We explored Captiva Island Florida yesterday, and now we're ready to tackle Sanibel Island! This bigger island – also just off the coast of Fort Myers – offers a TON of dining and recreational spots that'll keep the whole family entertained from dawn until dusk.
A Day on Sanibel Island, a Wildlife Haven
Sanibel Island Morning
- Brace yourself, there's a ton to see on Sanibel Island. First up, visit Bowman's Beach as early as possible in the morning. It costs a few bucks to park in front of the beach and you are in for a bit of a walk, but the view is worth it. White sand as far as the eye can see, restrooms, a changing area, BBQ facilities and showers make this the perfect spot to start your day.
- Next, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge opens as early as 7am. Early? Yes. But it's worth it to beat the crowd to this hotspot teeming with island wildlife. You might see nesting birds, breaching manatees, hopping frogs and leaping lizards.
The Sanibel Island Breakfast of Champions
- Island Cow opened at 8am when we were there, and they serve the BEST muffins ever! Leave room for those, and brace yourself for a massive menu with interesting concoctions like gator strips (OMG yes) and andouille sausage.
- Alternately, Blue Giraffe opens at 8:30am and they're known for their Fisherman's Benedict and Crab Trap Omelette.
Crafts on Sanibel Island, plus Thrifting and Shopping
Sanibel Community House offers shell crafting experiences with fun local guides! Want to make an owl, a car or a turtle? This is where it's at! There are fees involved with make-and-takes, but they're minimal and it's an awesome opportunity to learn from people who are really experienced in local art.
Ready for some more quaint island experiences? Gene's Books is right across the street from the community house, and Noah's Ark Thrift Shop is also nearby. The book store is the most amazing literary experience I've ever undergone. There are stacks upon stacks upon stacks of books, literally laying in piles on the floor just waiting for bookish patrons to come along and expand their minds.
Lunch is at Lighthouse Cafe! This world-renowned spot is actually engrained in my childhood memory, as my grandma had some of their ceramic souvenirs in her own kitchen. They make phenomenal pancakes, french toast and homemade strawberry jam. There tends to be a wait here, but it's worth it.
Hop just next door for ice cream at the world famous Pinocchio's, where Italian flavor invades the Floridian dessertscape in the most glorious display of chocolate, vanilla, pistachio and more enduring flavors that the whole family will love.
Sanibel Island Education
Next, take a walk among the wildlife at CROW! The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife accepts patient admission 7 days per week, 365 days per year. Their commitment to wildlife and visitor education is unparalleled, and their hands-on demonstrations are awesome. This is the spot where my 4-year-old declared, “I want to be a vet someday!”
Unwind and Enjoy Evening Entertainment on Sanibel Island
Run over to Jerry's to pick up some meat, cheese, and veggies (or fresh coconut!) for a quiet night at the hotel with a charcuterie board that rivals the very best city spread. Jerry's also has a ton of awesome parrots outside to add some entertainment to your evening!
Be Prepared for Rain on Sanibel Island
Last on our list of Sanibel Island entertainment, Island Cinema is the perfect spot to seek some shade and catch up on the latest movies. Sanibel tends to get a fair amount of rain and afternoon thunderstorms, so it's good to have a backup plan in your back pocket!