Sanibel and Captiva Island Attractions are ideal vacation destinations. While people come from all over the world to discover the incredible seashells. There are plenty of other fun, educational, and adventurous activities and attractions in Sanibel Island and Captiva.
These two southwest Florida islands are known for their laidback, relaxing vibe. Basically, the dictionary definition of “island paradise.” Keep in mind, it won’t be too long into your vacation before you start daydreaming about quitting your job and moving here full-time.
If you find yourself getting bored with drinking tropical cocktails on the beach, there are tons of things to do in Captiva and Sanibel that you can add to your itinerary.
Below we’ll explore what to do on Sanibel and Captiva so your vacation is fantastic!
Things to Do in Sanibel Island and Captiva: An Overview
Sanibel Island and Captiva are the perfect choices for a vacation with your family or with your significant other. There are so many things to do here, many of which involve peaceful interactions with the incredible natural environment. Some of the many Captiva and Sanibel Island activities that draw visitors from all over the world include:
- Shelling Tours
- Visiting the beaches
- Scuba diving and snorkeling
- Boating and watersports
- Taking eco tours and cruises
- Bird watching
- Renting bicycles
- Renting street and golf carts
- Taking historical walks and nature tours
- Visiting Spas, health clubs, and yoga studios
- Golf and tennis
The shelling opportunities on Sanibel Island are so spectacular that it was named the number one shelling location in all of North America by Travel & Leisure. Without doubt, this is a must see activity!
The best Sanibel Captiva Island Attractions are Shelling Tours offered by local guides.
Check out a few here!
Now, we’ll take a look at some of the Captiva and Sanibel Island points of interest you won’t want to miss.
Captiva and Sanibel Island Attractions You Won’t Want to Miss
When you visit Sanibel and Captiva Islands, you will surely spend plenty of time lounging on the beach and unwinding. However, there are plenty of attractions that you’ll want to put on your itinerary to ensure you have a complete island experience.
Sanibel Island Lighthouse
The Sanibel Lighthouse is still an iconic landmark on Sanibel Island. Operational for nearly 100 years, this landmark is a must see. Located on the eastern tip, this lighthouse was once used to illuminate the entrance into San Carlos Bay.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse has seen better days and is therefore not open to climbers. However, the beach surrounding the lighthouse is a lovely spot for shelling. Keep in mind, during peak season, this can be a pretty busy spot that gets quite crowded.
Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
The buildings in the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village all date back to between 1896 and 1927. Many of the buildings were relocated from around the island in order to preserve them. Among the buildings are several cottages, a schoolhouse, a packing house, and a tea room.
Are you interested in learning more about the history of Sanibel? Then step back in time to get a sense of what life was like more than one hundred years ago. Finally, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the Calusa Indian tribes in addition to Sanibel’s farmers and fishermen.
The Best Beaches on Sanibel and Captiva Island
The best Sanibel and Captiva Island Attractions, without doubt are the famous sugar-sand beaches. Teaming with incredible and unique shells. Without question, here are two of the best beaches on Sanibel and Captiva. Here you can lounge in the sun, do some shelling, and watch the sunset. A final perk? Maybe even spot a dolphin or two.
Bowman’s Beach is located in a less developed area, thus a bit more quite. If you’re looking to find unusual shells during your time in Southwest Florida, consider heading over to this beach. The expansive sands at this beach mean that even if there are many other visitors there you can easily find a spot all your own.
Also, there are a number of amenities offered at this beach. All you might need, including grills, bike racks, picnic tables, and bathrooms. Of note, the closest restaurant roughly three miles away, it’s a good idea to bring your own picnic foods for your beach day.
Lastly, the parking is $5 an hour here but the beach itself is free. You won’t find free parking on the islands so just expect a fee.
Blind Pass Beach
Blind Pass Beach spans across both Captiva and Sanibel Islands. It is the perfect place to sunbathe, fish, go shelling, or watch the sunset over the Gulf. While this isn’t an ideal spot for swimming, due to strong currents, this beach is a favorite among vacationers.
Blind Pass Beach parking is $5 per hour but there is no admission fee for the beach itself. Parking can be limited on busy days. Keep in mind, that there are only showers and restrooms on the Captiva side of the beach.
The Best Things to Do in Sanibel Island and Captiva for Wildlife and Nature Lovers
There are countless things to do in Sanibel and Captiva for visitors. Here are the Top Things to do this weekend on Sanibel Island. The rich natural and cultural history of these islands make for the perfect vacation that is educational, enriching, and adventurous.
Star of Orion Sail Tours
Are you looking to embark on some adventurous excursions from Sanibel Island? Checkout a boat tour on the Star of Orion. Departing out of Fort Myers Beach, they leave promptly at Noon. If you have an “always late” in your group, I suggest telling them it leaves at 11:30. The Captain can’t wait for late coming scallywags! This tour is run by a husband and wife, so you get a real family feel when you tour Sanibel Island by the water. Book Now.
CROW Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife
This Sanible Island Attraction was founded by Shirley Walter in 1968. This wildlife rehabilitation clinic exists to help out injured local wildlife. Since its inception, CROW has helped to care for more than 200 species of animals and has nursed thousands of animals back to health.
Secondly, visitors are welcome to check out the Visitor Education Center. The Center helps share the history of the clinic and its purposes through interactive exhibits. An Animal Ambassador and a staff member also give daily presentations to help describe the process of rescuing wildlife. Also, they teach about the patients currently in their care.
Lastly, also available are Wildlife Walks. Here you can stroll through the grounds of the hospital with a tour guide.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge covers more than 6,400 acres of land. Wildlife is everywhere and it’s home to alligators, and tons of birds. This refuge is diverse with marshes, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests. Named after a conservationist and political cartoonist, J.N. Ding. J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a stop on the migratory path south for cuckoos, herons, and ospreys.
There is a 4-mile-long Wildlife Drive which you can drive down, take an open-air tram, bike, or hike along. However, if you’d like to get away from the beaten path a bit, check out the Bailey Tract and the Indigo Trail. These trails take you into the wetland that’s only accessible by bike or foot.
Bailey Homestead Preserve
You can walk the beautiful grounds of the Bailey Homestead Preserve any time of year. Tours are available of the historic Bailey home between the months of November and April. Always a treat, here you’ll be able to see a wide variety of local butterflies and native plants.
Lastly, located on nine acres of land, the Bailey homestead on Sanibel Island is a lovely attraction to spend a few hours.
Captiva Historic Cemetery
The Captiva Historic Cemetery is the final resting place of many of the island’s earlier settlers. Located only steps from the beach and next to the Chapel-by-the-Sea in Captiva. Before the island became the lush vacation destination it is today, settlers faced harsh conditions when they moved here in the late 1800s to farm and homestead.
As you pass between the gravestones of historic settlers, you can hear the sound of waves gently crashing on the shore. The grave markers here are unique and many of them include shells. So, if you are interested in the history of Captiva Island, the Captiva Historic Cemetery is definitely worth a visit.
The Best Things to Do in Captiva and Sanibel on a Rainy Day
Even in paradise there is going to be a rainy day or two. If the beach isn’t looking like a good prospect for the day, consider one of these great rainy day attractions on Sanibel and Captiva Island.
The Periwinkle Place shopping mall on Sanibel Island offers a wide variety of shopping. You can find shops that sell clothing, jewelry, accessories, toys and games, and island-inspired furniture and art.
Tired out from a day of shopping? There are a number of delicious eateries where you can grab a snack, a meal, or ice cream. The Blue Giraffe Restaurant is an award winner and a great way to wrap up your day. While you’re here, consider treating yourself to a few hours at the Sanibel Day Spa too.
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is a Sanibel Island attraction you must see! This small museum is a great way to learn more about the countless seashells you’ve been noticing (and likely collecting). You should know, there are a number of popular exhibits. Such as, shells from around the world, and the sailors’ valentines. In conclusion, there is a depiction of the daily life of the Native Calusa people who once lived in this region.
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum opened a new wing in March 2020. There are eleven different aquarium exhibits, that you will love! There are now giant clams, live mollusks, gastropods, and octopuses living at the museum. Finally, as part of the new wing, there are “touch tanks.” Here the kids can get a closer look at some of these fascinating ocean creatures.
Be aware, there is an entrance fee for the Sanibel Island Shell Museum. Of note, prices range from $23.95 for Adults to kids under 5 are FREE. Happily, they do offer a senior discount. More Ticket Info HERE.
The Sanibel Library
The Sanibel Public Library is a wonderful rainy day retreat to explore. In additon to great books, the lobby is home to a beautiful collection of shells. Not to be missed are some impressively large junonia shells. You can get a library card here that’s good for the whole year for only $10.
There are puzzles and games here that you can enjoy in addition to stacks of books to explore. Consider taking your book out to the lovely screened reading porch. Without question, you and your family can experience a relaxed, enriching afternoon.
Captiva Memorial Library’s History Gallery
Located inside the Captiva Memorial Library, the History Gallery is a free exhibit where you can learn about the history of the island. There are a number of historical artifacts housed here, including a replica of the mailboat that serviced both Captiva and Sanibel islands between the years of 1936 and 1963.
Inside this replica boat, you can view historic photos.
Second, you can engage with interactive displays that explore the stories of historic island residents including homesteaders, fishermen, and the Calusa Indians.
Built in 1903, the Chapel-by-the-Sea in Captiva is actually the oldest former schoolhouse in the county. The chapel was originally constructed as a schoolhouse and was used in this way until 1921. During the high season between November and April, religious services are offered here in an incredibly peaceful and beautiful setting by the sea.
Sanible and Captiva Island is loaded with attractions for your vacation! So, don’t miss your chance to enjoy what these islands have to offer! Now are you ready for some great nightlife? Make sure to check out Fort Myers Nightlife Or maybe just a nice quite dinner suits the mood? Then checkout these Downtown Fort Myers Restaurants.