Your Sanibel Island vacation rental lets you enjoy 15 miles of pristine beaches, 22 miles of bike paths, and zero traffic lights. The island’s east-west orientation situates it perfectly to catch over 250 types of shells out of the Gulf of Mexico tides. Besides relaxing and playing on the beaches, there are kid-friendly restaurants, museums, and historical sites to enjoy with your family. You can explore the island, taking in the lush, tropical plant and wildlife by walking, biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, and boating. Here are our top 11 things to do in Sanibel Island with kids you should pencil in your itinerary.
1. Explore the Island
As your family settles into your Sanibel Island vacation rental, exploring the island helps acclimate everyone to the surroundings. A lovely place to start is Sanibel Moorings Botanical Gardens. Visitors have the option of using the free map for a self-guided tour or joining a guided tour to identify the flowers and plants in the gardens. Another place of interest that helps families understand the history of the area, the Sanibel Historical Museum, and Village features seven historic buildings that were moved from their original sites. Each building was restored to its original state, and volunteers tell the stories of the proprietors, fishermen, farmers, and students who occupied the buildings.
2. Snap Some Photos of the Sanibel Light
In between building sandcastles, watching dolphins, and finding places to eat, the historic 1884 Sanibel Lighthouse makes an interesting stop. Located in Lighthouse Beach Park at the eastern tip of Sanibel Island, it’s still in use. Visitors may take pictures of the lighthouse from the outside only as it is not open to the public for climbing. The 32-acre park surrounding the lighthouse features beaches, walking paths, a picnic area, and showers.
3. Rent a Sailboat
If sailing is your passion, you can share it with the kids when you rent a sailboat from Yolo Watersports in Captiva. The Wave is a 14-foot catamaran that can accommodate your whole family. You have the option of selecting the Wave Club Edition, which features a three-piece trampoline. Yolo rents catamarans in increments from one-to-eight hours.
4. Join a Pirate Mutiny
“Arrr” you ready for a pirate adventure? Delight your kids when you take them aboard Pieces of Eight, Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise ship. Just be ready to immerse yourself in the 90-minute interactive comedy aboard this 65-foot replica of a Spanish galleon. Buccaneers take the pirate oath before engaging in pirate shenanigans. The crew engages the kids in face painting, stories, dancing, and a mutiny against the captain while the ship cruises about the gulf.
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5. Bike the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Trails
The Bailey Tract of the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland with trails that are accessible by biking or walking. Visitors also enjoy canoeing, kayaking, and boating as well as bird-watching and fishing. The Indigo Trail is recommended for short hikes, and you can access it at the bottom of the ramp of the Visitor and Education Center. However, your family chooses to enjoy the refuge, look for wading birds, otters, rabbits, and alligators. You may pick up free coloring books for the kids in the Education Center.
6. Play Mini Golf
Jungle Golf on Sanibel Island features tropical landscaping and waterfalls in a jungle-themed environment respects nature and nurtures family enjoyment. Mini-golfers navigate waterfalls and elephant statues, putt along a lagoon, and cross streams in search of the lost treasure of King Solomon’s mines. You can set out on a swashbuckling adventure at Smuggler’s Cove Adventure Golf in Fort Myers Beach. While playing the 18 holes of miniature golf, you navigate through caves, pirate ships, waterfalls, and past 20 to 30 live alligators. Players may feed the alligators with cane fishing poles to top off the adventure.
7. Snorkel to Explore the Shallow Waters of the Gulf
The beaches on Sanibel Island slope gently, letting you go out hundreds of yards and still be in shallow waters. Toddlers can play without sudden drop-offs, and it makes great snorkeling territory for kids. Using diving masks, snorkels, and swim fins, you can watch underwater life from the surface of the water for extended periods of time. The Gulf of Mexico waters around Sanibel Island are perfect for snorkeling as they are warm, calm, and clear.
8. Eat at a Diner
Swimming, biking, hiking, snorkeling, and running around takes lots of energy and works up some hefty appetites. Sanibel includes a couple of eateries that are especially fun for kids. The Blue Giraffe Island Dining is where you can eat and relax island-style. Kids love the whimsical giraffes and the atmosphere, not to mention the burgers, sandwiches, and other menu options. Another stop is the Island Cow, which features outdoor games and live entertainment. Both of these kid-friendly diners serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and feature pet-friendly outdoor dining.
9. Fish off the Sanibel City Pier
The best thing about taking a kid fishing is that you get to spend quality time together. You can fish off the Sanibel City Pier, which is located at the east end of Sanibel Island next to the lighthouse. Fishing is a good activity that gives you a chance to talk about whatever your child wants to discuss. You can explain that fishing takes some patience, and answer your child’s questions about fish.
10. Zoom Across the Water on a Banana Boat
A great way to beat the heat is to take a banana boat ride with Sunny Island Adventure. Everyone dons life jackets, hops on, and hangs on for a thrilling ride along the coastline. Keep an eye out for dolphins and other sea creatures under the water. Go fast and get wet on this inflatable ride as you glide across the waters, getting splashed and sprayed.
11. Collect Seashells
For a leisurely day of beachcombing, swimming, and picnicking, head over to Bowman’s Beach. It’s a great area to look for seashells. Before you go, a visit to the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum can spur the kids’ curiosity and sense of wonder about seashells. This museum is devoted solely to shells and the mollusks that make them, and your family can hit the beach with a new perspective and lots of new knowledge about shells. Exhibits include shells from around the world and artwork created using shells.
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