Sanibel Water Activities: 5 Ways to Explore the Islands

Sanibel and Captiva Islands welcome thousands of visitors annually who enjoy spending time outdoors in their own personal paradise. And what better way to explore paradise than trying one of these Sanibel water activities? Whether looking to relax on a sunset cruise or spend the day shelling with family, Sanibel offers fun ways to play and make memories. Adventure awaits, so learn about the top Sanibel water activities.

Top 5 Sanibel Water Activities for Family Fun

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Start at the Beaches

Due to island locations, Sanibel and Captiva house award-winning beaches known for clean waters and white sand. Guests have access to seven beaches in Sanibel and Captiva, including favorites such as Bowman’s Beach, Turner Beach (a.k.a. Blind Pass) and Gulfside City Park Beach.

Bowman’s Beach provides visitors with a more remote location with nature trails and hotel-free scenery. Turner Beach ranks as a top spot for fishing and shelling, while Gulfside City Park Beach has lots of shells, bike racks, picnic tables, and room to spread out and relax. Read about all the Sanibel and Captiva beaches.

Look for Shells … Lots of Them

Among the most popular Sanibel water activities is shelling. In fact, Travel and Leisure named Sanibel Island as the best shelling spot in North America. But what makes this spot so great?

The islands are actually made out of shells as their location serves as a scoop, collecting the shells the Gulf imports from the Caribbean and other southern waters. People come from all over the world to collect these treasures, and guests can also attend the annual Sanibel Shell Fair and Show, held in March. Read tips for Sanibel Island shelling.

sanibel water activities shelling

Take a Cruise or Tour

Many companies offer charters and tours that allow families to learn about the area and marine life. Popular tours take guests on adventures to see dolphins, sunsets and stunning waters. Tarpon Bay Explorers offers nature tours and rentals, focusing on low-impact fun for the family. One of their most popular Sanibel water activities is the nature and sea-life cruise, where guests explore on a covered pontoon boat.

For more action, book a tour with Sanibel Thriller, home to the area’s only high-speed boat tour. Families cruise through Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound, seeing dolphins, birds and the historic Sanibel lighthouse.

Another raved-about cruise option is Sanibel Island Cruise Line, which has delighted visitors for more than 20 years. In addition to tours, guests can also stand-up paddleboard, snorkel and kayak.

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Photo: Marianne Serra

Cast Your Line

Sanibel and Captiva Islands also feature some of the best fishing in southwest Florida. Whether looking to head into deep waters or fish from the shore, visitors have dozens of options. For fishing excursions, check out Hey Mon Sanibel and MangroveMasters. Both charters offer memorable fishing trips that entertain the whole family.

Other top spots for fishing include Tarpon Bay and Sanibel Fishing Pier, where guests find snook, redfish, sea trout, snapper and grouper year-round. Seasonal fish species include tarpon, cobia and king mackerel, to name a few.

Dive Deep

Sanibel and Captiva Islands also have underwater wrecks and man-made reefs that welcome everyone to explore. Those planning to snorkel or scuba have access to a 15-mile radius of artificial reefs and other undersea sites. One of the largest areas is Edison Reef, located 15 nautical miles from the Sanibel Island Lighthouse.

When ready to schedule a deep-sea adventure, check out Captain Joe’s Charters and Sanibel Island Cruise Line. Captain Joe’s offers everything needed for snorkeling fun and ranks as a top activity for families with young children. Sanibel Island Cruise also stocks the latest equipment, and guests can snorkel in 3 to 8 feet of water.

Ready to book a getaway? Find Sanibel Island vacation rental to get started.