonderful place to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner. The outdoor porch is the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset, while its dockside location gives you a prime view of Florida wildlife in its natural habitat. What’s more, The Lighthouse offers the best live entertainment in the area and Happy Hour runs from 4-7 pm, so you can relax and unwind in style.

Expert landscaping ensures the Port Sanibel Marina retains its stunning vista throughout the year, while high-end marble bathrooms, laundry facilities and access to Wi-Fi add a touch of luxury to your essential amenities.

For boat owners, the extensive dock and storage facilities make securing your vessel easy and straightforward. In addition, you’ll benefit from trailer storage, launching facility, Wiggins forklift, pump-out station, and 30/50 amp electrical storage.

While the outstanding amenities at Port Sanibel Marina ensure an effortless day of fun, you can look forward to superb service and support from staff too. With the option to have a rental boat delivered right to your unit, you can jump on to your vessel as soon as you arrive and start enjoying your time on the water without wasting a moment.

Plan Your Trip to Sanibel Island

With so much on offer, it’s not surprising Port Sanibel Marina is popular with tourists and locals alike. Whether you’re planning a weekend break or a long trip, it’s easy to plan the perfect excursion to Sanibel Island. In fact, the trickiest aspect of organizing your trip here is deciding what to do first!

Royal Shell vacation rentals offer unrivaled views, phenomenal facilities, and unrivaled luxury. Our rental experts live and work on the island and can find the perfect Sanibel Island vacation rental for you. From phenomenal amenities to meticulously maintained properties, you'll want to come back again and again. Whether you're looking for a vacation condo rental on Sanibel Island or a luxurious villa, we'll have the ideal property for you.

If you’re planning a romantic break for two, a lively trip with friends or a family-friendly excursion with your pets in tow, we’ve got everything you need. Check our availability today and book your dream vacation to Sanibel Island!

Every year, visitors from all around the world travel to Captiva Island for a well-earned break in the sun. This unique spot in Southwest Florida has it all, from historical towns to sun-kissed beaches. Many people who visit Captiva Island are repeat visitors that fell in love on their first visit and can’t resist the urge to keep coming back. One of the things that continues to draw them back each year is the selection of can’t miss restaurants and food options.

Are you planning a vacation in Captiva Island but can’t decide where to go for quality food? If so, then we're here to help. Here, we’re going to run through all the Captiva Island Restaurants you can’t afford to miss during your stay. By then end of this guide, you’ll be in a much better position to figure out where you should eat, whether you’re traveling solo, with your partner, or with the entire family. Read on to find out more!

The Mucky Duck

The Mucky Duck is an old world-style pub that serves lunch and dinner in the heart of Old Captiva, specializing, as you might expect, in seafood. Here you can get a range of lunch and dinner entrees, including the famous Captiva sandwich, fried and steamed shrimp, English fish and chips, and oysters. 

The story behind the Mucky Duck is long and varied. The pub’s original name was the Gulf View Inn and served as a tea house from around the mid-twentieth century. Coastal erosion, however, forced the business to close, and the new owners converted it into a beach house. 

In 1975, the beach house was back on the market. Two new owners decided that they would purchase it, hoping that they might be able to rent it out to vacationers. Instead, they discovered that the building had a dormant license to sell liquor, which they could reactivate for just $100. 

The pair then had the vision to reopen the pub as a beautiful sea-view establishment, allowing patrons to enjoy stunning sunset vistas over the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, the Mucky Duck was born. 

The restaurant is now under new management and always serves high-quality seafood. It is still run by the same Swiss restaurateur, Andreas Bieri, who first began serving food at the venue in 1980. 

So what food does this interesting establishment offer? 

The lunch menu is pretty standard seafood fare, as you might expect. Here you can get oysters, salads and a variety of themed entrees, such as grilled salmon, all at very reasonable prices. 

At dinner, the venue really comes alive. Chefs prepare local grouper, Caribbean-inspired coconut shrimp, and filet mignon, if you’re in the mood. All entrees come with a choice of rice, sauteed garlic potatoes, mashed potatoes or French fries. The Mucky Duck is also a kid-friendly venue, offering a range of low-price entrees for children under the age of 12, including shrimp, fish and chips and hot dogs with fries. 

The Bubble RoomThe Bubble Room

The Bubble Room likes to present itself as “Captiva’s finest restaurant”. The restaurant began operating at its present site on Captiva Island in 1979. Since then, it has garnered quite a reputation, now attracting high-caliber guests from all over the world to experience its unique environment. 

The Bubble Room is one of Captiva’s most eccentric restaurants. The owners began creating themes for its dining rooms from day one, using old toys from the 1930s and 1940s. Since then, it has become increasingly enigmatic, offering a one-of-a-kind dining experience you won’t find anywhere else. 

During the first few years of the Bubble Room’s operation, management played whatever old recordings they had available on tapes. Later, the establishment built the collection for its 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s soundtrack. 

Today, the Bubble Room stands proud on Captiva Drive. As you approach the restaurant, you can tell that it is something very special. The colors immediately pop out when you walk in, with fluorescent purples, turquoise, yellows and greens all jumping out at you. 

Once you step inside, you enter a fabulously different world, with bright neon lights snaking under the ceiling fans. Practically every wall and ceiling surface is home to a painting or picture of some description, providing a visual feast for your eyes. Eager bartenders stand behind the bar, ready to not only serve, but entertain guests as well. 

Of course, the main attraction of the Bubble Room is the food. Here are some of the items you’ll find on the menu:

The restaurant also offers a selection of delicious desserts for patrons to sample, including red velvet cake, orange crunch cake, and moist chocolate cake. If you’re on Captiva Island, be sure to check this one out. 

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Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill is all about embracing the casual lifestyle you find on Captiva Island. The restaurant's newest location opened in 2013 and offers live music, outdoor seating, and, of course, Doc Ford’s famous grilled food

So, what’s on the menu? 

The majority of the food you’ll find here is Caribbean-inspired. The restaurant serves crab cakes, mussels, tuna appetizers, calamari, and shrimp. Many menu items come with a customary flatbread, something you can use to scoop up all that delicious sauce and authentic local flavors. 

You can also get Doc’s Beach Bread - baked French bread topped with diced tomatoes, Monterey cheese, and cheddar. It’s a favorite at Doc Ford’s and something you won’t want to pass up.

Doc Ford’s Bar is the brainchild of avid fisherman and guide Randy White. He loved the old Doc Ford restaurant on Rabbit Road and often sold the fish to the head chef after taking people on angling tours of the island. He liked the idea of running a fish restaurant and later decided to do just that, basing the name on the original tropical adventurer of the same name. His vision was to create a sports bar that served excellent food - and that’s precisely what he has done here. 

Cantina CaptivaCantina Captiva

Cantina Captiva on Captiva Drive offers a mixture of spicy dishes, inspired by both Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. The restaurant’s biggest draw is its homemade guacamole, prepared daily from fresh avocados by its team of dedicated chefs. Locals love coming here for the “green stuff” paired with tortilla chips, pico de gallo, and jalapenos. 

If you’re looking for something a little more filling, you have two options. You can either choose menu items that celebrate traditional Mexican food, such as burritos, fajitas, enchiladas, and tacos. Or you can go for something more experimental. 

The experimental dishes attempt to combine Mexican and Southwestern flavors with the local seafood found in and around Captiva Island. Tequila-lime shrimp, for instance, is an excellent example of the type of dish that this little restaurant likes to serve. 

Upon arrival, expect a party atmosphere. While the establishment's primary focus is on quality food, there’s no denying that this is a restaurant that jumps out at you - everything from the brightly-painted doors to the dollar-decorated ceiling. If you’re interested in having an adult beverage or two while you dine here, you won’t be disappointed. The restaurant serves a variety of domestic and imported beers and makes a fabulous margarita if you’re in the mood. 

If seafood isn’t your thing, don’t worry: you can still get all the tastes of Mexico. Go for the Angus Steak marinated in Mexican spices and lime juice, or choose the Chichen Chile poblano - two chicken breasts in spicy poblano sauce. 

Mainstay and Barnacles Bar

If you’re looking for somewhere basic to grab a quick bite, the Mainstay and Barnacles Bar towards the north of Captiva Island should be at the top of your shortlist. 

The appeal of this restaurant and bar is its isolation and tranquility. Tucked away in the north of the island, Mainstay and Barnacles Bar gives you the chance to enjoy a fresh breeze rolling in from Florida’s west coast while sipping on your favorite beer and eating delicious seafood. 

Recently, the owners gave the establishment a makeover, changing both the food and the decor. The menu additions are welcome and make the Mainstay and Barnacles Bar well worth a visit if you happen to be in the area. And the new tiki hut surrounded by the sea offers a fun dining environment that helps you relax, unwind and enjoy your break. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of the impressive local wildlife, which includes dolphins, pelicans, and manatees. 

Next to the bar is a gift shop where you’ll find all types of sea-themed souvenirs to remind you of your travels. 

Keylime Bistro

Keylime Bistro, like Cantina Captiva, is another eaterie associated with Captiva Island Inn. This award-winning venue, situated in the heart of historic Captiva Island Village, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering a selection of food that even the fussiest of eaters will love. 

Keylime Bistro’s motto is “fun, food and spirits,” which pretty much sums up the atmosphere of the entire venue. It’s a place you can go at any time of the day while on the island to enjoy the sunny weather, friendly waitstaff, and delicious liquor. 

Like many restaurants on Captiva Island, Keylime Bistro focuses its menu around seafood. For breakfast, you can grab crab cake benedict. At lunch, there’s a grouper sandwich and seafood antipasto. And for dinner, chefs prepare a variety of fresh fish dishes. You can also get a range of Key lime-themed meals, including Key lime pasta, steak fillets, and its award-winning pie. 

Keylime Bistro has a party atmosphere, so it might not be the top choice for a quiet meal. The venue plays host to music daily and offers a full-service bar. What’s more, thanks to its location in the heart of Old Captiva, it is right in the middle of all the action, providing quick access to beautiful shops, art galleries, and general stores for collecting beach supplies. It also offers excellent sunset views - ideal for dinners on long, hot summer evenings. 

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Crow’s Nest Bar & GrilleCrow's Nest Bar & Grille

Crow’s Nest Bar and Grille at the ‘Tween Water Island Resort and Space is a venue that combines both food and entertainment for an all-around incredible eating experience. Practically every evening, there is some sort of show to enjoy, with very few days off. On the weekends, you’ll find live entertainment to accompany your delicious food. During the week, you can enjoy a spot of bingo and trivial pursuit. 

Perhaps the most unusual of all the entertainment is the crab races, where spectators put money on their crab being the first to find its way to the food at the center of the table. As you might guess, the venue’s goal is to make every night special so that you’ll keep coming back for more.

The nautical theme of the establishment carries over to the food. On the menu, you’ll find a range of salads, tacos, sandwiches, and entrees, all of which rely heavily on freshly-caught seafood from the surrounding area and beyond. Some of the most notable menu items include:

What's more, Crow’s Nest Bar and Grille does an excellent job of providing for those with dietary requirements. For people with gluten sensitivity, all menu items are labeled GF for gluten-free. There is also a range of vegan items on the menu, including pasta and the “Impossible” burger. 

As for drinks, Crow's Nest Bar and Grill excels there too. If you fancy something a little different, try their peanut butter cup or raspberry lemon martinis. You can also pick up gift cards for the venue and, occasionally, watch the big game while enjoying food and drink.

Over The Waterfront

Over the Waterfront located, as you might expect, right on the harbor, is one of the highest-rated restaurants on North Captiva Island, serving a range of traditional and modern dishes designed to inspire. The setting is unique. To get to it, you must first walk along a jetty that stretches around 100 feet into the water before arriving at the main cabin. The restaurant building sits on stilts and provides a true “over the water” experience for diners. 

For nature lovers, this aspect of the dining experience is excellent news. Here you can enjoy delicious food while having a good chance of catching a glimpse of dolphins jumping through the water in the bay. Most of the seating is close to the windows, providing excellent views of the action outside. There’s also a sun deck giving uninterrupted views of the harbor. 

If you plan on visiting Over the Waterfront, we’d recommend booking in advance. The limited number of seats means that it gets full quickly, even at lunchtime. The venue closes for a couple of hours between lunch and dinner service, so you can’t pop in for a late lunch, unfortunately. 

Latte Da Coffee Shop & Deli

Latte Da Coffee Shop and Deli offers a range of coffees as well as ice cream and a selection of gifts to serve as souvenirs of your visit. As with many places to eat mentioned thus far, it is associated with Captiva Island Inn, one of the largest tour operators in the area. 

Latte Da Coffee and Ice Cream Shop has a fun appearance. As you approach, you’ll see a multi-colored painted picket fence adorned with images of popsicles, ice cream cones, and candies. Inside, you’re greeted by a warm and busy environment - the sort of place you want to spend a little time enjoying a cup of Joe while admiring the beautiful scenery outside. For those who like to sit in the fresh air, there is a small covered porch area. 

While Latte Da Coffee and Ice Cream doesn’t offer a full dinner menu, it does provide customers with excellent customer service. The staff is always warm and friendly, which is part of the reason why people who know the area well like coming here again and again. With its turquoise and violet color theme, this place immediately gets you into the Florida spirit. 

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Harbourside Bar and Grill

The Harbourside Bar and Grill on Captiva Island is a part of the South Seas Island Resort, popular thanks to its location right on the marina. If you dine outside, you can enjoy a glass of wine and a delicious meal while watching yachts and ferries make their way in and out of port. At sunset, it is a magical setting. 

The venue is famous for its focus on quality local ingredients and offers a range of delicacies, including Cajun snapper and Florida Gulf grouper. Furthermore, because of its prime location, it is trendy around Valentine’s day among couples looking for a romantic dining experience. Valentine’s Day menu specials include lobster bisque, bone-in N.Y. strip, and triple chocolate mousse. 

Perhaps the most exciting feature of the restaurant is its “you hook it, we cook it” program. Here you can give your freshly-caught fish to the venue’s chefs to prepare however you like. How many restaurants have you been to that offer this?!

Harbourside Bar and Grill serves both breakfast and dinner. Popular breakfast items include:

At dinner time, the establishment likes to take things up a notch. Here you can enjoy the following delicious menu items, including: 

So, in summary, the Harbourside Bar and Grill is one of the most upscale venues on Captiva Island. People tend to come here on special occasions, such as dates, birthdays, or anniversaries. Don't forget to check out more Sanibel and Captiva Island beaches during your visit.

Old Captiva House

Captiva House, located on Captiva Drive, has a long and varied history. It started life as a one-room school for the first settlers in the area, complete with beautiful whitewash French-style doors and hardwood floors. As the years went by, it developed alongside the ‘Tween Waters Inn to become a fully-fledged restaurant, serving both breakfast and dinner. The venue keeps almost all of its original charm, making it the perfect place to go if you want a little taste of history.

Old Captiva house provides a beautiful atmosphere for eating breakfast before 11 am. Beverages include hot tea, coffee, espresso, double espresso, cappuccinos, and a range of freshly-squeezed fruit juices. For food, you have a lot of choices. One of the most interesting items on the menu is the artichoke chorizo benedict, which features two poached eggs sitting on top of an artichoke base. You might also want to try the biscuits and gravy - two eggs served on homemade biscuits with southern-style sausage gravy. 

For dinner, Old Captiva House serves a variety of seafood dishes. Top on your list of menu items to try should be the blue crab bisque starter with roasted red peppers and creme fraiche, and the blackened snapper main, which comes with the chef’s one-of-a-kind watermelon and cucumber salad. Other notable items include the filet entree with garlic parmesan mashed potatoes and steamed fish of the day with asparagus and celery root puree. 

Chef Greg oversees all food prep at the venue and ensures that it is among Captiva’s premier fine dining experience. So, if you’re looking for unique dishes that will make your tastebuds sing, this is the place to go. 

The Green Flash

The Green Flash is another restaurant in Captiva owned and run by Swiss restaurateur, Andreas Bieri. The venue first began serving food in the early 1990s, but the history of the site goes back much further than that to the 1950s when local T.M. Wiles opened a watering hole called the Nook. Since then, various establishments have occupied the site, providing authentic island-style service to locals and holidaymakers. 

The name “Green Flash” comes from the way the sunlight spreads out in the atmosphere at sunrise and sunset. When conditions are right over the Florida Gulf, water vapor from the ocean rises into the atmosphere, blocking out the blue-violet and red-orange wavelengths in the spectrum. The result is the occasional green flash as the sun lowers or rises above the horizon. 

For lunch, the Green Flash focuses on offering affordable soups and salads. Popular items on the menu include:

For dinner, the menu offers an enormous selection. If you go, consider trying these dishes: 

While the venue is ideal for small gatherings, it also plays host to large events and banquets. You can rent tables upstairs for more than a dozen guests and get restaurant staff to serve a selection of food, either their recommendation or a menu of your choosing.

The Green Flash is certainly one of the best places to watch the sunset on Captiva Island. If you love beautiful sunsets, check out our article Best Places to Watch the Sunset on Sanibel Island

RC Otter’s

Right in the heart of bustling Captiva, you’ll find RC Otter’s - a family-friendly restaurant that serves both lunch and dinner with plenty of options for kids. This makes it a favorite for visitors to include on their Captiva Island family vacation. The venue regularly hosts live entertainment and music and offers indoor and outdoor seating for guests to enjoy, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

RC Otter’s extensive menu gives you a bit of everything. For breakfast, you can get old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes, Belgian waffles, and French toast. At lunch, you can enjoy both local seafood - such as oysters or local grouper - as well as traditional dishes, like fajita quesadillas. And for dinner, there’s a wide selection of seafood, including toasted crab sandwiches.

The standout feature of the establishment, however, is the friendliness of the waitstaff. Here you’ll find attendants willing to provide you with a friendly smile and accommodate your requirements. If you’re with kids and just looking for some casual, easy-going dining, this is one of the best places to go. 

The Pointe at South Seas Resort

The Pointe is another venue associated with the South Seas Resort. Located just across the Sanibel Causeway Bridge, it offers a substantial menu and allows you to dine in luxury, overlooking the bay. 

The most impressive feature of the Pointe is its sheer size. The venue offers hundreds of seats in a variety of different settings, allowing you to choose how and where you eat. There are an incredible seventeen cabins, a tiki bar next to the pool, and a veranda.

The menu is simple but features an assortment of delicious foods. The bar is most famous for its sandwiches and salads, although you can get a range of “bowls” too if you fancy rice or noodles. 

If you go to the point, make sure you check out the following sandwiches and salads: 

  1. Fried Florida grouper sandwich with napa cabbage and lemon caper tartar
  2. Grilled Mahi Mahi tacos with spicy guacamole and flour tortillas
  3. Grilled chicken sandwich with pesto and onion
  4. Captiva chopped caesar salad with romaine, croutons and a peppering of parmesan

Many people also head over to The Pointe for its wide selection of drinks. If you do head to the bar, make sure that you check out its frozen drink selection. The Lava Flow, for instance, is a frozen cocktail of Cruzan rum, pina colada, Myer’s dark rum, and strawberry. The venue opens at 11 am and closes just after sunset on most evenings. 

Plan Your Perfect Captiva Island Vacation

While Captiva Island might be further out into the water than other Florida spots, its wide selection of incredible places to chow down and eat quality local food make it well worth it. The vast majority of eateries in the area take advantage of local seafood found throughout the Florida Gulf. They offer you an opportunity to experience the authentic cuisine of the region, with all its many influences from Southern, Southwestern, Caribbean, and Mexican food. 

If you’re interested in visiting Captiva island on vacation, be sure to check out and book one of our luxurious Captiva Island vacation rental properties. We're Royal Shell Vacation Rentals and we've been providing visitors to Sanibel and Captiva Island with the best rental properties in the area for over 25 years.  With us, you can visit all the Captiva Island Restaurants you like, many of which will be just a quick stroll from your front door. We can also help you find the perfect Sanibel Island vacation rental if you want to explore Captiva's equally impressive neighboring island.

Check our availability today or get in touch with one of our vacation rental specialists. They'll help you find the right property for the vacation experience you're looking for. 

For any keen birdwatcher, the birds of Sanibel Island are a must-see. Sanibel Island is found in Lee County, Florida and covers the entire city of Sanibel, making this a small, but popular destination. In 1963, the Sanibel Causeway was built, making access to the island very easy. Easy access has made the island a very popular tourist destination, especially for those looking for beautiful shell beaches and interesting wildlife to see. 

Birding enthusiasts love visiting Sanibel Island for a variety of reasons. This includes the over 200 species of birds that can be found on the island. Over half of the island is covered in wildlife refuge which provides numerous ideal bird watching spots. Regardless of why bird lovers visit, the birds of Sanibel Island are a phenomenon that should be experienced by everyone. 

There’s so much to be considered when it comes to experiencing birds on Sanibel Island. Our complete guide below tells you everything you need to know to make your birding experience on Sanibel absolutely perfect.

What Types of Birds Are on Sanibel Island?

There are a lot of different birds to be found on the islands of Sanibel and nearby Captiva, making the region a great place for keen bird-watchers to visit. If you visit the area you can expect to see a wide variety of bird species who inhabit and visit the two islands. Some of these birds can be seen all year round, whereas others migrate to the area at certain times of the year. Whenever you visit, there’s always something to see. 

Great Egrets are tall, elegant, white birds with yellow beaks and black legs. During the Spring and Summer months, you can see fine, white, lacy feathers along the back of the bird. These are breeding plumes and were once prized by plume hunters. Now, hundreds of these birds enjoy the feeding grounds of the wildlife refuge. 

The Great Blue Heron is the largest of the wading birds found in the area, making it hard to miss. This bird can reach up to three or four feet high. It has a grey-blue body with a lighter head and a navy blue stripe above its eye. The beak is grey-black and the legs are green-yellow to blue. 

Roseate spoonbills are elegant pink bills that are often mistaken for flamingos. They stand at about two feet tall and have a grey beak which is shaped a little like a spatula. These birds can be seen in the spring and summer before they migrate to Florida bay and Tarpon Bay in the winter for nesting and rearing young. 

Other birds that you can watch in the area include:

Across the island, there are many different birds to enjoy. Watch a wide variety of local birds feed, fly and interact with each other. The birds listed here are just a small selection of the birdlife found on Sanibel Island. It’s easy to see why this pretty island is such a popular vacation spot for bird-watchers and bird enthusiasts. 

Why Are There So Many Birds on Sanibel Island?Why Are There So Many Birds on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island is known for its large population of beautiful migratory birds. In fact, there are over 250 birds recognized as being in Sanibel at different times of the year. But what is it about Sanibel Island that makes it so popular with birds? Sanibel Island has a variety of different habitats, all of which are ideal homes for different wildlife. 

Freshwater marshes are wetland habitats that are non-tidal and don’t contain saltwater. Freshwater marshes are good homes for many wading birds like herons and egrets and for waterfowl like ducks. Mangrove swamps provide a unique habitat for a large variety of fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and of course, birds. There are also areas of open water on the island, where all kinds of marine life can flourish. Water control structures throughout the area help to regulate water levels to make sure the island can provide the appropriate habitat for migrating birds. 

You’ll also find tidal flats and mudflats, where the level is so low when the tide goes out, there is no water left. These flats are the ideal feeding ground for shorebirds and wading birds alike, thanks to easily accessible insects and crustaceans. If you’re interested in finding songbirds, you can visit the areas of hardwood forest, where you can find Sea Grape trees, Strangler Figs, and the Gumbo Limbo trees. In shallow, sunny waters, you can find seagrass beds, which give shelter to young fish and other sea creatures. The freely available food also attracts birds, who will come to hunt. 

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Sanibel Island Bird Sanctuary

If you’re hoping to see birds on your trip to Sanibel Island, then you need to visit the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife and Bird Sanctuary. The refuge is on the north shore of Sanibel Island and was established in 1945 partially by President Harry S Truman, at the request of the Pulitzer-prize winning cartoonist Jay Norwood Darling. The refuge has 6400 acres of mangrove forest, submerged seagrass beds, marshes, and hardwood hammocks. It’s home to 245 species of birds, and can also be visited for walking trails and bike paths. 

If you’re visiting the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, there are some activities you shouldn’t miss. 

  1. Explore the trails on foot, by bike or by car. The most popular is the four-mile wildlife drive, as it is the most accessible and is faster to move to different areas.  
  2. Go hiking. There are five trails that branch off the wildlife drive of varying lengths and views, so there is something for everyone. 
  3. Take advantage of free events. The refuge has a variety of free educational programs including birding, wildlife tours, photography, lectures, and even kayaking.  
  4. Download the app. The Discover Ding app is a scavenger hunt style game to help you learn about and find the different fauna and flora of the refuge. 

The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is a popular tourist attraction for many reasons. It’s a great way out whether you want a walk with the children with great views or whether you’re a wildlife photographer hoping to get pictures of the some of the feathered locals of Sanibel Island. Pack your binoculars, your long lens, and your walking shoes, and spend the day being amazed by the sheer abundance of beautiful Sanibel Island wildlife that you can find. 

Ding Darling Birds

The Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is home to over 245 species of bird throughout the year. The ‘big five’ that most bird watchers are excited to see are the American White Pelican, the Mangrove Cuckoo, the Reddish Egret, the Roseate Spoonbill, and the Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron. Some of these birds are easier to spot than others, whereas some will take some patience to find in the refuge. 

There are plenty of other beautiful birds to see in the refuge as well as the ‘big five’. You can see wading birds like the White Ibis, Green Heron, and Great Blue Heron. Commonly seen seabirds include Least Terns, Magnificent Frigatebirds, and Black Skimmer. If you like shorebirds, look out for Red Knots, Willets and Black-Bellied Plovers. You can even see American Kestrels, Bald Eagles, and Ospreys. 

One of the reasons you can see so many different birds in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is that sheer size of the refuge. As it is so large, it covers a wide range of habitats, from mudflats to hardwood hammocks. With different habitats and feeding available, many different birds are attracted to the site, making this a dream for the keen bird enthusiast. 

Bird MigrationBird Migration

Sanibel Island attracts lots of different migratory birds. In January to March, many shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, passerines and raptors can be seen. Neotropical migratory birds can be seen and start to migrate through March. Osprey nesting reaches its peak in March, whereas adult spoonbills may start to leave the refuge in March to head to their own nesting grounds. In April to June, you can enjoy one of the best times for birding with an abundance of birdlife at the refuge. Shorebirds and colonial nesting birds are present, and neotropical migratory birds are still there too White pelicans start to move North in April. Many birds are nesting in this period, including the wading birds, Snowy Plovers, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, and Black-Necked Stilts. 

Birding begins to slow down in July to September, but wading birds and some shorebirds can still be seen. Some early migrant birds head to the refuge. From October to December, you can still see shorebirds and colonial birds. White pelicans and other migrating birds start to arrive in greater numbers. In December, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge takes their Annual Christmas Bird Count. 

Sanibel Island Bird Watching

Thanks to the subtropical climate, Sanibel Island is great for both birds and birdwatchers. The island is famous for the birdlife that lives on the island at least part of the year. The most popular spot for this is, of course, the JN Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, where you can see a huge range of birds. You can head out on the Wildlife Drive to see wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl who come to the area to feed. 

There are lots of places to bird watch, including the interior wetlands, the Center Tract, and the Sanibel Gardens Preserve. All these places have great walking trails for bird watchers. If you’re relaxing on the beaches, there are many birds to be seen here too. Remember that Sanibel prohibits hand-feeding of the birdlife. 

Best Time For Birding on Sanibel Island

In every season, there are beautiful birds to see on Sanibel Island. Whenever you come to the island, you can see year-round residents including herons, egrets, pelicans, ospreys, cormorants, and many more. However, much like the human visitors, some of the birds on the island are just passing through. During their seasonal migrations, birds from across South and North America follow migration routes that lead them to southwest Florida as a stopover on their way over the Gulf of Mexico. Depending on which birds you are hoping to see, the best time to visit Sanibel Island, as the aviary residents will differ in different seasons.  

In Winter and early Spring, you will see the Sora and Red-Breasted Merganser, but not the Black-Whiskered Vireo, which doesn’t arrive until the Summer. Robins only visit in the depths of winter, whereas the Indigo Bunting doesn’t come until Spring. To see the largest variety of birds, you should visit between January and June, but if there is a certain bird you’re desperate to see, check first to make sure it will actually be there. 

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What Are the Best Places For Bird Watching on Sanibel Island?

The Wildlife Drive appears on every list of recommended bird-watching spots in Sanibel Island. You can take a leisurely drive around the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, and see Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills and many shorebirds from the comfort of your car. Many unexpected birds can be seen from the Drive too. Not long ago, a Great White Pelican was spotted in the refuge, which is nearly 4000 miles from their usual habitat. Other rare birds sighted in the area include the Black and Yellow Rail, Whippoorwill, American Avocet, and Black-Necked Slit. 

While the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is the best known of the bird-watching spots on the island, there are many other places where you can watch some incredible birds. Whether you want to go hiking on some of the bird-watching trails or see birds from a boat, there are lots of options to get out your binoculars and see some amazing birdlife. 

Some other great birdwatching sites include: 

There are several preserves on the island where you can see many wild birds, but beautiful birdlife can be enjoyed all over the island. You can enjoy a vacation, with relaxing on the beach, walking through beautiful scenery, and still see many different birds. The island is also fantastic for wildlife photographers, with lots of rare sightings to capture forever. 

Owls on Sanibel Island

Owls are not one of the more famous bird sightings on Sanibel Island, but they can be seen around the area. Burrowing owls can be found throughout Florida, including on Sanibel Island. These adorable owls live in burrows, often taking over empty tortoise nests, prairie dog holes or human excavations. If you’re exploring the island after dark, you can see the Great Horned Owl. Listen out for their distinctive call which can be heard from several miles away. These owls are fierce hunters, taking on fish and amphibians sometimes up to two or three times their size. The Barn Owl can also be seen on Sanibel at night. They hunt silently, which can make them hard to spot. Many nesting boxes have been put up across Sanibel to help boost the local population. 

The best time to see owls on Sanibel Island is at night when they will be awake and hunting. Keep an eye out for nesting boxes and burrows and keep your ears open for the hunting calls of the Great Horned Owl. There are lots of other interesting birds to see at night too, so it is well worth taking an evening walk. 

Sanibel Island Flamingos

While flamingos can be seen on Sanibel (usually in the Ding Darling Wildlife Reserve), they aren’t one of the more common sightings. The American Flamingo can be seen in the reserve all year round, but are listed by the reserve as a rare or accidental sighting. What is more common is the Roseate Spoonbill, which, with their pink coloring, is often mistaken for a flamingo. 

Roseate Spoonbills are interesting for several reasons: 

Roseate Spoonbills are one of the most popular birds to watch out for on Sanibel Island. If you were hoping for flamingos, you will have to hope you get very lucky to see them, but this spoonbill is just as elegant, interesting and beautiful to look at. Their pink color, elegant, long legs and the unique spoon-shaped bills that give them their name are always interesting to spot. These birds have been badly hit by poaching and habitat loss, although conservation efforts have boosted their numbers back to around 4000 breeding pairs across the Gulf Coast of the United States. 

Birds of North Captiva Island

Sanibel Island is the more famous spot, but keen birdwatchers visiting the area shouldn’t miss out on visiting North Captiva Island too. Like Sanibel, North Captiva is located in Lee County, just offshore in the Gulf Of Mexico. This gives it the same subtropical climate that Sanibel island has, attracting the same kinds of migratory birdlife. About half the island is owned by the State of Florida and is part of a State Park, which is a great place to see some interesting birds. If you want a quieter birdwatching experience, North Captiva could be a good choice. The island can only be reached by boat or small plane, and a regular passenger ferry runs every two hours to serve tourists and locals. 

Like Sanibel Island, North Captiva is sometimes home to Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, and more. Some of these birds can be seen there all year round, whereas others use the island as a stop-off during their migration time. While you’re visiting the island, you can enjoy the relaxed pace of life while you look for these beautiful birds. The island has no paved roads, and the only way to get around is on foot or by bike or golf cart. 

The island was originally part of Captiva Island until a hurricane in 1921 split the island into two pieces. Captiva and North Captiva are separated by two channels named Redfish pass and Captiva Pass. Thanks to being cut off from the mainland, the island developed slowly and didn’t get commercial electricity or phone lines until the 1980s. 

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Other Activities For Bird Lovers on Sanibel IslandOther Activities For Bird Lovers on Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island has an abundance of wildlife, and the locals take care of that wildlife very seriously. This means that there are lots of options for nature walks and eco-tours available on the island. On these tours, you can admire some of the local wildlife and birdlife, and learn how the islanders are working to protect and preserve the animal inhabitants of the island. There are tours to see dolphins, fishing trips, nature cruises, historical walks, and guided botanical tours. While you’re exploring and learning about the island, you’ll also be able to see and learn about the amazing local birds. 

There are many fantastic ways to see more of the island and its birdlife. 

  1. Rent a bike and ride the Wildlife Drive, Rabbit Road Trail or the Civic Core Circle. Biking on Sanibel Island is a popular activity for residents and visitors alike.
  2. Rent a segway for an unusual, but great fun, way to ride around the island and see more of it.  
  3. Book a guided tour to walk around some of the interesting local flora and fauna. 
  4. Book a cruise for dolphin encounters, shelling, wildlife sightseeing, manatee spotting and more. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the conservation efforts on the island, visit Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. The SCCF manages over 1300 acres of land on the island and offers educational programs for all ages, including beach walks, kayak tours, and wading trips. These are great ways to see some birds and learn how you can help them. 

SCCF’s Nature Center has four miles of trails where you can enjoy a short stroll or a longer, more challenging walk through the heart of Sanibel Island. Inside the center, you’ll find interactive exhibits, maps, and videos that will teach you about the challenge of maintaining the island and its water quality. The SCCF also runs the Native Landscapes and Garden Center, which is a great way to learn about encouraging birds, butterflies, and other wildlife in your own backyard. You can walk through the demonstration gardens to get ideas that you could try at home to support the local bird population in your area. 

What Is There To Eat On Sanibel Island?

Sanibel Island has an excellent reputation for food. Restaurateurs and chefs come to Sanibel Island from all over the world to add their individual influences to the melting pot of the island’s restaurants. This means the island can show off some of the most inventive cuisines around. No matter what kind of food you enjoy, you’ll find something to try and enjoy on Sanibel. There are over 50 restaurants on the island, from family-run ice cream shops to top dining restaurants. 

One of the best cuisines to try is seafood. Being an island, Sanibel takes its seafood seriously. You can enjoy incredibly fresh seafood all over the island, and you’d be foolish not to try some local fish dishes. The island also caters well for family dining, gluten-free diners, diners looking for a pet-friendly restaurant, outdoor dining, and dining with a view. There are also plenty of lounges and sports bars if you’re in search of drinks as well as food. 

What Else Is There To Do On Sanibel? 

The wildlife might be one of the major attractions on the island, but there’s plenty of other things to do on Sanibel Island. The area is very beautiful and has plenty to offer solo travelers, couples, and families looking for a relaxing vacation. If you want a break from bird watching, try one of the many other island activities which will make your holiday unforgettable.

Sanibel Island also has good options for shopping. There are dozens of unique stores and galleries where you can find a one-of-a-kind island souvenir. There are plenty of independent stores to interest you, whether you’re shopping for souvenirs or are in need of beach supplies and swimwear. To learn more about the shopping options on the island, check out our Sanibel Shopping Guide.

Plan Your Vacation Sanibel Island Vacation With Royal Shell

Every year, millions of people from around the world visit Southwest Florida, including Sanibel Island. Royal Shell Vacation Rentals is a family-owned company that has been operating in the area for over 25 years. We have managed more rental properties in the area than any other company in the region. Royal Shell is committed to excellence, and work hard to offer a personal approach and boutique-style to our operations. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay on Sanibel Island, Royal Shell has an expert team to help you plan your vacation. Royal Shell’s Vacation Advisors live and work in the area, so they will be able to find you the best place to say and give you local advice for what to do when you’re there. From quaint cottage rentals on Sanibel Island to Sanibel Island townhome rentals bursting with amenities, we'll help you find exactly what you're looking for. 

If you’re booking a trip to see the birds of Sanibel Island, then let us find the perfect Sanibel Island Vacation Rental for you. Check our availability now or contact one of our vacation rental specialists and they'll take care of the rest.

When you’re planning a vacation for your family, it can be tough sometimes to find a place that is perfect for your entire family. Kids often want one thing, while parents want something else. Luckily, Sanibel Island is a perfect vacation spot for families. But what about the island makes it so enticing for families to visit? 

From beautiful beaches for shelling to countless water activities for kids, Sanibel Island is a great place to vacation for families. The Island also offers many opportunities for kids to learn and have fun at the same time. These include the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, dolphin and wildlife cruises, and more.

For a complete look at everything your family needs to know for the perfect Sanibel Island family vacation, read through our comprehensive guide below. 

Is Sanibel Island Family Friendly?Is Sanibel Island Family Friendly

Not only is Sanibel Island family friendly but it is tailor made for families. In 2015, Sanibel Island was named the number one family friendly vacation spot on NBC’s Today Show after the area had won two categories in a poll that was carried out in the popular FamilyFun magazine. These two categories were the ‘top tourist town’ and the ‘best family friendly vacation spot.’ There is a lot for families to see and do in the area, with an abundance of natural wildlife, as well as beautiful white-sand beaches. 

What is Sanibel Island Famous For?

One thing that Sanibel Island is famous for is wildlife refuges. In fact, more than half of the island is made up of wildlife refuges. The biggest is J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This is a non-profit Friends of the Refuge organization that has been named after Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, who helped found the refuge. The organization supports environmental services and education and was established back in 1976 for the purpose of protecting one of the biggest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems in the world. The refuge is over 6,000 acres in size and is famous for its migratory bird populations. Not only does the complex consist of the refuge itself but also Pine Island, Matlacha, Island Bay, and Caloosahatchee Refuges. The ecology and topography of the refuge changed significantly after Hurricane Charley in 2004. 

For more on what Sanibel Island is known for, take a look at our article What is Sanibel Island famous for?

What is There To Do on Sanibel Island?

You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do on Sanibel Island. From visiting famous museums to enjoying the natural life, there is something for all ages and all personalities here. Below, we are going to take a look at some of the best tourist spots in the area. However, you’re not going to be limited to what is mentioned. There are plenty of other activities, including some really unusual tourist activities, such as zombie scavenger games. You can also enjoy inshore fishing here, as well as historic walking tours, parasailing, dolphin cruises, buggy adventure tours, and much more. 

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Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The first place that we recommend visiting is Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. This is actually the only museum in the United States that is completely devoted to mollusks and shells. The museum’s mission is to unite people to the natural world through their love of shells, as well as the incredible creatures that have created them. The museum uses their expertise, programs, and collections, to tell the story of mollusks, support scientific research, and inspire learning. You will also be pleased to know that there is an aquarium opening at Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in 2020. 

If you want to visit Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, it is open from 10 am until 5 pm, although it is closed on Thanksgiving and there are reduced hours on other holiday dates. Admission costs $7 for children aged between five and 11-years-old, $9 for young people between the age of 12 and 17-years-old, and $15 for adults. Active military and children under the age of five-years-old are able to visit free of charge. There are also group tickets available so that families can enjoy reduced prices. 

One of the best things about visiting Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is enjoying the daily programs that are offered. This includes Shell Arts & Crafts whereby you can exercise your artistic talents and imaginations through building your own shell creation. This is great for the whole family, as you will be able to create something that you can take home with you and cherish. Other programs include Live Tank Talks, where you can learn about the local mollusks from one of the museum’s experts, and Beach Walks, which take place at 9 am daily. If you go on a beach walk, it will last for an hour, and one of the museum’s passionate shell experts will talk about mollusks, shells, and other marine life that washes ashore on Sanibel. You will need to make a reservation if you want to go on a Beach Walk. Reservations are not needed for the Shell Arts & Crafts or the Live Tank Talks. 

Sanibel Lighthouse

This is one of the best areas to visit when you are taking a trip to Sanibel. Sanibel Island Lighthouse is situated on the end of the island, and so not only is the attraction itself noteworthy but you will also get to see the entire tip of the island from here. It is a very popular spot, as there is a lot going on here, including a popular fishing pier and great shelling opportunities. The facilities are excellent here too, with plenty of restrooms and large parking lots for those heading to the beach.

If you are going to visit this part of Sanibel, we definitely recommend that you arrive early. Even though there are plenty of parking spaces, they do tend to fill up very quickly. From feeding the pelicans to observing ospreys, spotting dolphins, and finding some great shells, you will find that there is plenty to keep you busy all day long here. A lot of people purely take the trip here so that they can enjoy sunning themselves on the beach!

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Accounting for a third of Sanibel Island, a lot of people make the trip to this area of the U.S. purely to enjoy the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It was established back in 1945 and it is known as one of the best places for bird watching in the country. If you want to enjoy the Wildlife Drive, you will need to pay for this and do note that it is closed on Fridays. There are many different ways for you to enjoy your trip here, and so the best thing to do is to take a trip to the free visitor center. This is open every day from 9 am until 4 pm. You will get all of the information you need about the refuge and the different options that are available in terms of your adventure. 

A lot of people do not realize that there are so many different activities to enjoy here. There really is something for everyone. If you would rather go on a self-guided tour, you can easily do this with the Discover Ding app, which is a wildlife spotting app that will take you through the area. Another fun way to explore the refuge is to do so using the free scavenger hunt style game. In terms of different activities to enjoy here, you can enjoy a picnic on one of the benches, make the most of fishing opportunities, go kayaking, take a tram tour, and go on the wildlife drive. 

In terms of the wildlife at this 6,000 acre refuge, you are going to find more than 230 species of birds, 32 mammal species, and 51 kinds of amphibians and reptiles. Below, we will provide a quick overview of the different types of animals that you can expect to see while visiting the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Undoubtedly, the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge makes it possible for the Sanibel Island wildlife to thrive and visitors to the island are lucky to admire and experience it.

Sanibel Historical Museum and Village

When visiting somewhere new, it is always nice to find out about the history of the area and the story behind its creation. This is something you are going to be able to do at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. The museum and village was established back in 1984 for the purpose of sharing the history of Sanibel Island and preserving the area’s story. Sanibel’s history dates back to the 1800’s when early Spanish and Calusa Indian families settled in the area. It tells of the proprietors, farmers, fishermen, adventures, and warriors that first called Sanibel Island home.

To create the village here, nine historic buildings were moved from their initial sites. Every building has been restored to the state it was originally in. There is also a replica of a garage that houses a 1927 Ford Model T truck and a Packing House. There are around 10,000 people that visit Sanibel Historical Museum and Village each year, with volunteer docents sharing their stories. Open from Tuesday to Saturday, Mid-October to July, we definitely recommend heading here. Children go free and the price is only $10 for adults. 

World Class Beaches

Aside from the wildlife, something else that Sanibel is known for is the amazing beaches here. There are a lot of great beaches on Sanibel Island, so let’s take a look at them in further detail.

Biking on Sanibel Island

Another fun way to explore Sanibel Island is by bike. There are 22 miles of paved trails here, including Bailey Road-Dybes Circle, Middle Gulf Cemetery Route, Dixie Beach Road, and Rabbit Road Trail. You can also ride a road through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This is a 4.3 mile limestone road, which is known as Wildlife Drive. Another option is to ride your bike through Periwinkle Way, as there is a bicycle trail here. This is one of the main shopping areas on the island and there are lots of bicycle racks so you can park with ease and shop to your heart's content. It's easy to see why biking on Sanibel Island is popular among so many people.

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Kayaking and Paddle Board in Sanibel Island

Sanibel provides first-class paddleboarding and kayaking. Sanibel Island has been recognized in multiple publications as a top kayaking destination. In Paddler Magazine, and Canoe & Kayak Magazine, Sanibel was listed as a top destination in terms of this. There are a lot of different companies here that will be able to set you up with a kayak or paddle board. There is no better way to get close with the marine creatures and rich bird life in this part of the world. Dolphins will regularly escort your excursion, making this an experience to treasure.  

Family Friendly Sanibel Restaurants

If you have a restless child or a big family, dining in one of the high-end establishments may not be the best idea. However, you have nothing to worry about in Sanibel Island, as there are a lot of restaurants that not only welcome children but cater to them. The Bubble Room is a popular spot, although this is a short drive to Captiva Island. It is one of the most well-known restaurants because it is themed, featuring shadow box tables and memorabilia on the walls. 

There are a number of other restaurants that cater to children as well. This includes the Lazy Flamingo, whereby children’s meals are served in flying disks. Not only does this create excitement amongst kids but this can easily be used on the beach later or act as a great holiday keepsake. Of course, we cannot talk about family-friendly restaurants in Sanibel without mentioning Island Cow. This has a comfortable atmosphere, as well as a menu that appears more like a newspaper. There are so many different meals to choose from, and so you will have no problem finding something you like to eat here, even if you have a few picky eaters in your family!

What Airport Do You Fly Into to go to Sanibel Island?What Airport Do You Fly Into to go to Sanibel Island

There are a number of different ways to get to Sanibel island. If you have quite some distance to travel, you will probably want to fly into Fort Myers at the Southwest International Airport (RSW), in Florida. Once you have done this, you will only need to take a short drive in order to be connected to this island paradise. Southwest International Airport (RSW) is the closest air link to Sanibel, with 20 airlines offering flights from different parts of the United States to this airport in Fort Myers. 

Do You Need a Car on Sanibel Island?

Whether or not you choose to bring your own car or rent one on Sanibel Island is up to you and your personal situation. The island is approximately 16 square miles, so if you want to travel all over the island, you’ll definitely have to walk quite a bit or take a rideshare/taxi. With a family, this may prove to be too difficult and stressful and having your own vehicle to use will make things easier.

On the other hand, if you’re staying in close proximity to everything you plan on seeing and doing while you’re on the island, it’s feasible to forego the car. Ultimately, it will come down to personal preference and your unique situation.

When is the Best Time to Go to Sanibel Island?

The peak season in Sanibel Island is December to April, and this is definitely the best time to visit. However, we definitely recommend that you start planning early if you would like to visit during this time. Properties book quickly and you may be out of luck if you wait till the last minute. Nevertheless, this is when you are going to find the best weather for relaxing on the beach and topping up your tan. 

Of course, there are people who head to this part of Florida during other times of the year, and it really all depends on what you want from your vacation when figuring out what time of the year to visit. For example, some people visit Sanibel Island in the late fall when they want to do a bit of shelling in the colder Gulf Water. It is certainly a lot more affordable to go at this time of year. 

Be cautious when booking during hurricane season in Florida, which takes place from June to November. Sanibel Island has been fortunate over the years and has avoided major damage from hurricanes. Regardless, it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance if you do happen to book your vacation during this season.

Below, is a brief overview of what to expect from Sanibel Island based on the time of year that you visit. 

December - April 

During this time of year, it is likely that temperatures will stay in the mid-70s. However, there have been occasions whereby they have fallen to the mid-50s. As mentioned, it is more expensive to visit the island during this peak season time of year. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who believe it is worth the added expense because Sanibel seems a bit too quiet for them when it is out of season. There is also the popular Sanibel Music Festival that takes place in March. Booking in advance is always recommended if you are going to go in the winter season.

May - June

If you target May or June for your vacation, the earlier, the better! Shooting for May instead of June would definitely be our recommendation. One of the main reasons why people visit during this time of year is because the prices are a lot more affordable. However, June is the rainiest on the island, so you can expect to get wet without taking a dip in the sea. This isn’t a bad thing, since you’ll still be able to experience much of the island! It is worth noting that temperatures will be mid-80s on most days. 

July - September

If you’re looking to have more of the island to yourself, this is one of the best times to go. Due to the threat of tropical storms and hurricanes, many visitors tend to avoid booking their vacations during this time. However, as we noted above, Sanibel Island has been fortunate over the years to avoid massive damage from these storms. If you do happen to book during this time, invest in travel insurance to protect yourself from losing your entire vacation should a storm make its way to the island. 

October - November 

Finally, the weather in the late fall in Florida is truly spectacular. You will see highs of 70s and 80s, as well as lows of 60. The evenings can be a bit chilly, though, so pack your sweater and do be aware that you are not going to be able to get in the water every day. You will find that this time of year is good for shelling because the tides are generally low. 

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How to Find a Family Friendly Vacation Rental

Of course, you will need to find somewhere relaxing and comfortable to stay while taking a trip to Sanibel Island. It is easier than ever before to find the right vacation rental for you. You can search across many booking sites to find the perfect property for you and your family. You will want to make sure that the accommodation comes with all the facilities and amenities you need, especially if you are travelling with children. Most families look for vacation home rentals on Sanibel Island. Location is also going to be critical too. This is especially the case if you are not going to be bringing a vehicle while in Sanibel. 

If you don’t have the time to conduct all of the research to find the perfect place, we can help you. Royal Shell Vacation Rentals has hundreds of vacation rentals on Sanibel Island that can match the perfect family vacation. Our vacation rental experts live in the Sanibel area and can guide you to the perfect property so that your entire family gets what they want. 

Exploring Fort Myers and Captiva with the Family

A lot of people decide to incorporate Captiva and Fort Myers into their trip, especially if they are flying into the airport in Fort Myers. There are a lot of great attractions and places to visit in Fort Myers. This includes Lee County's Manatee Park, which enables you to get up-close with manatees. 

If you are also going to be visiting during the peak season, it is worth trying to organize your trip so that you are in Fort Myers during the first weekend of February. This is when Artfest takes place. This is one of the most respected art events in Florida. Taking place over three days, there are 200 artist booths with over 70,000 people participating in the event. 

Other places and activities that we recommend in Fort Myers include Lakes Regional Park, Fort Myers Beach Sunset Celebration, and Edison Festival of Light. In terms of Captiva Island, we have already mentioned enjoying The Bubble Room restaurant here. A giant piece of cake is a must! However, there are a lot of other things to do in the area as well. This includes kayaking in the Pine Island Sound, going on a Dolphin Watch Cruise, and spending time on the gorgeous beaches here. 

Plan Your Sanibel Vacation with Royal Shell

If you are looking to plan the perfect Sanibel Island vacation, Royal Shell Vacation Rentals is here to help. We live and breathe Sanibel Island and the surrounding area and love to help others experience it. Our large and diverse portfolio of Sanibel Island vacation rentals ensures that we'll be able to match you to one that fits your family and your desires for a perfect vacation. All of our properties are maintained to the highest level of quality making sure that you don't encounter any issues during your stay.

So, whether you're looking for a Sanibel Island condo rental or a different type of property, we want to help you find it. Check our availability now or contact us to have one of our vacation rental experts help you find the perfect property. 


Located just off the Southwest coast of Florida lies Sanibel Island, an island famed for its sandy beaches, exquisite seashells, and spectacular sunsets. There may be no shortage of articles explaining excursions and activities to be undertaken on Sanibel Island during the day, but once the sun goes down very few of these publications detail the very best of what to do in Sanibel Island at Night. As the golden sun dips below the sparkling water’s edge, Sanibel Island comes alive for its visitors, offering a variety of things to do for singles, couples, and families. 

So if you’re looking for inspiration about what to do in Sanibel Island at night, then you’re in the right place. Our top 13 choices below will let you know the very best places to eat, drink, play, relax and unwind so that you can focus on making the most of your visit.

1. Sanibel Island Happy Hours

While visiting some of the top Sanibel Island restaurants should definitely be on your to-do list, you should also take advantage of the many happy hour deals, enabling you to eat and drink some of the tastiest cuisines around, without feeling as though you are breaking the bank doing so. 

Key Lime Bistro

Situated just on the border of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Key Lime Bistro offers award-winning food and is one of the highest-rated restaurants on the Island. Serving Breakfast, lunch, and dinner there’s something for everyone at this casual, family-friendly restaurant. You leave without trying their award-winning key lime pie! 

As night draws in, the Key Lime Bistro comes alive with live performances from local musicians 7 days a week, making it impossible to stroll on by without stopping for a quick listen. Dine inside or out beneath the warm Florida skies and enjoy a slice of island living. 

The Island Cow

At The Island Cow, you can relax knowing that you are truly on island time. The family-owned bar and restaurant serves up tropical island cocktails, a good helping of live entertainment and a selection of outdoor family fun and games 7 days a week, from breakfast through to dinner.  

Their expansive drinks menu contains everything from fruity island cocktails to beer, wine and spirits and if you visit during happy hour, you can take advantage of their fantastic drinks deals including 3 drinks for $10! So whether you’re starting your day with a fresh mimosa of finishing it with a Goombay Smash put The Island Cow on your drinks list. 

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille

Doc Ford’s flagship location in Sanibel Island is known locally as the ‘home of the Island Mojito’ but serves up a variety of authentic Carribean dishes that focus on flavor, freshness, and vibrancy. Open for lunch and dinner, Doc Ford’s has two inside dining rooms and a shady outdoor patio, perfect for escaping the midday Florida sun or for enjoying a cooler evening. 

A personal favorite of Randy Wayne White, the best selling Author, and other locals alike, Doc Ford’s can offer some of the best local seafood that Sanibel Island has to offer. So head on down for happy hour and enjoy a few of their fantastic appetizers and drinks for reasonable island prices. Who knows, you may even run into the author himself who still writes at the restaurant several times a week. 

The Mucky Duck

Located deep in the heart of the historic downtown of Captiva lies another great happy hour location famed for its sunsets - The Mucky Duck. This friendly British-style bar offers a cozy beach-neighborhood vibe and plenty of perching spots for onlookers seeking to watch the Florida sun descend into The Gulf Of Mexico over a frosty beer. 

With more than 16 beers on tap and plenty more available bottled you’ll struggle to find a better selection on the island, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all the Mucky Duck has to offer The pub also serves a delicious range of home-cooked food for both lunch and dinner, showcasing the seafood available right on its doorstep. 

Other Sanibel Happy Hours

One’s thing for sure, Sanibel Island certainly isn’t short of great happy hour locations and although we highly recommend the above locations we couldn’t fail to mention a few of our other personal favorites. 

Some other places to try include on your trip are:

The majority of Sanibel happy hours are available 7 days a week, come rain or shine, and are a great way to sample some of the best local cuisines or to enjoy a few drinks without blowing your vacation budget. 

If you're visiting Sanibel Island on a romantic getaway and are interested in a more intimate evening, we've got you covered. Check out our article Romantic Restaurants on Sanibel Island You'll Fall in Love With. 

2. Movie Theaters on Sanibel Island

If you’re looking for something to do in Sanibel Island at night and you fancy a trip to the movies then as a small Island, Sanibel may not be exactly inundated with theatre options, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for with quality. 

The Island Cinema is a small, two-screen theatre serving Sanibel Island and its surrounding area, allowing islanders to catch the latest release without leaving their little piece of Island heaven. Although a small theatre, The Island Cinema provides exceptional hometown style service and still screens a number of the latest Hollywood hits.

The cinema’s movie contracts range from 1-3 weeks long and so there’s usually a good rotation of films ensuring that there’s something you’re bound to want to watch during your stay. With each theatre containing just 59 seats, The Island Cinema is the perfect cozy night-out-night-in experience for all the family. Just be sure to grab your tickets well in advance and be aware that the cinema is often busiest during cloudy or stormy weather.

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3. Enjoy a Sanibel Dinner CruiseEnjoy a Sanibel Dinner Cruise

Although the Sanibel Island sunsets are stunning from the shore, nothing quite beats enjoying them from the water. A Sanibel Dinner Cruise makes the perfect romantic date for two and is a chance to escape from the bustling island shores so that you can focus 100% on each other and the beauty of your surroundings. 

One of the most popular dinner cruise providers is the Marriott Resort, offering the chance to set sail on their 100 ft. Sanibel Harbour Princess Yacht to enjoy a selection of culinary delights on the water. The Princess Yacht departs every day for a sunset cruise and is also available for Sunday brunch, in which you can enjoy two hours on the water accompanied by a luxurious brunch buffet. 

Sunset cruise sailing times vary day-to-day depending on the sunset time but the brunch cruise leaves regularly at 11:15 a.m. returning to the harbor by 1:15 pm. Spaces are limited aboard the yacht so do be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Once onboard, you’ll have a choice of settings from which to take in the view, including an outdoor deck and two indoor air-conditioned saloons, before indulging in one of the many hot and cold dishes served from the luxury buffet. You may even see some dolphins while on the boat.

4. Catch the Sunset on Sanibel Island

As day turns to night, Sanibel Island experiences some of the most spectacular sunsets in the world. We’ve already mentioned catching the sunset by boat but if you don’t fancy getting on the water then there are still so many ways to experience a Sanibel sunset. 

Some of the most popular places to view the sunset include:  

  1. Blind Pass Beach
    Blind Pass Beach lies where the Sanibel and Captiva Islands meet and is a calming and peaceful spot from which to enjoy the sound of the waves and the falling sun. The parking lot for this beach is quite small so get there early to ensure you get a spot.
  2. Sanibel Lighthouse
    The Sanibel Lighthouse is an iconic monument on the Island and makes a great spot from which to look out over the waves as they’re lit by the vibrant sunset. While you wait, enjoy the delights of Lighthouse beach below and be sure to have your camera ready to catch the iconic lighthouse sunset shot.
  3. The Mucky Duck
    Sanibel Island has a range of waterfront bars and restaurants that make great places from which to enjoy the sunset. The one that often stands out is The Mucky Duck. Right on the water with plenty of casual seating and a great selection of cold beverages, it’s hard to go wrong with taking in the sunset here.
  4. Gulfside City Park
    Gulfside City Park is a great public park with direct access to the water. With plenty of open space, the park is the perfect spot to lay out a picnic blanket and enjoy the sunset display. 

The Sanibel sunsets are definitely a natural phenomenon not to be missed and if you visit in the winter months you may even see the Sanibel Island Sunset Green flash, where the sun briefly changes from red to green for the final few seconds as it dips under the horizon.

For more great spots on the island to watch the sunset, check out our article Best Places to Watch the Sunset on Sanibel Island.

5. Sanibel Island Live Music

Sanibel Island may not be a party city like Key West or New Orleans but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t play host to some amazing live music. A simple stroll through town on most nights of the week will reveal a selection of music in all genres from relaxing jazz to downtown country, energetic rock and roll to heartfelt swing and soul. 

In terms of where you’ll find live music, many of the bars and restaurants on the island choose to host local musicians on Friday and Saturday nights, with some places, such as The Island Cow and Key Lime Bistro, advertising that they offer live music and entertainment 7 days a week come rain or shine. Although Friday and Saturday nights are the best nights of the week to have a boogie, The Upper Deck Pool Bar offers live music on a Wednesday and is another popular location for watching a Sanibel sunset, with its large outdoor terrace offering fantastic views across the island. 

6. Dance the Night AwayDance the Night Away

Daylight hours on Sanibel island may be all about enjoying the beach, trying the cycle trails, and discovering the wildlife, but nighttime on Sanibel island is the time to bust out your dancing shoes, especially if it’s a Friday or Saturday night. 

Live music and dancing can be found at a number of venues around the city including Traditions on the Beach which is located at the historic Island Inn and provides a good variety of live music, dancing, and nightlife on West Gulf Drive. If you’re looking to dance midweek then  George and Wendy’s Seafood Grille has something to enjoy almost every night including: 

To make the most of the fantastic weather on offer in Sanibel Island then also check out one of the many bars and restaurants offering live music right on their outdoor patios. Nothing can quite beat an outdoor space under the starry sky with live music, good food and something cold to drink. So take a look at Doc Ford’s, RC Otter’s and Key Lime Bistro who all offer this magical combination. 

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7. See a Show with Big Arts

Big Arts was created by the community and for the community in 1979 as a place for artists to gather and offer artistic and educational experiences to all. Big Arts has a rich history owing to a small band of dedicated artists who were inspired by both their own and each other’s talents and chose to fuse the grace of Island life into their work to create a space that could be shared by all. 

Today Big Arts still stays true to their vision to ‘create great arts, entertainment and learning experiences that always inspire, enrich and delight. There are now three venues across Sanibel Island, including the Christensen Performance Hall on Dunlop Road, The Big Arts Strauss Theatre, and Big Arts Periwinkle on Periwinkle Lane. These Big Arts venues host a range of artistic events and educational programs including those in film, theatre, fine art and music with performances and open mic nights available all year for the Sanibel Island community to enjoy. 

If you’re stuck on what to do in Sanibel Island at night then do check out the Big Arts calendar of performances to support the work they do and experience some of the best artistic performances in the world. 

8. Play Mini Golf with Gators in Fort Myers

A trip to Florida just wouldn’t be complete without a round of golf and some gator spotting. Lucky for you, Smuggler’s Cove on Sanibel Island allows you to check both items off of your list at once. 

Start by picking out your suitably festive ball and putter before heading to the education exhibit where you’ll get to see up to 30 American Alligators. There’s even the opportunity to feed them! Back on the golf course, you’ll find challenges on every green including waterfalls, caves, tunnels, bridges, ponds and even a pirate ship. The family-friendly 18-hole mini-golf course is completely floodlit and makes the perfect evening entertainment for people of all ages and will leave you wanting another round. 

When you’re all golfed out head over to the snack bar for a variety of refreshments including alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine and you can even pick up souvenirs from the gift shop to tell your friends that you golfed in Florida with gators. 

9. Enjoy a Moonlit Stroll on a Sanibel Island Beach

The beaches on Sanibel Island are often hailed as some of the best in the world, offering soft white sand and an abundance of shells beside crystal-clear ocean waters. With so much to do on Sanibel Island, it can be easy to forget that sometimes the simplest evening activities are some of the most enjoyable, such as taking a moonlit stroll on one of its beaches. 

With five beaches at Sanibel Island to choose from and a few more in the neighboring island of Captiva, you really are spoiled for choice. There truly aren't any bad choices when it comes to Sanibel and Captiva Island beaches. 

For the ultimate romantic and uninterrupted stroll, we recommend Bowman’s Beach which is pristine and quiet. Away from all the hotels, you’ll need to park up and walk over a bridge to get to this secluded white beach, but the journey will most definitely be worth it. 

If you’re looking for easier access and more ample parking then Tarpon Beach has an ample parking lot with space for oversized vehicles 20 ft. and over. Located at the South end of Tarpon Bay it’s just a short hike from the parking lot to the beach where you’ll find Sanibel's signature white sand and ample collection of shells. 

Finally for a sunset stroll to beat them all, you have to take a walk down to Lighthouse Beach, home to the iconic Sanibel Lighthouse, T-Dock fishing pier, and boardwalk nature trail. The sunsets from here are truly spectacular and the Lighthouse makes for a memorable picture. 

10. Sip a Local Craft Beer

When you think of a laid back and relaxed drink to have on a beach, beer is often one that instantly comes to mind. It’s therefore unsurprising that Sanibel Island has a thriving craft beer culture and is home to a number of independently owned breweries. Although you’ll find beers on tap in most Sanibel bars and restaurants there’s something special about sipping one straight from the brewery, so here are our 3 favorites: 

  1. Point Ybel Brewing Company
    Point Ybel Brewing Company has grown from a modest family brewery to one of the most well known in the area. Its name comes from the location of the Gulf Coast’s first lighthouse and the beer they brew draws inspiration from the ingredients found on the beaches along Sanibel and Fort Myers. To have a taste, stop by their tasting room on San Carlos Boulevard on Tuesday to Sunday where you’ll find live music and a selection of their best small-batch pale ales.
  2. Momentum Brewhouse
    Momentum Brewhouse was founded in 2014 as a space designed to be as fun for children as it is for adults. The brewery offers old-school entertainment including vintage arcade games and an assortment of board games which can keep the family entertained for hours while you try some of the brewhouse’s best craft beers. 
  3. Old Soul Brewing
    Old Soul Brewing was also opened in 2014 by two brothers who combined their talents to create a selection of ales including an imperial chocolate stout and an innovative chai tea pale ale. Their taproom in Fort Myers is open to the public and offers the perfect chance to get to know the brewing process over a glass of the real thing, 

Although beer is a very popular drink of choice in Sanibel Island, Rum is also a popular tipple and you won’t find anything better than Wicked Dolphin’s true Florida Rum which is crafted using ingredients from the sunshine state.

11. Take a Sunset Bike Ride

Believe it or not, Sanibel Island has more than just beautiful sandy beaches and spectacular sunsets. Biking on Sanibel Island is popular thanks to more than 20 miles of paved bike trails that are just waiting to be explored. Bikes can be rented from a number of locations on the Island and provide a great way to get around and learn the area. You can choose from single speed cruisers to recumbent bikes or even tandems. 

As night falls over Sanibel Island, a sunset bike ride is an active way to enjoy the view, with many trails passing through some of the most picturesque locations on the island. There are dozens of trails to choose from but three you shouldn’t miss out on include: 

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12. Cool Off with a Sweet TreatCool Off With a Sweet Treat

After a long day in the Florida sun having fun, there’s only one way to wind down your day and that’s with a sweet treat from one of Sanibel’s most loved dessert spots. Aside from fresh seafood, Sanibel is also home to award-winning key lime pie, delicious Italian ice cream, and scrumptious cakes. Here are a couple of places you should definitely try. 

Joey’s Custard

Joey’s Custard is a family-owned and operated cafe that has been serving the locals of Sanibel since 1998. The cafe focuses on providing a delicious selection of treats including Italian ice cream, frozen yogurt, frozen custard, waffles, and ice cream sandwiches - there are even ice-cream options for vegans. 

Run by Debi and her son, the establishment offers a warm and friendly environment with free wifi, puzzles, games and outdoor seating. So whether you want to grab an ice cream and go or stay and chill, you’ll be well accommodated. 

Love Boat Ice Cream

For ice cream lovers look no further than Love Boat Ice Cream which has been a Southwest Florida destination for more than 50 years. Founded in 1967 by the Love family the company may have changed hands a few times since then but still serves up some of the most delicious homemade ice cream in the area. The chain now has three locations including one in Sanibel and they serve more than 85 flavors including classics such as:

And also seasonal flavors including:

So if you’re in the mood for ice cream on a warm summer evening you know where to go. 

13. Try Sanibel Shelling at Night

Sanibel’s pristine white beaches aren’t just famous for their soft, fluffy sand, but also for their abundance of seashells. Seashell lovers and collectors from all over the world travel to Sanibel just to pick shells from its beaches, and the island even has a shell museum, devoted to every aspect of shelling. 

Take a short walk down any of Sanibel’s beaches and you’re bound to spot someone doing the ‘Sanibel stoop’ - that is bending over at the waist to pick up a shell, and we wouldn’t be surprised if you very quickly joined them. 

All of the Gulf beaches on Sanibel are excellent locations for shelling but for the best selection try to go at low tide or after a storm when fresh shells will have been distributed onto the sand. To help preserve the ecology of the Sanibel landscape it’s important that you remain conscious of the environment when shelling, so try to limit your collection of empty shells and remember never to pick up or disturb live shells that are home to inhabitants. 

Some of the kinds of shells you may find include: 

Plan Your Sanibel Vacation with Royal Shell

Here at Royal Shell, we specialize in vacation rentals in Southwest Florida and know far more than just what to do on Sanibel Island at night. Our team of experienced Vacation Advisors live and work in the local area. This makes us your go-to resource when deciding about what to do, where to go, what to eat and what to see to ensure you have the trip of a lifetime. 

We manage more than 2000 vacation rentals and long term rentals across Southwest Florida. So ,whether you prefer an upscale vacation condo rental on Sanibel Island or are looking for a Sanibel Island vacation home rental to fit your whole family we can help. 

To find out more about our extensive range of Sanibel Island vacation rentals or to discuss your dream Sanibel Island holiday check our availability or contact us today!