You may have noticed that I’m writing a lot about Florida recently. What once was a place for childhood vacations with my family has turned into an entirely different holiday for me later in life. A paradise of white sand beaches, great food, lots to do and the best part, it is a short 3-hour flight away from Toronto. My new favourite Florida dream beach vacation is the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Islands and here is why.
Things to do in Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island may seem like a luxury paradise for the super wealthy and celebrity crowd, but upon further investigation, this laid-back Island has a casual beach vibe which everyone will love. There is so much to do and see on the island, and it is just a short drive over the causeway from Fort Myers Beach. See my post on things to do in Fort Myers Beach here: Sunny Dreams on the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Islands.
Morning Cruise to Captiva Island
Once on Sanibel Island, make your way to the South Seas Island Resort’s Yacht Harbour Marina, one of Captiva Cruises’ departure points to catch the half day cruise to Cabbage Key on Captiva Island.
On the boat ride over to the island enjoy cocktails in the sun, and listen to the Captain’s stories about the route and life on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
During the boat trip keep an eye out for dolphins who will follow alongside the ship during your journey. It was a lovely day in the sun that included lunch at Cabbage Key Restaurant on the Island.
You have to get to this Captiva Island restaurant by boat, but Cabbage Key Restaurant is known for two things: the first is Jimmy Buffett’s song “Cheeseburger to Paradise” and the second, all the money hanging on the walls. On a super hot day, it was nice to sit inside the air-conditioned restaurant and enjoy a nice lunch.
Ask your server for some tape and a marker and add your dollar bill anywhere you like. The money that falls down from the ceiling or wall are collected and given to charity.
After lunch, I had a lovely walk along the trails on Captiva Island before we had to board the boat for the ride back to Sanibel island.
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
I never knew how much fun bird watching could be. In a 90-minute tram tour through J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, I saw some fascinating birds and a park that I’d love to revisit again. This Sanibel island attraction, is filled with things to do and see.
Aside from bird and animal watching, the educational centre has numerous interactive displays about their mission to preserve the region’s animals and the environment. There you will get a sense of which birds to keep an eye out for during your tram tour. The park is also a haven for hikers, bikers and fishers. There is more to do at this park than you will be able to do in just one day.
Hit a Sanibel Island Beach
I can’t image a visit to Sanibel Island that doesn’t include sitting and relaxing on at least one of its many white sand beaches. For shellers, this is a paradise unlike any other. Sanibel island shells are plentiful and there are more species of shells on this island than you will ever be able to collect.
Shopping at Sanibel Island’s Village
Just steps from one of Sanibel’s many beaches is its little shopping village, filled with little boutique shops and a great place to stop to grab a bit to eat. Colourful buildings with an assortment of beach attire, souvenirs and art can be found within a short walking distance of one another.
Where to Eat on Sanibel Island
Breakfast or Lunch on Sanibel Island
I have two great spots to hit for breakfast or lunch on the island. The Sunset Grill is a favourite stop on the island serves up a huge menu of breakfast dishes.
Sheller’s TIP: Across the street from the Sunset Grill is a long beach filled with Shells. Pack a shovel and bucket and be sure to cross the road carefully and grab some. Here is a photo I got before being dragged off the beach without any shells.
For more shelling tips check out our post Dream of Shells? Best Shelling Beaches in Florida are on Sanibel Island.
If you love themed restaurants with lots of character and great food, then you will love the Island Cow Restaurant. The cow inspired decorations are found inside and out, and this place will be hard to miss when driving by.
They have a pretty extensive menu, but I chose a simple breakfast as we were eating so much on this trip.
Dinner at Key Lime Bistro
Located in the historic village on Captiva Island the Key Lime Bistro is a casual spot with a delicious menu. We just walked off the beach and made our way to the open-air restaurant for dinner.
From delicious seafood appetisers and entrees, their huge menu has something for everyone. I can’t image not indulging in fish during this trip as seafood does not get fresher than when visiting a region like Fort Myers and Sanibel Islands.
Our table had a variety of dishes from fried fish to this seafood pasta above.
Dessert at The Bubble Room
Cross the street from Key Lime Bistro and get into the lineup at The Bubble Room Restaurant. This restaurant also serves dinner but what it is famous for is its toy inspired decor and huge slices of cake.
Our scout leader came to our table to give us the 411 on all their cake offerings. Chocolate, Orange Crush, Red Velvet. Pick your favourite flavour and note the size of the slices above because what you see in the display is what you are going to get.
Be sure to take some time and have a look around the restaurant. It was decorated with antique toys and unique displays. The place was packed with people and hard to photograph, but it is one of those cool, chaotic places that you just have to experience once yourselves. If you have kids they will go crazy in here. I’m not sure if it is all the toys or just the sugar!
Where to Stay Hotels Near Sanibel Island
Both hotels I stayed at were actually on Fort Myers Beach and not on Sanibel Island. I recommend the Pink Shell Resort which was located closer to the causeway. See our review: A Fort Myers Beach Favourite the Pink Shell Beach Resort. This made trips across to Sanibel Island very easy. The Sandpiper Gulf Resort is a quieter and more low key property a bit further down Fort Myers Beach. You can read my review of the Sandpiper Resort: Blissful Dream Beach View Suite at Sandpiper Gulf Resort.
Travel assistance provided by The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Visitor & Convention Bureau, however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own.