Discover Florida’s Paradise Island

Southwest Florida doesn’t struggle for gorgeous beaches, but Sanibel Island to the west of Fort Myers stands out for its calm seas at the likes of Bowman’s Beach with its BBQ equipment and fantastic shell-collecting. Indeed, Sanibel is considered by many to be one of the best places in the world for ‘shelling’ due to being a barrier island that is part of a large underwater plateau along which hundreds of seashells accumulate every day.

The area around the 1884-built Sanibel Lighthouse is a particularly popular shell-collecting spot, while the island is also home to the fascinating Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, where you can put your finds into context; its displays include native Floridian shells along with locally crafted shell art, which you can also learn to do yourself in various local venues.

What to Do on Sanibel Island

Sanibel is considered by many to be one of the world’s loveliest beach destinations, with 24km of pristine shoreline and 40km of paved trails to explore. Florida is, of course, known around the world for its year-round sunshine, so this is a great destination to consider at any time of year.

Sanibel Island’s star turn is the JN ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the largest mangrove ecosystem in the whole of the United States. Its 6,000-acre park includes remote kayak trails, coastal hiking or cycling and there are also guided tram tours. Along the way, wildlife sightings you may enjoy include more than 270 bird species – herons, egrets, cormorants, and ospreys among them – plus dolphins, manatees and otters.

Sanibel is also great for fishing trips, crabbing and angling – and some local restaurants will even cook your catch for you.  The cuisine on the island is eclectic and inventive, with converging global influences on display in around 50 restaurants and cafés ranging from waterfront fine-dining venues to colourful ice-cream counters. The island is a fantastic spot for leisurely evening meals as the sun sets over the Gulf of Mexico.

Snorkelling and diving are big draws here, on both wrecks and artificial reefs that help restock the waters with fish. Of the more than a dozen artificial reefs within 25km of Sanibel are the Edison Reef, created from a former mainland bridge, the Belton Johnson Reef, named after a well-known local fishing guide, and the Red Fish Pass, where a large tug boat was added to several railroad hoppers providing residences for barracuda, cobia, nurse sharks, groupers, amberjacks and moray eels. There is also a wide range of cruises and eco tours, some of them including SUP paddleboarding and other water-sports opportunities.

For other sporting visitors, Sanibel Island is home to two public 18-hole championship golf courses, both of which are committed to preserving their gorgeous environment – a unique setting where you might catch a glimpse of an eagle or roseate spoonbill while playing a round. There are also excellent courses for tennis and pickleball.

Accommodation on Sanibel ranges from sleek seafront resorts with swimming pools, water sports, tennis courts and bike hire or loan, to quaint inns and away-from-it-all cottages. Sanibel Island is also a great place for art lovers, with lots of local galleries to happen upon as you wander around, and monthly Art Nights during the winter. The shopping is fabulous, especially for seashells and for sea-inspired homewares and other local crafts.

To book your stay on Sanibel Island, get in touch today. You’ll benefit from full financial protection and a 24-hour duty office ready to assist you before, during and after your trip.

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