Sandy beaches with plentiful seashells attract vacationers to the quaint yet vibrant Sanibel Island along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Waterfront Sanibel Island vacation rentals provide an ideal home base for your island adventures. At this breathtaking destination, you can slow down and soak in your tropical surroundings. With plenty of things to do beyond the beaches, Sanibel Island offers travelers of all ages memorable attractions and activities.

Sanibel Lighthouse in blue sky
Source: Flickr/Pat (Cletch) Williams

1. Take a Nature Tour

Choose from multiple tour options through Tarpon Bay Explorers. Each tour focuses on nature and wildlife, often centering around the popular J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Kayak through a mangrove forest, or take a cruise on a pontoon boat for a laid-back option.

2. Eat at the Bubble Room

The Bubble Room Restaurant on the nearby Captiva Island is a world-famous dining option with an eclectic decor you can’t forget. While the Christmas room is popular, each room has a different theme with delightfully over-the-top decorations to match. To the delight of young diners, trains run around the restaurant, and the entire family can expect to be wowed by the bright colors and creative decor.

3. Play a Round of Golf

The quaint and cozy Sanibel Island boasts three golf courses to choose from if you want to hit the links. Options include the Sanibel Island Golf Club and the Sanctuary Golf Club. Choose between golf and tennis at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club.

4. Taste Local Ice Cream

Take a sweet break from your shell hunting and wave jumping at Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream. The shop serves up ice cream, gelato, frozen yogurt, sorbet, sherbet, and Italian custards made fresh in the shop in small batches. Pinocchio’s offers 37 flavors a day, which means plenty of flavor options with over 130 flavors in the rotation. No matter what flavor you decide on, it is Pinocchio’s way to serve you generous portions, and that’s the truth.

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5. Check Out a Nature Center

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation helps you explore the natural world at their Nature Center. Learn about the local ecosystems through interactive exhibits at the center. Check out the exhibits featuring reptiles, or head to the children’s play area with your young travel partners. Outdoors, you can walk on four miles of trails.

6. Learn From an Artist

Sissi Janku is an artist who calls Sanibel home. She has her own studio on the island, and her work is available at the Island Style Gallery. If you want to learn from the artist, sign up for weekly painting classes on the island that anyone can join.

7. Wander the Botanical Gardens

A gardener at Sanibel Moorings Resort first began a botanical garden by planting various tropical plants in the area, and the gardeners who followed him continued to add to the gardens. Check out the native Florida plants as well as tropical plants from other areas. You’re likely to see birds, butterflies, bunnies, and other wildlife while you’re there.

8. Learn About Wildlife Rehabilitation

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife offers state-of-the-art care for wildlife who need rehabilitation. This center is also a teaching hospital that incorporates research and education into animal care. Stop by the Visitor Education Center to explore interactive displays, watch live camera fields of animal care, and see presentations from staff. Check out past rescue stories and medical records.

9. Take a Trip Back in Time

Explore what early life was like on Sanibel Island at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village. Explore the seven restored and relocated historical buildings in the village such as a caretaker’s cottage, one-room schoolhouse, packing house, post office, and various classic style homes.

10. Visit a Shell Museum

The beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands are brimming with seashells, but you can take a closer look at shells from around the world at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. It’s the only museum in the world dedicated only to shells. Displays include shells of Captiva and Sanibel, art created with shells, large shells, and shells as they relate to human history. Stop by the Children’s Learning Lab if you have little ones with you. They can play games and explore the interactive exhibits designed just for them.

11. Take in a Performance

The BIG ARTS Center is a project started by local artists that has grown into multiple venues for performing and visual arts. A performance hall and a theater offer space for these varied performances, and local and national artists display pieces in the Phillips and Founders Galleries.

12. Treat Yourself to a Spa Day

Schedule an appointment at the Sanibel Day Spa to maximize relaxation on your vacation. The spa offers a relaxing ambiance and offers an assortment of day spa services such as massages, facials, reflexology, manicures, pedicures, and salon services. Pamper yourself from head to toe.

13. Go Snorkeling

Board a boat with Sanibel Island Cruise Line to explore the world under the water. Longer cruises allow time to use snorkeling equipment after a sightseeing and dolphin cruise. Plan your cruise to see what goes on above and below the water around Sanibel Island.

14. Watch a Movie

Take a break from the beach with a movie. Island Cinema features two cozy theaters and movie concession favorites. Since the size of the theater is intimately sized, check the schedule to make sure that the movie you want to see is playing.

15. Go on a Dinner Cruise

Board the Sanibel Harbour Princess Yacht for a dinner cruise with your partner or family. The luxury yacht makes the experience comfortable and memorable. Stay indoors in the air conditioning, or get a better view of the surroundings on the outdoor observation deck. The yacht sets sail from nearby Fort Myers.

 
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