For generations, people have escaped over the three-mile causeway to a refreshing pace of life. Find protected white-sand beaches brimming with shells, unmatched wildlife viewing and a family-focused village atmosphere.
Palm trees and nature flourish here on heavily vegetated flower-lined islands famous for beaches and the incredible variety of shells on the shore. Beaches range from Lighthouse Park at one end of Sanibel to Captiva’s romantic beaches where sunsets draw a nightly crowd. In between are even more family-friendly beaches and long stretches of unpopulated sands fronting beautiful houses. Seashells cover most, but Bowman’s Beach is known for its selections.
On Sanibel, 25 miles of multi-use paths function as sidewalks, bike paths and recreational trails beside buildings no taller than the tallest palm tree. Residents and visitors alike maintain a healthy commitment to the environment. Half of Sanibel’s acreage has been preserved against development.
Throughout history, Sanibel and Captiva have been stopovers for the rich and famous, including one special cartoonist. Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling helped create the 6,400-acre national wildlife refuge that still bears his name on Sanibel. Other notable visitors include Teddy Roosevelt, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and more. From artist Robert Rauschenberg to weatherman Willard Scott, the famous still seek refuge at this preserve for wildlife and the human soul.
Visitors to both islands enjoy the languid pace of island life, great restaurants, theater and museums. Education centers introduce visitors to the island’s marine, freshwater and hammock habitats where river otters, loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, bald eagles and hundreds of native and migratory birds find refuge.
Art galleries hold an inspiring presence on Sanibel Island, with monthly Art Nights during the winter. Seashell shops, resort clothing boutiques and jewelry stores selling custom, sea-inspired adornments line small shopping centers festooned with bougainvillea, shady ficus trees and swaying palms. Restaurants on both islands excel at seafood succulence, but menus range from Mediterranean to New American.
Between Sanibel and Captiva, find a resort to precisely match your style of vacationing. Small inns provide an intimate experience, Gulf-front resorts cater to beach buffs, cottages have that freeing barefoot feel, and grand destination resorts leave no vacation whim unfulfilled. Local marinas offer plenty of cruises and guided experiences on the water, while resorts and outfitters often stock kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats and an assortment of water toys.