Three days at the beach? You deserve it! For those looking for romance, family time, or a bit of one-on-one with nature, head south to Sanibel and Captiva Island. These islands are perfect for everything and offer local hotels, dining, shopping, and entertainment. Plus, tons of outdoor delights as well, not to mention 15 miles of coastline, 25 miles of biking, 50 types of fish, and so much more. Talk about a low-key weekend!
Aside from the location, one of the most important decisions of your trip is where you decide to stay. The best part about Sanibel Island is the quaintness of the inns, such as the Sanibel Inn. This relaxed oceanfront resort features an outdoor pool and dining with simple accommodations. The Seaside Inn is another laid-back beachfront inn. Snuggle up in a suite or cottage, relax poolside and take advantage of complimentary breakfast when you check in here. Both properties are currently offering 15% off deals for Florida residents.
For those looking to stay on Captiva, check out the South Seas Island Resort. This is a huge oceanfront resort with 2.5 miles of beach, 3 pools, 6 restaurants, and a marina. Or, for something more unique and quaint, book a few nights in one of the colorful and cozy cottages at Captiva Island Inn. We’re partial to the Love Shack, perfect for a romantic getaway!
Obviously, when you’re heading out onto an island, you’re main attraction is the beach, right? And, on Sanibel and Captiva, there is certainly plenty of beach to go around – but there’s also more fun to be had.
One of the top attractions in Sanibel Island is the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. In this protected oasis, you can enjoy bird watching, tours, hiking, biking, and so much more. At 6,300 acres, this refuge occupies 1/3 of Sanibel Island. Bring bikes to cruise the 4-mile Wildlife Drive which consists of three trails to discover. Admission for bikers and walkers is just $1/person, or $5/car if you plan to drive.
While you can’t climb to the top of the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, you can still visit the surrounding area for a lighthouse photo-op. Stop by the beach to search for shells while you’re in the area. The lighthouse is more than 100 years old, dating back to August 1884. FYI: there is a fee to park.
Other great spots to check out are Bowman’s Beach, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, or joining a dolphin cruise.
Feel like getting off the islands for the day? Head inland to Cape Coral for a day trip visiting the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery (free tours and tastings!), which is only about 40 minutes from Sanibel. Afterwards, head out to Matlacha, a tiny town that packs a punch with a colorful tiny home village, quirky shops and a handful of eateries. Stop by Great Licks for some yummy homemade ice cream to help you beat the Florida heat.
Sanibel and Captiva Island boast a variety of dining options from fancy upscale eateries to low-key seafood cafes.
First on the list is Doc Ford’s Sanibel. Pulled from classic tastes from the Caribbean, Doc Ford’s offers soups, salads, a raw bar, sandwiches, entrees, and more. Enjoy a refreshing island mojito with your meal. They have locations on Captiva and Sanibel.
Other great spots include The Sandbar, The Clam Shack, and Sunshine Seafood & Wine Bar (located at the Captiva Island Inn).
Know Before You Go
You might be wondering what the difference is between Sanibel and Captiva Island? The islands are known as “sister islands” with Sanibel being the larger of the two and the first off of the mainland of Ft. Myers. Both offer incredible beaches and a laid back atmosphere. While similar, there are a few differences to note before you choose which island to stake your claim.
Sanibel Island is equal parts natural and touristy with an island vibe. It’s full of restaurants and shopping. If you’re on the hunt for shells, Sanibel of your spot as it’s the top shelling destination in North America.
Captiva is the more “chill” sister. Here you can enjoy both the Gulf and Pine Island Sound as well as access to a number of beaches. Captiva’s beaches are rarely crowded and are less shelly and a bit softer. Beach access is limited and there is really only one spot to shop and enjoy.
No matter which island you pick, they’re a 30-minute car ride from each other. So you can’t go wrong!
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