Did you know more than 50% of Sanibel and Captiva Islands is conservation land?

If you’re seeking a peaceful retreat into natural Florida, these beautiful barrier islands are the perfect home away from home for you:

  • 15 miles of shoreline
  • 22 miles of bike path
  • 275+ bird species
  • 250+ seashell varieties
  • Countless incredible sunsets

There are so many reasons to see Sanibel & Captiva Islands. In this blog, we put together 10 big reasons why you’ll love life on the islands of Southwest Florida.

What To See & Do On Sanibel & Captiva Islands (Even If You Live In SWFL)

Below you’ll find the ultimate SanCap bucket list — for locals and visitors alike.

#1) Beach it on the SWFL Islands

Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island

Sanibel and Captiva Islands have no shortage of beautiful beaches. With 15 miles of SWFL coastline, there’s a lot to explore and enjoy.

Slip off your flip flops and dig your toes in the sand.

Bring your beach umbrella, sunscreen, skimboard, sandcastle toys and get ready for a day of blue skies and tan lines.

 Beach it at any of these public SanCap beaches:

  • Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel
  • Gulfside City Park Beach on Sanibel
  • Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel 
  • Blind Pass on SanCap
  • Alison Hagerup Beach on Captiva

Tom’s all-time favorite beach in SWFL is Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island.

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#2) Go Shelling on Sanibel Island

Shelling on Sanibel Island with Kiersten’s daughter, Stella

There are 250+ seashell varieties on Sanibel Island, making it a shell collector’s paradise.

In fact, Sanibel was named a top shelling destination by Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Have you done the “Sanibel stoop” without even knowing it? This is what locals call it when people bend over to pick up a shell. 

Sanibel is serious about shells, which is why we have the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum right here in Southwest Florida. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a walk through.

Kiersten and her family love to collect shells. Kiersten’s three-year-old, Stella, loves to sift through the sand and find little treasures.

#3) Have Your Cake & Eat It Too at the Bubble Room on Captiva Island

The Bubble Room on Captiva Island, Iconic Restaurant in Southwest Florida

The Bubble Room is an iconic piece of Captiva history.

You truly need to see it to believe it. Without saying too much, we’ll tell you this: it’s Christmas every day at the Bubble Room on Captiva. 

What do bubbles have to do with it? You’ll have to find out for yourself.

While the Bubble Room has a full menu, we can’t get enough of their cake — and neither will you! Even though the slices are GIANT, you’ll continue to crave it long after the last crumb. 

You can’t go wrong with one of Bubble Room’s award winning desserts.

Sally recommends the Key Lime Pie!

#4) Save the Sea Turtles on Captiva Island

Sea Turtle Protection Program on Captiva Island in SWFL

Did you know Southwest Florida is home to the loggerhead sea turtle?

Well, only from April to October. 

Every year, sea turtles come to our islands to lay their eggs, and our community comes together to protect their nests. We are especially grateful to Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) for watching over this federally protected species. 

Want to make a difference?

Try something different and impactful by volunteering with SCCF during sea turtle season.

Did you know… the Sanibel Sea Turtle Program is one of the country’s longest running programs dedicated to sea turtle conservation.

#5) Experience Natural Florida at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge 

Tropical and Migratory Birds Gather at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island

Alligators, manatees, roseate spoonbills oh my! 

The J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island has it all, and you can see it all from the comfort of your car.

Slow cruise along Wildlife Drive, a four-mile road that carves through SWFL conservation land. Here you might see an alligator lounging on a log, a manatee making bubbles in the water, and an abundance of tropical and migratory birds.

With 275+ types of birds on the islands, Ding Darling is the perfect place to go birding in SWFL. Don’t forget your binoculars!

Hey visitors, did you know… the pink birds you see are not flamingos. They’re roseate spoonbills!

#6) Ride Bikes on one of the Longest Bike Paths in SWFL

Bike Path on Sanibel and Captiva Islands

What’s even better than the peaceful drive through Sanibel and Captiva Islands? Doing it all by bike!

The islands boast 20+ miles of paved bike paths. You can literally ride all the way from one end of Sanibel to the other and continue on to ride the whole island of Captiva.

During the ride, you’ll pass lots of places to stop and grab a bite. You can even cruise through a national wildlife refuge where you’ll see lots of natural Florida. And, of course, you can ride along the glistening Gulf of Mexico.

Get here to get the full Sanibel and Captiva Islands Trails Map.

Chad and his family love to start their bike ride at the Sanibel Lighthouse and cruise around the island. A stop at Love Boat Ice Cream is a must!

#7) Kayak or Paddleboard Through the Sanibel-Captiva Mangrove Trails

Southwest Florida Kayaking & Paddle Boarding

Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for their beautiful beaches, but what about the bayside? 

On the other side of the islands, you will find calmer waters with excellent opportunities to paddle through nature. 

Rent your paddlesport of choice at:

Why is it 100% worth checking out the bayside of SanCap?

In one word: Manatees.

Manatee viewing in Southwest Florida

While dolphins can be seen from the beach, manatees prefer the bay. Keep an eye out for these gentle giants while you’re floating through the Florida waters.

Did you know… manatees are lovingly called “sea cows” because they feed on seagrass and, well, they’re as big as cows.

#8) Catch a Fish: Inshore & Offshore Fishing on Sanibel & Captiva Islands

Fishing on Sanibel & Captiva Islands with John Nicholson of McMurray & Members

Whether you take a fishing boat into the Gulf or you stay inshore, you’ll love the excitement of fishing on Sanibel & Captiva Islands.

From snook to sea trout, tarpon, redfish and more, there’s plenty of potential to catch a fish (or a few) while you’re on SanCap.

Some of our favorite places to fish are:

  • The Lighthouse Pier on Sanibel Island
  • Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island
  • Blind Pass Bridge at Santiva, where Sanibel & Captiva connect

Always remember to read up on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission fishing rules for Sanibel & Captiva Islands before you cast your line.

John enjoys inshore fishing from a comfy chair on any of SanCap’s sandy beaches.

#9) Dine at one of our Favorite Sanibel-Captiva Restaurants

Chad’s Kids Having Fun Before Dinner on Sanibel Island

The Best Dining on Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Handpicked by McMurray & Members of Royal Shell Real Estate

The Best Dining on Sanibel Island

The Best Dining on Captiva Island

Mike’s favorite Sanibel restaurants are 400 Rabbits for guac and margaritas & Mudbugs for chargrilled oysters and an ice cold beer.

#10) Treat Yourself to the Best Ice Cream on Sanibel & Captiva Islands

What goes better with warm weather than a frozen treat?

Ice cream is a staple in the Sunshine State, and we take it very seriously. That’s why you can find plenty of ice cream shops and parlors all over Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

A Southwest Florida favorite is Love Boat Ice Cream, but there are lots of options out there, and we recommend you try them all!

Why not? Every day’s a vacation when you live in SWFL, and you should treat yourself.

Kelly’s favorite ice cream shop is Joey’s Custard on Sanibel, but The Sanibel Custard Shack is becoming a close second.

Bonus Must Do: Watch Sunset at the Mucky Duck

Sunset on Captiva Island in Southwest Florida

As one of the only beachfront bars and restaurants on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the Mucky Duck has been a SWFL favorite for 35+ years.

This neighborhood pub is the perfect place to sit back in your Adirondack chair and dig your toes in the sand. 

Serving up lunch, dinner and ice cold drinks, the Mucky Duck never fails to entertain. Enjoy live music from the outside bar and don’t miss an iconic Southwest Florida sunset, seen from their Captiva location every day.

Looking for Your Perfect Island Oasis in Southwest Florida?

Nature lovers, look no further — go to SanCap, where wildlife thrives and green space is abundant.

Whether you want to generate income through a Sanibel-Captiva Island vacation rental or move onto the islands full-time, we have the perfect piece of paradise for you.

The Beaches of Sanibel and Captival Islands

Connect with McMurray & Members, the Top SWFL Real Estate Team

Royal Shell’s Top Performing Team with over $100,000,000 Sold Annually in Fort Myers, Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral and more

Find your piece of paradise with McMurray & Members, Southwest Florida’s favorite realtors. 
See our SWFL homes for sale here and call us at 239-850-7888 to schedule your private showing now.

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