Beautiful Sanibel Island, a somewhat hidden paradise right off the coast of southwest Florida. While with a population of less than 8,000 people, it is home to some of the most expensive average costing homes in the state.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Sanibel ticks off a lot of boxes for being a beautiful place to live, vacation at, fish, and just simply, visit.
For those who aren’t from the area, Sanibel Island has Sanibel city that comprises most of the local population. Driving up north about 15 minutes will bring you to Captiva, an unincorporated community of Sanibel Island that has approximately 165 residents (as of 2020 census polls).
Whether you are local or an out of stater, let me show you exactly the best things to do on Sanibel and Captiva are.
Table of Contents
Top 11 Things to do in Sanibel and Captiva
Junk removal is the process of getting a person or a group of individuals (usually a business) to come to your home or office and physically remove some or ALL unwanted items you outline.
This can vary from very easy items to remove such as household trash or an old couch. The place where costs can really skyrocket is where the removal of the item gets more difficult, or there’s a lot to remove. As I continue the discussion this further down, you’ll have a better understanding in just a few minutes.
In almost all cases, junk removal costs money and the price can vary greatly.
#11 Go Fish on Sanibel Island
Did you know Sanibel Island is known for some of the best fishing in Florida, and that says a lot. Fishing can be done from either ashore or from a pier. Locally, some of the best fishing can be had near Blind Pass and from a pier named Lighthouse Beach Park.
If you are from out of state, you can grab all the items you need at many local island stores, including a favorite spot called Baileys General Store.
While local residents don’t need a fishing license to fish anywhere on Sanibel Island, a way to avoid getting the fishing license is by booking a fishing charter with a reputable local business. A few favorites are “Hey Mon Sanibel”, “Relentless Persuit Charters” and “Whitney Bait and Tackle/Charters”, according to Trip Advisor.
If you plan on visiting Sanibel for the purpose of fishing, be sure to arrive early in the morning, especially on the weekend.
#10 Find a Campground
You probably didn’t think of camping on a relatively small island such as Sanibel, but yes, it is possible. With the beautiful views of the Gulf just minutes away, the only real option you have is the Periwinckle Trailer Park. This park offers reasonable daily and weekly rates that accommodate up to 2 people and vehicles ranging from vans, to full-size motor homes.
According to the website, daily prices can fluctuate from $55 to $70/day and when it comes to monthly, rates a considerably less.
If you come to the island, camping here should just be one of the things you do. Keep on reading to see what other jems there are to find on Sanibel Island.
#9 Visit a Local Beach
Did you now Sanibel Island is ranked in the top 10 beaches in the country… for quite some time too. Visiting Sanibel Island isn’t a visit without going to the beautiful beaches. The first recommendation I have for you is Sanibel Lighthouse Beach Park. This is one of the most visible areas of the island, especially when you are driving across the Fort Myers/Sanibel causeway from the small A and B islands that connect it all.
Another local favorite is Bowmans Beach, a slightly unique beach that you’ll have a hard time finding anywhere else. Why is it so unique? Bowmans Beach has a very natural look to it, with no obstruction from either ends, no hotels, condominiums, houses, or anything else. While popular, get there early and reap the benefits.
#8 Find GOOD Food (Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner)
Some people who visit this island assume relative difficulty when it comes to finding decent places to eat, often assuming a trip to Fort Myers will be necessary. However, there’s a place for you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A local favorite is the Lighthouse Cafe of Sanibel Island. With over 700 reviews and overall excellent visitor feedback (not to mention mouth-watering food pictures on Google), you can’t go wrong for a lunch/brunch spot.
Moving forward to a lunch spot, the Tipsy Turtle takes the cake for being a hot spot for lunch activity. From nachos, sandwiches, pasta, soups, and much more. There’s not only food for most taste buds but everything is also reasonably priced.
If you want to wrap up with dinner, try George & Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille. The most popular restaurant on Sanibel Island by far and with reasonable prices. Great selection of local seafood.
#7 Go Golfing on Sanibel Island
Yes, you read that right. When it comes to golfing, southwest Florida is no stranger to golf courses, especially since most northern residents flock south for the winter and take full advantage of them. Sanibel is known for high-end homes and an overall pricey real estate environment.
People who live here want to golf here, great news if you are just visiting and you want to golf a bit.
Some notable golf courses to visit is the Sanibel Island Golf Club which sits on 150 acres, the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, the Sanctuary Golf Club, and South Sea Island Golf.
#6 Kayak or Canoe Throughout Sanibel
If you drive through Sanibel Island, you are bound to see quite a few interesting things. From beautiful beaches to cozy, family owned restaurants. Throughout the Island, including Captiva, you can also take a kayak or canoe through the numerous waterways.
For starters, take your kayak J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge where you’ll be able to not only walk a trail and see wild animals and sea life, but also float across the numerous waterways.
Jumping forward, there’s also Tarpon Bay and Buck Key Preserve where you can explore with your floating device.
Some notable wildlife you’ll be able to find are manatees, flamingos, alligators, iguanas, and more.
#5 Collect Seashells
As a relatively new resident of the beautiful state of Florida, I did not know that Sanibel is known to be the “Shelling Capital” of the world. That’s right, Sanibel is arguably the best place to find sea shells on the beach.
When it comes to finding sea shells, the best times are after a storm or during low tide. You can find scallops, conchs, tulips, and coquinas shells all over the beach. From Sanibel all the way up to Captiva all 15 miles of sandy beaches can give you ample opportunity to collect sea shells.
#4 Rent and Ride a Bicycle
Because the island is relatively small (compared to some others), there’s a bicycle path that can take you all over the island, including all the way up to Captiva. Renting a bicycle or a tricycle is one of the best ways to do “slow sightseeing”.
What’s great about the local rental shops is that you get options. There options range from bicycles, mopeds (49cc), tricycles, e-bikes, tandem bikes, bicycles with carriages, and more.
If you stay locally for more than a day, rental rates drop significantly for multiple day rentals. For example, rates per day for an e-bike can range from $60 to $100 (on average). Two-day rentals jump to $140-$180 in total, plenty of savings for multiple day stays.
#3 Learn the History of Sanibel
You can learn the history of Sanibel Island and how it came to be. Did you know this island was first settled in 1832 and was planned to be an intentional community (much like Cape Coral is nowadays).
Two notable spots to visit to get more of a historic context is:
- The Morning Glory Cottage (1925)
- Old Bailey General Store (1927)
- Miss Charlottas Tea Room (1926)
- Burnap Cottage (1898)
- The Original Post Office (1926)
- The Sanibel Packing House (1900)
- Rutland House (1913)
- Sanibel School House for White Children (1896)
- The Caretakers Cottage (1925)
- Shore Haven (1924)
Check this page out for more details getting to those locations.
#2 Dive and Explore USS Mohawk
In 2012, the USS Mohawk was finally sunk and made to be a diving spot. The construction of the ship started in 1934 and it was used in World War 2. After the war, the ship was docked in various places, until recently being docked in Fort Myers Beach in preparation for its final voyage.
After being cleared out of any environmental hazards, the ship was taken 30 miles off the coast of Sanibel Island and sunk on July 2, 2012.
Now that this ship has been resting peacefully for a solid decade, you can take a boat there and dive deep to explore the developing reef and all its natural sea life.
#1 Watch the sunset
With this I’ll be honest, doesn’t just apply to Sanibel. With all the things I’ve mentioned thus far, one of the best things (on a clear evening), is to watch the beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Unlike with highly crowded Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers beaches, Sanibel and Captiva beaches tend to be less busy, especially during the evening. With the sun beginning to set, you can easily take some stunning photos and spend some real time with your significant other.
Enjoy Your Stay, Anything I Missed?
That sums up about 11 unique things to do on Sanibel Island, including Captiva area. There’s definitely some options to be had when it comes to almost every item on the list, you just need to drive around a bit or take a bicycle and slow cruise throughout the island.
If you are new to the area and you intend to live in southwest Florida, consider checking out my guide on why it’s a great idea to move to Fort Myers.
Lastly, if you live locally or will be living locally and need unwanted junk to be hauled away, we can help. We provide junk hauling and moving services in all major cities, including Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Sanibel Island (of course), Lehigh Acres, and many other areas within Lee and Collier county.
About Ivan Gordiyenko