Visitors to both islands enjoy not only the natural, ungroomed beaches, but also the languid pace of island life, great restaurants, theater and museums such as Sanibel Historical Village
and the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
. Education centers at Sanibel’s two main eco-attractions introduce the uninitiated to the island’s marine, freshwater and hammock habitats, where river otters, loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, bald eagles and hundreds of native and transitory birds find refuge.
Restaurants on both islands excel at seafood succulence in settings that range from porch cafes to waterfront views and modern elegance. Although seafood is the centerpiece, menus range from Mediterranean to New American in style. Dining and shopping are favorite pastimes on the island for those ready to leave the beach for a spell. Sanibel Island is known for its art galleries, which specialize in wildlife paintings. Don’t miss the monthly Art Nights during the winter season. Seashell shops, resort clothing boutiques and jewelry stores selling custom, sea-inspired adornments line small shopping centers prettily decorated with bougainvillea, shady ficus trees and swaying palms.
The islands’ marinas offer plenty of opportunity to get out on the water. Offerings include shelling on secluded islands, hitting a beach away from it all, fishing, sailing, snorkeling, learning about marine life or camping on a bridgeless island. Many resorts and outfitters stock kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats and an assortment of water toys for vacationers’ enjoyment.
Between Sanibel and Captiva, visitors can find a resort to precisely match their style of vacationing. Small inns provide an intimate experience, Gulf-front resorts cater to beach buffs, cottages have that delicious barefoot feel and grand destination resorts leave no vacation whim unfulfilled with a full complement of marina, tennis, beach and golf facilities.