Sanibel Island Attractions: Top 7 Places to Go, Things to Do

Located off the southwestern coast of Florida, Sanibel Island offers a tropical experience without the expense of leaving the U.S. Known for dreamy white-sand beaches, championship golf courses, lively art scene and delicious restaurants, Sanibel Island offers a must-see for both friends and family. Read more to learn about the area and these top 7 Sanibel Island attractions.

Top 7 Sanibel Island Attractions You Can’t Miss

Captiva Island

Visiting this area won’t feel complete without seeing its sister island, Captiva. By appearance the two islands may seem nearly the same, there are perks to each one and vacation rentals available in both islands. Connected by a bridge, it’s easy to spend the day at the Sanibel Island’s beaches and then head to Captiva in the evenings for its eclectic dining scene.

Periwinkle Way

As the island’s main strip, Periwinkle Way is home to restaurants and shopping spots, and the main strip for people and transportation. Those with cars will experience traffic, so renting a bike may provide a better option. While cruising, stop at local shops. Periwinkle Place offers over 25 boutiques, including local and name-brand retailers.

Big Arts Theater

This historic Sanibel landmark is one of the island’s only venues for Broadway shows, live music and comedy acts. The theater hosts events throughout the year, featuring big names and up-comers in entertainment and music. Can’t make a live show? No problem. Big Arts also offers art exhibits, lectures and films.

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum

At Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, learn about everything from the area’s natural habitat to what life was like for the native Calusa Floridians who once lived on the island. The museum has over 30 permanent exhibits that aim to educate guests about island living, important shells, ecosystems and more. For an in-depth look at the beach, take a walk with a local expert and learn why this is one of our favorite Sanibel Island attractions.

Sanibel Lighthouse

Visible from nearly everywhere on the island, this landmark sits on the eastern end of the island and lights the entrance to San Carlos Bay. Visitors cannot enter the lighthouse, this 130-plus year old gem makes for a great spot for photos and sunsets. Other things to do when visiting the lighthouse include shelling, fishing and wildlife watching.

J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Named for a political cartoonist, this wildlife refuge conserves Sanibel’s mangrove forest and crocodiles, alligators, and numerous birds such as herons, cuckoos and ospreys. Visitors can explore several different ways, too. Hike, bike, paddle and ride through the area to see nature’s beauty. Families should also check out family-friendly events that offer eco-activities and educate everyone about the environment.

Bowman’s Beach

Bowman’s Beach ranks among the best Sanibel Island beaches. Known for its collection of unusual shells, this has become one of the most popular beaches on both Sanibel and Captiva islands. However, it’s not overcrowded. Pack a picnic, grab some beach gear, and plan to play all day.

Don’t let the fun end now! Read this Sanibel Island shelling guide and learn where to go.