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A Family-Friendly Guide to Sanibel Island

A Family-Friendly Guide to Sanibel Island


Located in Southwest Florida is a quiet, peaceful getaway with 50-miles of perfect shell-covered white sand beaches, teal waters and a well-preserved natural environment with a commitment to sustainability.  With no stoplights and only a few chain businesses, the island is a through back to a time past and considered one of the shelling capital of the world.  Fun for the whole family, the natural beauty of the island perfectly blends outdoor activities with a diverse populational of visitors living in harmony with nature, wildlife and land preservation. Come for the relaxation, stay to savor the sunsets, and have fun in Sanibel Island.




Southwest Florida International Airport is the closest airport, with direct service from Atlanta, Chicago, New York and other major hubs by American, Delta, United and Southwest Airlines.



Sundial Beach Resort & Spa is a staple in Sanibel Island, with spacious fully-equipped rooms complete with separate living areas, kitchens and walk-in closets. Rooms are situated on a mile stretch of shell covered beach, with five distinctive restaurants, five heated pools, spa, fitness center, 6 tennis courts, 12 pickleball courts, volleyball court, general store, a Sanibel Sea School outpost and on-site bicycles, kayaks and paddleboards.




Bailey Matthews Shell Museum

 The Baily Matthews Shell Museum boasts the title of the only museum in the United States solely dedicated to only shells and mollusks, with a concentration on preservation and research. Within the 30 permanent collections, explore the life cycle of shells, study shells around the world and even create your own shell arts & crafts to take home in the activities room. The museum will open new exhibit “Beyond Shells: The Mysterious World of Mollusks ” in early March. This experience adds living animal aquariums to its world-renowned shell collection in the shelling capital of the world. This permanent feature aims to connect visitors to the little-known live animals that create the ocean’s stunning shells, mollusks, and educates them about their important role in our ecosystem.


JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge  

 Named after an Iowa cartoonist, the drivable (or bikeable!) safari trail is home to over 220 species of birds, alligators, manatees and on 6,000 acres. As one of the largest mangrove wildernesses in the country,


Gene’s Books

 A favorite among locals and travelers alike, this bookstore (a sister bookstore Gene’s Books Too across the street) is like stepping into Harry Potter world. Organized stacks of books line the shelves, floors and entryways, and staff is more than happy to chat or help you find your next favorite read. 





Sanibel Sea School  

This non- profit foundation is not only fun, but they aim to teach guests to understand, value and care for the ocean. Tours are available for the whole family, and Sanibel Sea School for kids comes with a diploma after learning about the marine environment in 3-hour sessions. Learn about natural history, shell distribution, Sanibel history and more.



Southern Fresh Farms

A working farm since the 1970s, fourth-generation owner Robert McMahon has since expanded to make this a fun, family-friendly destination for all. The full events calendar features live music, movie night and Friday night food trucks. Crazy Dingo Brewery opened in July 2020, with several small-batch craft beers on tap, and is one of the place places that grow their own hops right on the property. Spend time at the farm feeding the animals in the pond (fish, ducks, and turtles) as well as in the barn (Rescued cows Henry and Moofasa, goats, sheep, and chickens).



Babcock Ranch

This innovative 90,000 acre, solar-powered city is 40 minutes from Fort Myers and is an adventure lover dream with miles of nature trails, lakes stocked with bass and spans of marshlands that are open to the public. The city is run by 343,000 solar panels, covering over 135 football-sized fields, and 80% of the total land will remain a preserve. At the Discovery Center, a town ambassador can tell about the plans and happenings in the city, or any current events happening.  If you want to spend time outdoors, head to Curry Creek Outfitters to gear up for hiking, biking, fishing or boating.  Kids will love the 90-minute Babcock Ranch Tours via Swamp Buggy, traveling through four different eco-systems and catching a glimpse into the natural habitat of alligators, several species of birds, deer, wild boar and more.




The eclectic American-fare Bubble Room was founded in 1979 is well-known for its fun 1920s–1950s Christmas, Old Hollywood and nostalgic décor, including a toy train, running throughout the restaurant. Guests come for their Bubble Bread, Sticky Buns and cakes the size of a small state. Don’t leave without trying the Orange Crush or Coconut Cake. Locals love Dixie Fish Co., with its fresh catches of the day, waterfront views and laid-back atmosphere. For a sweet treat, head to Sanibel’s Best Homemade Ice Cream, (Formerly Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream) and try out The Sandpiper, Sanibel Sea Shells and The Beautiful Junonia.