Before arriving at the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, I expected that I would have a lovely beach trip, get a little tan, and enjoy the warm salty ocean. I never imagined that this trip would inspire me to become obsessed with shelling, interested in marine biology, and gain a newfound taste for coconut cake!
This cute low key area on the west coast side of Florida is a very relaxed beach destination. It is extremely unique in that there are piles and piles of seashells on the beaches. From shelling expeditions to great beaches, cute kitschy restaurants, great key lime pie, private islands, and a large marine life presence, the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has now become one of my favorite Florida vacay spots.
Here are our tips on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do!
Where to Stay
Of course, there are a lot of beachfront hotels in the greater Fort Myers & Sanibel area, but I highly suggest Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel Island for a few reasons. First, the rooms here are studio, one-bedroom, or two-bedroom apartments with great balconies and kitchens. It was so nice to have snacks in the room and the ability to cook, while also being able to take advantage of the many restaurants on the property. Second, they have a pool and a spa, but your stay here is made special with free kayaks and paddleboards for rent (fun!) and the on-site Sanibel Sea School which has fun classes and expeditions for kids and adults. I’m 27 years old and I had the best time exploring the private beach with the Sanibel Sea School. Be sure to ask for Spencer! Lastly, when you arrive in your room, you’ll be greeted with a free shelling bag to hold all of the shells you find.
Where to Eat
The seafood was amazing, but the restaurants in and near Sanibel aren’t just fantastic for their food, but well known for their quirky decor. The Island Cow is a funkadelic cow themed restaurant with a large and diverse menu, $2.00 beers, and delicious frozen drinks. Take a private boat ride to the Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant. This cute restaurant has $70,000 dollar bills with visitor signatures taped to the walls, including that of President John F. Kennedy! Add your dollar and if it falls, they donate it to charity.
This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of The Bubble Room on Captiva Island. They have Christmas displays, photos from the 50s, nifty vintage games, an Alice in Wonderland display, and old fashioned Christmas lights called bubble lights throughout, which is how the restaurant got its name. Did I mention the waiters wear BoyScout uniforms?! Be sure to order a piece of cake here! The orange cake is award winning and it was here that I found my new favorite, coconut cake.
What to Do
There are so many islands in this area, the best thing you can do when visiting Sanibel Island is to island hop either by private boat, kayak, or with a scheduled trip with Captiva Cruises. I highly recommend taking a trip to Cayo Costa and along the way, keep your eye out for dolphins (there’s 600 in this area) and cute manatees! The island can only be reached by boat, which means you will virtually have the entire island to yourself, minus the handful of others who know of this hidden gem. We swam in the warm clear waters for most of our time at Cayo Costa. This is where I found a shark tooth! One of our captains showed us an amazing spot to find whole sand dollars and we found over 10! He also found a conch shell the size of my head with the mollusk still inside.
Other notable points of interest in the area: The Bailey Matthews National Museum (trust me, it’s more fun than it sounds), The Mound House, a historic home with a long Native American history, and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Also, be sure to add National Seashell Day on June 21 to your calendars! The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel have fun events to celebrate the day.
Have you ever been to Sanibel or Ft. Myers?! What are you favorite places to eat, things to do, and places to stay? Be sure to comment below. I hope I encouraged you to make this your next destination beach trip!