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What to do on Sanibel Island When it Rains

Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
February 11, 2020

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:

  • Exploring the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
  • Seeing a movie at the Island Cinema
  • Shopping at the various island exclusive shops and stores
  • And more.

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 schedule includes art performances in music, dance, and theater from local and international artists. 
  • Try to catch the fine arts exhibition, Sanibel-Captiva Art League’s 44th annual juried, which showcases new work by local artists.
  • For art enthusiasts, there is a rich program of workshops and discussions.
  • Big Arts runs movie films throughout the year with original creations from international directors. 
  • Live jazz music by the community residents is a must-see every Sunday afternoon. 

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. 

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.

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: 

  • Doc Ford’s Rum garden and Grille, with its sunny recipes and cocktails. 
  • The Thistle Lodge at Casa Ybel Resort can turn any weather into an Instagram-worthy picture from their covered patio. 
  • The Mad Hatter restaurant overlooks the beach and has such a laid-back approach to dining that you might even forget it’s raining. 
  • Traditions on the Beach is the oldest restaurant on the island and will wow you with its award-winning menu, and cultural roots the main attractions for the day. 
  • Normandie, the simple café at the heart of a romantic beach wedding venue, will chase the clouds away. 

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!

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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