Sanibel to many people is heaven on earth. It’s a lush, tropical island that is surrounded by dazzling white sandy beaches, tall swaying palms and an ever pleasant breeze that never fails to rejuvenate a tired soul. This minuscule barrier reef island located in the Gulf of Mexico. So next time you go visiting, remember the following best places to visit in Sanibel and do visit to these top tourist attractions in Sanibel.
Here's the list of Sanibel points of interest and 15 best things to do in Sanibel:
1. Pay a compulsory visit to the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge
For those interested in reptiles, particularly crocodiles, Sanibel Island’s J.N. (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a must visit. The refuge’s dense mangrove vegetation is also home to more than 245 bird species, giant manatees as also thirty other mammal species as well. The crocodile population is seen in the four-mile long Wildlife Drive, which is reachable by either hiking or biking. There are also 3 other walking trails, including the Indigo Trail that connects with the Wildlife Education Boardwalk.
2. Taste Sanibel’s history at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
Started in 1984, Sanibel Historical Museum and Village tells the story of Sanibel’s early residents. It comprises seven historical buildings I which they lived and worked. These buildings were shifted to the Village from their original locations and fully restored to retain their original. The antique furniture, household items, clothes, kitchen gadgets and tools on display are interesting things to see. It is also a venue for concerts, special events and lectures.
3. See shells galore at The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
This is one place where every shell lover must go. Colorful, mysterious looking, pretty, big and small shells are displayed abundantly here. You also get to learn about types like the fig shell, banded tulips, ajunonias or even pen shells. The unique items manufactured from shells on display never fail to impress and delight visitors of all age groups. Its Goliath conch, Atlantic trumpet triton, lightning whelk and horse conch are some of the world’s largest shells. You also get to see shells from the world over as also 30 million-year-old fossils shells like the Ecphora. The museum also gives you a clear picture of Sanibel’s original inhabitants, the Calusas.
4. Marvel at the engineering of Sanibel Causeway
Commisioned in 1963, the Sanibel Causeway has three bridges connected to two small islands, making it easy for tourists to reach Sanibel. The span connecting Punta Rossa to Sanibel on the Causeway Road stretches over 2.8 miles. Two tiny islands that are a part of the Causeway Island Park serve as popular beaches.
5. Relax at Bowman's Beach
Bowman's Beach, which is located in the island’s middle, off the Sanibel-Captiva Road, is truly a scenic stretch of coastline offering excellent shelling, hiking, swimming and beachcombing opportunities. A great place to take the kids out for a day’s chill out a program. Go windsurfing and/or sailing or simply have a family picnic at a secluded spot replete with barbecue grills, showers, trails and restrooms.
6. Watch the fine and performing arts come together at the Big Arts
This was the brainchild of some eminent Sanibel local artists and has been operational since 1979. Its 409-seater Schein Performance Hall hosts classical, jazz, folk and pop concerts. Then there’s also the 139-seater Herb Strauss Theater where you can watch plays and musicals. For visual arts lovers, the Founders and Phillips Galleries host exhibitions to promote local talent. The center also organizes 250 classes and educational workshops for the Sanibel community and its schools every year.
7. Experience wildlife being treated at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
CROW is the acronym for the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). It’s a unique wildlife rehabilitation center that takes care of more than 3,500 injured, sick and/or orphaned migratory and native wildlife patients annually. Its 4,800-square-foot state-of-the-art hospital not only treats animals but also offers externship programs and educational fellowships for veterinary sciences undergraduate students. Graduate veterinarians get internship programs also. The Visitor’s Education Center educates wildlife lovers on veterinary careand conservation medicine by way of presentations, videos and exhibits.
8. Feel the sheer green of The Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings
This six-acre space has some rare and unusual tropical plants on display. Since 2009, the Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings got official recognized as a botanical garden and became a member of the American Public Garden Association. Great for amateur and professional botanists and even those with a penchant for green life. Its cacti, orchid, bromeliad, cycad and palm collections are truly worth seeing. You also have a host of birds, turtles, butterflies ad rabbits to keep you company.
9. Romance the Blind Pass Beach
A secluded and romantic spot strewn with thousands of colorful shells, Blind Pass Beach is on the border of Blind Pass, a waterway between the Captiva Islands and Sanibel, which got sanded over and became a beach by default. Great for shell lovers and collectors because the occasional storm and the waterway’s strong currents keep the shell supply going. These strong currents, however, make the beach dangerous for swimmers. There is shark infiltration also but it’s ideal for long walks or contemplation.
10. Take the wildlife tours of Tarpon Bay Explorers
Tarpon Bay Explorers tours are all about kayaking adventures for the entire family. Enjoy its fun tours that take you through some stunning landscapes and expose you to some unusual wildlife as well. You can opt for its mangrove kayak tour through the mangrove forests and watch nesting birds and alligators in their natural habitat. Bird lovers would enjoy its Sunset Rookery Paddle which shows them herons, cormorants and ibises. Kids also get to enjoy interactive sessions with sea creatures at the Explorers Touch Tank at Tarpon Bay.
11. Pick up some painting tips at the Sissi Janku Art Studio
One of Sanibel’s most well-known artists, Sissi Janku runs a studio and gallery to teach painting at Sanibel’s Community House. Even though Sissi is a German, she has made Hawaii her home after falling in love with its natural beauty. Her paintings are vibrant and focus on tropical patterns. Attend her weekly art classes to learn painting in a relaxed environment and also develop your own creative techniques. Has enormous therapeutic value also.
12. Get adventurous at the Great Calusa Blueway
The Great Calusa Blueway is a 190-mile long, canoeing and kayaking trail that takes you through the coastal waters of Lee Country and the tributaries leading inland. The trail’s safe for everyone and is a must for those who love rushing down the waters. Sure thrill guaranteed. The trail covers Estero Bay, Matlacha Pass and Pine Island, ending at the Caloosahatchee and its multiple tributaries. A most unforgettable experience indeed!
13. Walk up the Sanibel Island Lighthouse
It’s a 98-foot tall tower made from iron and has been around since 1884. Walk up its spiral staircase and get a grand view of the San Carlos Bay. The Sanibel Island lighthouse is located in a protected wildlife zone on Sanibel’s eastern end. It has a pretty beach close to it and makes the ideal backdrop for some great snapshots.
14. Learn about natural conservation at Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation protects and conserves Sanibel and Captiva islands’ aquatic and coastal habitat as also the plants and animals that are dependent on them for their survival. It has around 1300 acres of land under its purview and visitors enjoy its Nature Center with its nature trails, observation tower, butterfly house, touch tank and souvenir shop. You can also buy some native plants from its Native Plants Nursery.
15. Sip, bite and gorge at Bleu Rendezvous
Sanibel’s greatest offering to foodies, the Bleu Rendevous is indeed a most charming French-style bistro serving authentic French cuisine. Located on Periwinkle Way, its country house like ambience and French décor takes you to rural France right away. Chef Vivet’s menu includes veal kidneys served with a cognac-based creamy sauce, garlicky escargot, Boeuf Bourguignon with potatoes, ratatouille and assorted vegetables, which have earned him national fame. A must eat is the cassoulet au confit de canard. Offers some mind blowing desserts, too. So next time you’re at Sanibel, make sure to have at least one meal at Blue Rendezvous.