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What to do on Sanibel Island at Night: 13 Best Choices

Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
February 10, 2020

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:

  • Coconuts 
  • The Sand Bar
  • The Clam Shack
  • The Lazy Flamingo 

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: 

  • Monday - Head on down to enjoy a local jam featuring local musicians and talented tourists.
  • Tuesday -  It’s open mic night and a chance to listen to some of the best vocal talents in the area.
  • Wednesday - On Wednesdays it’s ladies night and they also offer half-price drinks
  • Thursday  - The fun doesn’t stop there, on Thursday George and Wendy’s turns into the place to be for karaoke.
  • Friday and Saturday - And on Friday and Saturday nights you’ll find live music gigs to dance the night away. 

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: 

  • The J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
    This trail epitomizes all that is natural Florida, winding its way through the J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve. On your ride, you’ll see alligators, migratory bird populations and a variety of other native species in their native habitats, and your $1 admission fee will go towards the upkeep of the National Refuge. 
  • Periwinkle Way
    Unlike your average tourist strip, Periwinkle way is a charming ride dotted with shops and restaurants with bike-friendly parking. Separated from the street you needn’t worry about cars and can enjoy your cycle through town at sunset on your way to a delicious dinner or a well-deserved drink.
  • Middle Gulf Cemetery Bike Trail
    Although it may seem a little morbid, the Middle Gulf Cemetery Bike Trail is in fact very beautiful and is the perfect way to take in this historical site. 
Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
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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:

  • Cookies and cream 
  • Birthday cake 
  • Key Lime pie
  • Vanilla Peanut Butter

And also seasonal flavors including:

  • Eggnog
  • Pumpkin ginger
  • Peppermint 
  • Salty Jack

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: 

  • Conch shells
    Fighting conch shells are most likely to be found along the beaches of Sanibel, with their distinctive spiral appearance and vibrant color patterns.
  • Junonia shells
    One of the island’s most coveted shells, the Junonia shell is a beautiful milky white color covered in brown spots. People who find one can get their picture in the local paper!
  • Cockle shells
    Heart Cockle shells are one of the most common shells to be found on Sanibel beaches and can reach fairly large sizes. Some islanders use large heart cockle shells as soap dishes.
  • Sand dollar shells
    Sand dollar shells when bleached turn a beautiful creamy white color and look beautiful hung on trees as Island Christmas decorations. 

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!

Need to check availability of a perfect Sanibel vacation rental?
Take a minute to complete a short form and submit it to us so we can check the availability of the property you desire.
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