If you know me, you know that my happy place is definitely the beach. And I’m not picky. If it’s got sand, waves, and sunshine, I’m there. So when my mom, my Meimei, and I planned a girl’s trip to Sanibel Island, Florida, I was counting down the days for our trip. We had so much fun, and Sanibel is seriously the most beautiful place. I loved every minute we were there, and I documented the whole thing in this Sanibel Island Travel Guide, so you can plan your next trip because seriously it was amazing, y’all.
Sanibel Island Travel Guide
Where to Stay
Sanibel Island is very different from the typical Florida beach experience. It is very local, and not built up the way the beaches are in Destin or Panama City. This is a very old-school Florida vibe, and you won’t find high rise condos or chain hotels lining the beaches, which definitely adds to it’s charm.There are a lot of beach rentals and also some smaller resorts. We stayed a the West Wind Inn and we had a lovely experience with a beach front view. The gorgeous pool featured an upper deck pool bar where we enjoyed happy hour drinks one day. We also had dinner at the restaurant on the property called Normadie, and it was delicious. Not to mention, were we just seconds from the beach. Check out the West Wind Inn.
What to Do
Collecting seashells is a HUGE thing in Sanibel because hundreds wash up on the beach everyday. I have never seen so many shells on the beach before. It’s better to head out in the morning, because that’s when you’ll find the best shells. We started each day walking along the beach and searching for shells.
Sanibel takes great care of it’s wildlife, and the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is definitely worth the visit. We drove through it, but you can also take a tram, bike, or just walk along the path. It’s about 4.5 miles to go through the whole thing. You will spot alligators, crabs, tons of birds, and beautiful greenery. The mangrove trees are amazing! You can also rent kayaks and kayak through the reserve. That would definitely be a cool experience now that I’ve seen the reserve. It was incredibly peaceful there.
Periwinkle Place offers a great variety of local shops that we really enjoyed exploring. They had lots of different boutiques and gift shops that we liked browsing through after a morning at the beach. We also had lunch there at The Blue Giraffe, more on that later.
Bicicyling. We did not bicycle, because I am not the bicycling type, and where we were staying was a bit too far from the main hub of things to make bicycling worth our while. BUT, if you enjoy riding bikes, Sanibel is very bike friendly and there are plenty of places to rent them.
Watch the sunset. Sanibel is known for it’s beautiful, watercolor sunsets. They definitely lived up to our expectations after hearing how gorgeous the sunsets on the island are.
Little tip though: if you are going ANYWHERE in Sanibel when the sun starts to set or at dark, you HAVE to wear bug spray. And preferably No-Seeum Spray that you can buy on the island. I got eaten alive by the No-Seeums, and they were itching like crazy. So just be prepared, because I had no idea how bad they were, and I thought I was prepared with my bug spray. I was not haha.
Where to Eat
We didn’t get to eat at half the places we wanted to, but we had so much great food while we were there! There’s so much to choose from!
A few of our favorites:
Doc Fords–Our Favorite!
I don’t have pics from Doc Fords, but had we not left a day early, we would have definitely eaten there again! It was delicious! We had the Yucatan Shrimp, and they were these amazing steamed shrimp in a spicy sauce with a mexican flair. It was soo good!
The Island Cow is seriously the cutest place. It’s got a great family friendly, casual vibe! We ate outside on the patio and the chocolate chip muffins they bring you as a starter are amazing! We also got the Tito’s Watermelon Splash and it was a super refreshing cocktail with watermelon juice, lemonade, Tito’s Vodka, and Cucumber. Basically, the tropics in a glass. So good, y’all. I think we will have to try and recreate the recipe here at home. I had the taco trio, with blackened shrimp, boom boom shrimp, and grouper. It was a very good dish, but as you can see it was huge and I was only able to eat about half! But, super yummy.
The Lazy Flamingo is a fun little place. I had a fried shrimp basket, and we all shared a Caesar Salad, because apparently they are known for their Caesar Salad? It was a pretty good salad, but if I’m going to the beach having just a Caesar Salad is not going to cut it. I can grab that at Panera, if you know what I mean. So, I’m all about the seafood.
We ate at The Blue Giraffe for lunch one day after spending the morning on the beach. I had the crab cake sandwich, and it was really good. But, I had major food envy over my mom’s fish tacos. They were amazing, and they had this incredible sauce, kind of like a spicy bang bang shrimp sauce, and it was definitely what made the dish. We really enjoyed our lunch here. It was a cute little restaurant with a lot of great choices. Perfect for casual dining.
George & Wendy’s was definitely a treat. They had such a great dinner atmosphere with live music, nice lighting and really beautiful local art adorning the walls. By the time we made it here, I was craving some carbs after all the seafood we’d been eating. I had the seafood linguine that had shrimp, mussels, and scallops in a scampi sauce. It was just what I needed when I was craving a pasta dish.
Other Places to Explore Surrounding Sanibel
Captiva has beautiful beaches. We visited Tarpon Bay and it was so gorgeous. Captiva is very close to Sanibel and definitely worth the trip to explore the beautiful scenery. The landscaping and the massive waterfront beach homes are definitely worth the drive to Captiva. It’s literally minutes away from Sanibel.
We visited the Miromar Outlets, which are about 45 minutes from Sanibel in Estero in the Ft. Meyers area. These outlets were huge and we enjoyed browsing through all the stores. Plenty of high end options like Saks Off 5th, Bloomingdales, Kate Spade, but also stores like the Cosmetics Outlet and Express. We also ate at Ford’s Garage here, which was such a good burger place with a cool car theme.
Sanibel Island is a beautiful place, and is somewhere I would love to visit again. It’s such a relaxing place with beautiful beaches and amazing food. It’s the perfect place for your next beach vacay.
Have any recommendations for Sanibel? Leave them in the comments!