Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Sanibel Island

Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Sanibel and Captiva Islands are one of my family’s favorite vacation spots.  It has all that most beach paradises have to offer but the souvenirs are free. The islands are located just west of Fort Myers, Florida making it easy to get to. Once you are on the islands you will feel as if you have traveled back in time to when life was simple and care free.

sanibel pinterest


  • 0 Traffic Lights
  • 15 Miles of Beaches
  • 22 Miles of Bike Path
  • 50 Types of Fish
  • 230 Types of Birds
  • 250 Types of Shells


Before You Leave Home

  • Lodging The islands book up!
  • Cartwheel Rental They have 4-6 seaters Golf Carts for rent and they will deliver to your doorstep. From $350-$400 a week (239) 410-7105
  • Island Rental Services A company that supplies everything from baby equipment, Beach Equipment, Beach Games and items required for those with special needs so you don’t have to bring it all with you. They will even deliver it all to you for just $10 delivery fee. (239) 472-9789
  • YOLO Watersports – This is the spot for extreme fun rentals. Gotta love their tag line.  “You Only Live Once” 11534 Andy Rosse Lane Captiva Island, FL 33924
  • I LOVE Shelling – Looking for some expert help? Contact Pam Rambo here.
  • – Check here for the “top 10” of everything, coupons and current events.
  • The Shellinators – Looking to be a part of something bigger then shelling that will last you all year long?

What to Pack:

  • NoNoSeeum Spray If you have ever been bitten by a noseeum or ended up at the urgent care where you were prescribed three medications, then you will never travel to the Gulf Coast without this spray.  It is an all natural insect repellant.
  • I have also heard taking a daily B1 Vitamin before your trip will help minimize the bug bites.

Where to Stop Before you Hit the Island:

  • Dollar Store Here is where you are going to get the bulk of your shelling supplies.  Full list is here.
  • Sanibel Outlet Center  I particularly like the Swim Mart They have a huge selection of suits and cover ups for the entire family. Make sure to head into the outlet customer service to see if there are any coupons first. 20350 Summerlin Rd, Fort Myers, FL 33908 (239) 454-1974
  • Tanger Outlets 20350 Summerlin Road Fort Myers, FL 33908 (230) 454-1974  I love to stop at Swim Mart to grab a new bathing suit and coverup.  Stop by Shopper Services and see what discounts you can get first.

When you Hit the Island:

  • First stop should be at the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce Francis P. Bailey Visitor Center.  I will never forget my first visit there and I couldn’t help but think this is where the nice people go to retire.  It was as if I had stepped into an episode of Fantasy Island and I was the star guest.  The one “must have” piece of literature for every visit is their “This Week on The Islands”.  Not only does it have all of the special events going on for the week but it also includes The Sunrise and Sunsets, Moon Phases, and Tide Charts for each day.  Another great thing to rap is their handout about How to Avoid Island Traffic during your stay. You can also get traffic updates here at  Each visit I make sure to stop in and I always leave with a little more info about these two amazing islands. Make sure to grab one of The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museums Shell Guide and let the “Hunt” Begin. After reading this great write up in the Hampden-Sydney Record, I have now added meeting Francis Bailey in person to my Bucket List.  Hampden-Sydney was the “brother” school to my Alma-mater, Sweet Briar,  and the joy of meeting a man who has spent his life loving our newest vacation spot deserves a spot on the list!

Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce 

1159 Causeway Road Sanibel, FL 33957

(239) 472-1080

Where to Stay:

  • Island Inn 3111 West Gulf Drive Sanibel, Fl. (800) 851-5088 * (239) 472-1561 These Gulf Front Cottages and Hotel Rooms are directly on the beach.  There is a heated pool on site but if you are a serious sheller like myself then you my never dip a toe in it.  There is also free WiFi which comes in very handy when you need to look up the best protocol to clean your new found treasures.  As if that all isn’t enough, there is a free breakfast.  Look online for a 10% discount before booking your first stay. If you are a family larger then 4 make sure you book two rooms. *** There is a Free daily Beach Walk at 9am every morning for the first 15 people that sign up. Someone from the Bailey-Matthews National Museum will be on hand to answer all your questions.
  • Jensen’s on the Gulf 15300 Captiva Drive Captiva, FL 33924 (239) 472-4684 Jensen’s also has Cottages on the Marina I have never stayed in a location closer to a beach in my life and I loved every second on it.  On this particular trip it was just the two of us so we stayed in the smallest room they have and it was perfect.  Sounds of the ocean and sunsets in bed.  Having a free use laundry room and beach chairs on site was  a nice added touch.
  • Royal Shell Vacations (800) 656-9111  – (239) 472-9111 Many locations on Sanibel and all the surrounding areas. The website has a great search function.

Where to Eat:

  • Baileys Grocery Store around since 1899  this old school general store has done an amazing job of brining old school values and modern needs under one roof. This store has all of your vacation needs under one roof.  2477 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL (239) 472-1516 Delivery Available
  • Bennett’s Fresh Roast open daily 6am – 9pm Whether it is the Bennett’s Famous Strata to the Lobster Roll you are sure to want to tack an uniquely flavored homemade donut to your meal. 1020 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL 33957 (239) 312-4651
  • George and Wendy’s Corner Grill Wanna know what keeps me coming back? The Tuna Nachos. I absolutely love them! “Crisp homemade wontons, topped with seaweed salad, fresh Ahi tuna, wasabi mayonaise, Sriracha sauce, pickled ginger, and a drizzle of soy sauce. (239) 395-1263 2499 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL 33957
  • Jerry’s Grocery Store Well stocked super market that has a cafe onsite. 1700 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL  Delivery Available
  • Love Boat Ice Cream With over 60 flavors this Homemade Ice Cream Parlor is sure to have something for everyone. Family owned and operated since the 1950’s 1700 Periwinkle Way Unit 9 – Jerry’s Plaza Sanibel, Fl (239) 312-4356
  • Mucky Duck Full menu of beachy delights with great indoor and outdoor dining but if you leave without getting a round of the “Ring Toss Game” you will be missing our favorite part. Check their website and check out their live web cam makes it much easier to visualize yourself there. 11546 Andy Rose Lane Captiva Island, FL (239) 472-3434
  • Schnapper’s Hots Oh Boy! We love this place!  For over 10 years strong Schnapper’s has been serving great casual food for the whole family with 40 fabulous flavors of ice cream to boot. 1528 Periwinkle Way Sanibel Island, FL (239) 472-8686
  • Sun Harvest Citrus This is off island but my kids would never allow us to not stop here at least once a trip.  It is a great spot to head during the peak sun hours.  From the second you see the gigantic orange out front to the last bite of your citrus soft serve your senses will be in heaven.  For added fun you can look through and see the juice production first hand. 14601 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy Fort Myers, Fl 33912 (800) 743-1480
  • Traders Open everyday except Sundays for Lunch and Dinner and let’s just say the Sesame Seared Rare Ahi Tuna will keep me coming back. 1551 Periwinkle Way Sanibel, FL 33957 (239)472-7242
  • Subway Ok, don’t laugh!  When one of your four kids is a picky eater you need to always make sure there is back up. 2496 Palm Ridge Road Sanibel, Fl 33957 (239) 472-1255
  • Sweet Treat of the Islands-AlistmadebytheFacebookgroupTheShellinators. The ! mean that there were multiple votes.
  • Key Lime Pie is a clear favorite on the island. If you are interested in reliving the joys of the island click here for a fabulous Key Lime Pie recipe.
  • Or Click on the video below for an easy step by step recipe.

Best Shelling Beaches

Below you will find a map that includes all of the public beach parking lot and below that you will find my top three favorites. One thing to keep in mind is that with each tide brings a different beach so do your due diligence and try them all and let me know what your favorites are. Sanibel Beaches are Dog friendly as long as they are on a leash but please make sure you clean up after them. The cost for parking is $4 per hour.

  • Captiva side of Blind Pass
  • Gulf Side City Park
  • Lighthouse 

Shelling Tips

  • Check the tide charts.
  • What to Bring:
    • Bucket
    • Net Bag
    • Scoop

Cleaning your Shells

  • Soak in 50/50 – water/bleach – overnight
  • Toothbrush
  • Rub with baby oil
  • Sand Dollars need to be soaked in fresh water first and only 10 minutes in the bleach solution.

In Case of an Emergency

In a life threatening emergency you should always call 911 first.  The following information will definitely come in handy if you have minor emergencies so that you can get back out shelling.  I happened upon the following medical office and pharmacy when I was attacked by “NoSeeums”.  We were 10 minutes into our trip just before sunset and even though I knew they were biting I had no idea that I was going to be headed to the urgent care and put on three types of meds.

  • Sanibel Medical, INC. – Walk-In Family Practice Open Monday-Friday 8am-4:30pm 2499 Palm Ridge Road Sanibel, FL (239) 395-2005
  • Island Pharmacy – 2330 Palm Ridge Road Unit 12 Sanibel, Florida 33957 (239) 472-6188

Please Help Protect Florida’s Wildlife and Beaches

  • Bring a garbage bag with you when you head to the beach and help the safety of Florida’s wildlife by collecting any garbage that you see.
  • Turtle nesting season runs from May 1st to October 31st and there a few simple things you can do to keep the turtles and their hatchlings safe.
    • Never touch or disturb turtles or their hatchlings.
    • Do not use any lights on the beach at night because it confuses the turtle and they rely on the light of the moon to guide them to the gulf.
    • Remove all trash both yours and others when you leave the beach.
    • Fill in holes and flatten sand castles so to make the journey to the Gulf as easy as possible.

Things to do Besides Shelling

  • Butterfly World 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, FL 33073 954-977-4400 Open 7 Days a Week Make sure to check for discounts online or in hotel lobbies for discounts.
  • Giant Flea Market A Flea Market that has been running for over 30 years and has everything from local farms to local artists. Check their website to see about current contest and which bands might be playing. Hour Oct. – April Friday -Sunday 9-5 May-September Friday 9-3 Saturday and Sunday 9-5
  • J.N. “Ding” Darling National Perserve Click here to view all that the US Fish & Wildlife Services has to say about this amazing 6000 acre refuge that features canoe trails & a 5 mile scenic drive. Please note they are closed on Fridays. (239) 472-1100
  • Manatee Park East Ft. Myers, FL
    10901 State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd)
    Fort Myers, FL 33905
    (239) 690-5030Opened in 1996, Manatee Park is a 17 acre regional park. The park serves at the winter home for the Florida Manatee. See manatees up close while kayaking or canoeing. Or spend time chasing butterflies in the year-round butterfly garden.Fully accessible – NO pets. Group Program Requests: 239-690-5030 Park Hours (Year round) 8am to sunset daily – Visitor Center / Gift Shop / Seasonal Programs (November-March) 9am to 4pm daily. Parking: $1 per hour/$5 per day Kayak Rentals: $10 per hour or $30 per day.

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  1. Great information.

  2. Loved reading your comprehensive post about my favorite place on the planet! You pretty much covered it all. One thing I would add is the opportunity to take a boat trip to Cayo Costa State Park from McCarthy’s Marina at the upper end of Captiva. The cruise itself is fun with the chance of seeing dolphins en route. Lots of of beach there to explore and shells to find. Thanks for your blog post–found the link on Shellinators FB page. Can’t wait until our return trip in September when I’ll resume my junonia hunt, this time with a snorkel!

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  1. […] is no secret that I am a huge Sanibel Island fan.  To see why I love Sanibel so much click here. When I can’t be in Sanibel there is no […]

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