Lying just off the coast of Florida, west of Fort Myers, Sanibel Island has long cultivated its small-beach-town charm by keeping things simple. You won’t find the high rises or kitsch that some beach towns have—but instead, a variety of mom-and-pop stores, plenty of marine life, and shells. Lots of shells. Thanks to its east-west orientation and the Gulf of Mexico currents, Sanibel is a natural magnet for seashells (200 kinds, by some counts). The act of shelling is so popular that folks call it the Sanibel Stoop (and the Captiva Crouch, on the neighboring island). But the island also offers other naturalist pleasures, such as hiking, cycling or kayaking through the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which takes up roughly half the island. Read on in this Sanibel Island travel guide to create your own island paradise here:
Things Not to Miss on Sanibel Island
• Shelling on the white sand beaches
• Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
• J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
• Captiva Island
When to Go to Sanibel Island
The height of the Sanibel Island travel season runs from December to April, the sunny snowbird season all over Florida. If you’re intent on getting the best shells, come between February and April. Granted, the prices are higher, too. For lower rates, travel to Sanibel Island during the fall or early winter. Just be mindful of the chance of hurricanes, which starts in the summer and can last until late fall.