Beautiful beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Fl

Though Sanibel and Captiva are small islands on the Gulf Coast of Florida, whatever beach you choose to spend the day at, you’ll find soft, white sand covered with shells. Sanibel Island was ranked  7th for Best Florida Attractions by USA Today and landed in the Ten Top Places to Escape the Snow.

Insiders guide to sanibel and captiva islands in Southwest Florida | best beaches, attractions and dining on Sanibel and Captiva Island | Florida travel blog by Mandy Carter | | southwest florida family travel | family travel blogger

Alison Hagerup Beach Park is located at the North end of Captiva. The beach has limited parking available and no restroom facilities, but the perfect sunset view.

Bowman’s Beach is located on a section of the island that has been preserved to natural surroundings. It requires a long pathway walk from the parking area. Due to its location, the crowds are not as large here during peak season.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Causeway Beaches are located along both sides of the road and allow you to pull right up to the ocean’s edge and park for free. These beaches are great for picnicking, swimming, windsurfing and water sports.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Gulfside City Park offers picnic tables and grills with a wide beach mid-island. 

Lighthouse Beach wraps around the eastern tip of Sanibel Island. This is our family’s favorite spot on the island. The gentle waves, walking paths, abundant seashells, nearby parking and clean bathrooms are perfect for a day with small kids.

Tarpon Beach is located mid-island on Sanibel and great for recreational water sports due to the large parking area. Bathroom facilities are available allowing a full day of beach activity here.

Turner Beach is known as the Blind Pass and has beaches on both Sanibel and Captiva. It is not recommended to swim in this area, so most popular with fishermen and seashell hunters.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Activities and Attractions On Sanibel & Captiva Islands

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the most popular place on the islands for watching tall wading birds. The Ding Darling Society hosts a number of lectures and events for wildlife viewing on the island.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Shelling has endless possibilities on both Sanibel and Captiva because just about every type of shell can be found and are constantly being washed ashore from the Gulf & Caribbean. But it is important to remember that the State of Florida has outlawed the collecting of live shells on the island. This law protects any shell containing an inhabitant and protects sand dollars, starfish, and sea urchins. 

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Offshore Fishing in Sanibel typically provides an encounter with larger pelagic species such as the massive Goliath Grouper, Amberjack, King Mackerel, and various species of Shark. There are a number of wonderful fishing charters and guides on the island. There also some prime inshore fishing spots known to be the ultimate tarpon fishing area.

Take a waverunner excursion, go parasailing or experience flyboarding from YOLO Watersports.
Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities and beaches


You can bike around the island over 20 miles of paths. A number of companies provide bike rentals like Finnimore’s Cycle Shop, and Tarpon Bay Explorers. Billy’s Rentals rents bikes and runs a Segway of Sanibel two-hour guided tour.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Spend some time at the Bailey-Mathews National Shell Museum, which is the only museum in the United States devoted to shells and the mollusks that make them. Each day they offer Arts & Crafts and Live Tank Talks with admission.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, known as CROW, is a teaching animal hospital dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, and conservation medicine. Their visitor education center connects guests with the wildlife in their care while offering up close experiences and informative lectures.

Visit the Chapel By The Sea to journey back in time and learn about an earlier Captiva before it became a tourist mecca.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Must Eat Restaurants on Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Over Easy Cafe is my favorite breakfast spot on the island. This cozy spot serves a full breakfast and lunch menu with an array of healthy options, including gluten free items.

Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities

Island Cow is a very family friendly restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner along with a full bar. The atmosphere puts you in vacation mode and provides live entertainment and outdoor games to keep everyone entertained.

Schnapper’s Hots – Great char-grilled burgers and hotdogs with the best french fries on the island! Great family friendly fast served restaurant.
Sanibel and Captiva Island Florida family activities and beaches

The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market is the place to go if you are craving a fish feast. They offer an Oyster Bar, weekly special and fresh market of fish, steaks and sauces.

Sanibel Bean Island Coffees is a local coffee shop located right off the main….

The Mucky Duck provides a wonderful location for a  pre-sunset dinner. After dinner, you can grab a drink, listen to the live music and walk right out to the beach for a picture perfect ending to your island day.

The Bubble Room will be a memorable dinner in Captiva for the entire family, especially if you enjoy a good piece of cake and love Christmas! This unique restaurant opened in 1979 with just a few tables; now it is a world famous restaurant.

Southwest Florida is a beautiful family vacation spot. Sanibel and Captiva Islands should be a must visit Florida destination. Check out these fun nearby family attractions: The Shell Factory and Naples Caribbean Zoo.