Day Trips

Explore Sanibel Island and Captiva

Sanibel Island and Captiva are two long stretches of beach and wildlife sanctuaries reaching into the Gulf of Mexico. On the short drive from Cape Coral, pelicans often accompany the cars crossing the long bridges that connect the islands with the main land.

Sanibel and Captiva Island are justly famed for their sunsets, the Sanibel lighthouse and restaurants. However, by far, the most popular activity is shelling – you barely can walk a step on the beach without indulging in the so-called "Sanibel Stoop" to search for shells. But there is so much else –  luscious dining (seafood, of course!), fishing, boating, and just plain relaxation, a chance to get away from the hurly burly, a chance to draw closer to nature.

The palm-tree and flower-lined islands are famous for their white fine sand beaches and the incredible variety of shells. The islands lie east and west, different than most islands which lie north and south, this direction allows Sanibel and Captiva Island to catch abundant sea shells that the Gulf of Mexico brings to its shores.

Beaches range from the Gulf-to-bay sands at Lighthouse Park at one end of Sanibel, punctuated by the historic light tower and home to a popular fishing pier.

You also have Captiva’s romantic beaches, where sunset draws a nightly crowd. In between are family-friendly sandy playgrounds and long stretches of unpopulated sands fronting beautiful homes. Seashells carpet of all the beaches, but Bowman’s Beach is especially known for its fine selections, as well as great birding. You can also go kayaking and surfing, hit the theater and check out the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Sanibel Historical Village has displays and exhibits that explain the history of Sanibel Island from the days of the Calusa Indians. Also, there are 11 authentic historic buildings moved from their original island sites.

Sanibel Lighthouse BeachRestaurants on both islands excel at seafood succulence in settings that range from porch cafes to waterfront views and modern elegance. Although seafood is the centerpiece, menus range from Mediterranean to New American in style. Dining and shopping are favorite pastimes on the island for those ready to leave the beach for a spell. Sanibel Island is known for its art galleries, which specialize in wildlife paintings. Don’t miss the monthly Art Nights during the winter season. Seashell shops, resort clothing boutiques and jewelry stores selling custom, sea-inspired adornments line small shopping centers prettily decorated with bougainvillea, shady ficus trees and swaying palms.

The islands’ marinas offer plenty of opportunity to get out on the water. Offerings include shelling on secluded islands, finding a beach away from it all, fishing, sailing, snorkeling, learning about marine life or camping on a tiny bridgeless island. Many resorts and outfitters stock kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats and an assortment of water toys for vacationers’ enjoyment. You can see freshwater and hammock habitats, where river otters, loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, bald eagles and hundreds of native and transitory birds find refuge.

On Sanibel, there are multi-use paths – 25 miles total – that function as sidewalks, bike paths and recreational trails; buildings are “no taller than the tallest palm tree."

There is the four-mile Wildlife Drive at the J.N. “Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, another popular cycling route. This 7,600-acre wildlife refuge is home to more than 245 bird species, 60 types of reptiles, 35 mammal species, paddling, hiking/biking trails, observation tower and a four-mile scenic drive.

If you’re looking for a vacation home on Sanibel Island or Captiva, Vesteva offers great rates on vacation homes available for rental during your entire stay. Save money with a stay in nearby Cape Coral and book with Vesteva Vacation Rentals.