10 Best Things To Do In Sanibel Island, Florida

things to do in sanibel island florida

Sanibel Island, Florida is just as beautiful as the rest of the Sunshine State. It had such pretty blue water and the sands are white and full of seashells for everyone to pick up and take home as reminders of their Florida trip. There is an array of things to do in the area too, so there is no way visitors will get bored while they are enjoying the lovely weather. Be sure to check out some of these fascinating attractions when in Sanibel Island, Florida.

1. J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mathisen, Jim (US...

A government run organization, the J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge was created in order to show visitors pristine Floridian nature. It’s an educational place for visitors of all ages to go to get away from the digital world. Their hours are normally 7 in the morning to 7 in the evening, which gives visitors plenty of time to check out everything that they have here at the refuge. The refuge is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. The refuge got its name from the cartoonist Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, who was quite important during the conservation movement. He appointed to many wildlife refuge committees by then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The park was named after him because of his active participation in the conservation movement and because he took part in wanting to maintain the natural life in that area. The wildlife refuge is more than 2,000 acres (809 hectares) and is home to a lot of different animals. It makes for quite a relaxing day but is also educational.

J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Address: 1 Wildlife Dr., Sanibel, FL 33957

Website: J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge

2. Bowman's Beach

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island
Source: Photo by Flickr user Peter & Michelle S used under CC BY 2.0

What a beautiful day for a beach trip! Beaches are best when the weather is hot and sunny, so be sure to check the weather before packing up the beach items and heading out. Bowman’s Beach has such white sands and clear blue waters; it’s no wonder people choose to go to the beach every single day. There are seashells everywhere for children to collect and take home for souvenirs. The beach is a few miles of unobstructed sand, which means people can walk up and down the coastline without being interrupted by huge boulders or jetties. Be sure to pack sunscreen for the trip though, since the sun is always extra hot and bright at the beach!

Bowman's Beach

Address: 1700 Bowman’s Beach Rd, Sanibel, FL

Website: Bowman’s Beach

3. Sanibel Moorings Botanical Gardens

Botanical Garden
Source: Pxfuel

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Sanibel Moorings Botanical Gardens are actually situated behind Sanibel Moorings, which is a resort that is located in Sanibel, Florida. They offer a 90 minute light walking tour for visitors to look around the lovely gardens with a tour guide telling them all about the different types of flowers that are planted here and the insects that tend to come with them. There are a lot of flowers that attract butterflies, so keep an eye out for the beautiful winged creatures. They also have private tours in which visitors can get their own tour guide to show them around the area, which is nice for those that have a large group. It’s convenient to be able to ask the guide questions during this private tour.

Self-guided tours are also available, where visitors can take all the time in the world walking through the gardens and looking at the many different beautiful plants. It’s quite easy to spend a few hours here, so people should guide themselves so they can explore the area. The only thing with the self-guided tour is that there aren’t tour guides to explain different things or answer any questions you might have. Overall, this is quite an experience that visitors will love on a bright, sunshiny day.

Sanibel Moorings Botanical Gardens

Address: 845 E Golf Dr., Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Sanibel Moorings Botanical Gardens

4. Blind Pass Beach

Mollusc shells on marine beach (Sanibel Inn Beach, Sanibel Island, Florida, USA) 6
Source: Photo by Flickr user James St. John used under CC BY 2.0

Blind Pass Beach is a wonderful place to take the whole family. The people there are always so friendly, so there are not too many reasons to worry about your kids who are having fun here. Unlike many other beaches, this one does not have any lifeguards on duty, so parents should keep on an eye on their children, especially since the water tends to have large waves. The waves make for awesome surfing, so for those that love the sport, be sure to bring your surf board along or rent one at a local beach shop. Blind Pass Beach is a relaxing day that visitors should keep in mind if traveling to the Sanibel, Florida area.

Blind Pass Beach

Address: 6725 Mantasota Key Rd, Englewood FL 34223

Website: Blind Pass Beach

5. Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Beach view of Sanibel Lighthouse
Source: Photo by user Eeviann used under CC BY-SA 3.0

While it only actually takes a few minutes to enjoy the views of the lighthouse, it’s something that shouldn’t be missed. It’s not an activity that can take a whole day, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless. Built in 1884, the lighthouse is a historic beacon that got its use when it was built. Although congress was slow at granting the funds for the lighthouse, they finally budgeted 50,000 USD for the project. The area had quite a few boats coming through for tradingin the 1800s, and sailors as well as those that lived around the area believed the lighthouse to be a majorly needed addition to Sanibel Island. Beside the lighthouse is a small park where visitors can enjoy their afternoon if they wish, exploring the grounds that were once so busy with fisherman and sailors.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Address: 112 Perwinkle Way, Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Sanibel Island Lighthouse

6. Pinocchio's Original Italian Ice Cream

Italian ice cream
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Alessio Damato used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

For a cold, sweet treat on a hot afternoon, be sure to check out Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream. The flavors they have will knock the socks off of anyone that walks through the door. With flavors like double dark chocolate, dirty sand dollar, mocha and chip, and Sanibel crunch, it makes you wonder what else they have in their freezers. The entire staff is super friendly and the owners often come out and help serve their customers with their employees. They also have baked goods such as doughnuts and pastries that are baked on a daily basis. They go really well with some of the ice creams, so try some different combinations when visiting here. Be sure to try a gluten free cookie while here too as they are just as delicious as the frozen treats. The porch out front of the shop is the perfect place to enjoy the treats, and if someone makes a mess, the bugs will clean it up!

Pinocchio's Original Italian Ice Cream

Address: 362 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream

7. Periwinkle Place

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Periwinkle Place is a collection of shops where people can go to spend some time and money. With its twenty-five shops, including Blue Giraffe Restaurant, the Sanibel Day Spa, and an Original Chico’s, there is definitely something here for everyone. This is Sanibel’s largest shopping centers and it continues to get positive reviews from not only the visitors of the area, but the locals who enjoy the shopping center as well. They are open from ten in the morning to seven in the evening, so a shopping day can be arranged for those who wish for one.

Periwinkle Place

Address: 2075 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Perwinkle Place

8. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Junonia exhibit
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Invertzoo used under CC BY-SA 4.0

It may seem a little silly, but the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum is actually pretty cool. It’s the only museum in the United States that is dedicated to mollusks and the shells that they make. There are thirty different exhibits that showcase shells in art and history, shell habitat, rare specimens, fossil shells, common southwest Florida shells, and so much more. They even have a personal learning experience for kids to play and learn about different mollusks. It’s really quite fascinating to learn about different mollusk species. It makes one look much harder when looking for shells at the beach.

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Address: 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Rd, Sanibel, Florida 33957

Website: The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

9. Sanibel Historical Museum and Village

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

This place is like a step back in time with all its old-fashioned buildings and workers in old clothing. Admission is only 10 USD for those who are over the age of 18 years and those who are under 18 years are free. Visitors can see first-hand what the area of Sanibel looked like in the 1880s through the 1940s. There are seven different buildings for visitors to explore and experience the old fashioned ways of life. The buildings are full of antiques such as old desk chairs from a school, gardening tools in the old caretaker’s cottage, beds and personal belongings in the bigger houses, and a shop that looks exactly like it would have 100 years ago, with medical items and necessities of the time period. It’s really quite fascinating to learn about the different artifacts that were used during the time period and see things how they used to be so long ago. The Sanibel Historical Museum is a great way to spend a few hours learning about the history of Sanibel.

Sanibel Historical Museum and Village

Address: 250 Dunlop Rd, Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Sanibel Historical Museum and Village

10. Sanibel Island Farmers' Market

Farmers' Market
Source: Needpix

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Held in City Hall every Sunday from eight in the morning to one in the afternoon, this is the best place to get the freshest of fruits and vegetables. The Sanibel Island Farmers’ Market has more than just food though. They often have little stands that sell homemade products such as soap, guacamole, honey and jams, and even fresh seafood. They have vendors that make food here too, like crepes, ice cream, fruity green tea, and fresh pastries made specifically for the farmers’ market that day. Everything just tastes so yummy; visitors will wonder if they can buy another stomach so they can eat all over again. The nice thing about the food they do sell here is that is can be taken home and eaten another day if there is no room for it there. For the people that don’t like to buy fresh produce from supermarkets or grocery stores, this is a fantastic solution for those fresh veggies without having to actually grow them themselves. The vendors here are so nice and helpful, they even let their possible customers have samples of some of their products like the salsas and jellies. This is a real treat for those that love meeting people and eating real, fresh food.

Sanibel Island Farmers' Market

Address: 800 Dunlop Rd, Sanibel FL 33957

Website: Sanibel Island Farmers’ Market

Having fun in Sanibel, Florida

Sanibel, Florida is full of vacation activities. There is so much history to learn here that it can be hard to try and learn everything in just one or two days. The beach is a must visit place when the weather permits, since a rainy day at the beach just isn’t fun. Sanibel also has plenty of shopping areas for visitors if they feel the need to shop until they drop. And the farmers’ market is a must if Sunday is a part of the trip. They have such great food and vendors here, it’s quite a memorable experience. Sanibel, Florida is a great vacation spot for those wanting to travel to the Sunshine State.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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My name is Samantha Kern, and I have my Bachelor's Degree in English, which I'm using to pursue a career in writing. I've had a love of traveling since I was younger. My family would go to the...Read more

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