Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
The perfect getaway awaits visitors on Sanibel Island. Royal Shell has a variety of Sanibel Island vacation rentals for all types of vacation getaways. Whether you’re looking for a low-key romantic trip or you’re looking for a large house to fit the whole family, Royal Shell has the right accommodations for you.
The picturesque barrier island is one of the top destinations in Southwest Florida. Sanibel is known for its shimmering sandy beaches, which offer a treasure trove of spectacular seashells. In fact, Sanibel Island is known as the “Seashell Capital of the World.”
Sanibel has a little bit of everything vacationers want, from relaxing beaches to soak up the Florida Sunshine to world-class accommodations. Leave the hustle and bustle of your busy life behind and let the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico soothe your soul. There are no traffic lights on Sanibel Island and the pace is definitely more relaxed. It’s all about the island life!
Getting Around Sanibel Island – Where to Go & What to Do
There is plenty to do on Sanibel Island and it’s easy to get around. When you stay at one of Royal Shell’s Sanibel Island vacation rentals, there are a few ways you can navigate the island. If you decide to drive, most places are nearby and the island is just 12 miles long from one end to the other, so travel time will be minimal. If you prefer to walk or bike, bikes can be rented and delivered to your Sanibel Island vacation home rental before you even get there.
Enjoy a picnic lunch and then take a photo with the Sanibel Lighthouse in the background. Stroll along the 15 miles of pristine beaches or enjoy the 22-mile network of bike paths and see the sights of the island. Spend time exploring Sanibel’s fauna and flora at the renowned J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. The island’s past is on display at Sanibel Historical Museum & Village. And don’t forget about the countless fabulous restaurants on the island.
Many couples also consider getting married on Sanibel Island because of its untouched natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. If you’re interested in tying the knot on Sanibel, let our Royal Shell Vacation Planners know and they will put you in touch with the right people.
Plan a trip and see what you’d like to do during your vacation – fishing, boating, shelling, shopping, dining or exploring. We think you’ll agree – there is no place like Sanibel Island. If you need recommendations of things to do, our Royal Shell Vacation Planners are happy to give you some ideas. We live and work here, too, so we know the area well. No one knows the island and Sanibel Island vacation rentals better than we do.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
The wildlife sanctuary was established in 1982. It is home to a plethora of migratory birds, and it has won a handful of awards. These include: The National Recreation and Parks Association’s National Voluntary Service Award in 1991; the National Wildlife Refuge Associations’ Friends Group of the Year award in 1999, and the Southeast Regional Directors Award in 2009 for its help with distributing funds for refuge employees affected by Hurricane Katrina.
When you visit the refuge, you could spot a brown pelican, alligator, great blue heron, snowy egret, white ibis or manatee.
If you are fascinated by shells and want to know more, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum features more than 30 permanent exhibits. The museum also has a handful of temporary exhibits. The Museum established the monthly October to April Evening Lecture Series in early 1996 in which lectures are given by leading specialists in malacology and natural history.
Learn About Shells
This is a good option if you’re looking for something to do on a rainy Florida afternoon.It’s also fun to learn about the shells you may find on the beach, especially if you’re staying in a Sanibel Island vacation rental on the Gulf. The Shell Museum offers Live Tank Talks – sessions where students can touch local mollusks and learn about major parts of their anatomy. Students can also hold large shells, see shell art and explore mollusk habitats in the exhibit hall.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation
Sanibel Island is more than an idyllic small town paradise. The island is dedicated to conserving the environment and making sure it’s preserved for generations to come. In fact, SCCF’s conservation efforts span nearly 50 years.
Looking for Walking Trails?
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is home to four miles of trails. Go at your own pace and choose a short leisurely stroll or opt for a longer walk through the quiet heart of the island. Look for low-lying wetlands and the slough known as the Sanibel River.
Additionally, you can go inside and catch an interactive exhibit, maps, and videos describing the challenges of maintaining benchmarks in water quality. Or attend a program and learn about local wildlife, like alligators and sea turtles.
SCCF also has real life tips for gardeners and environmentally conscious visitors. Visit the Native Landscapes & Garden Center to learn how to:
- Contribute to better water quality in local bodies of water
- Encourage birds, butterflies and other wildlife to hang out in your backyard
- Conserve drinking water supplies
- Help combat the spread of invasive plants on our wild lands
Sanibel Island Shared Use Paths
Sanibel Island Bike Paths & Sanibel Island Walking Paths
Sanibel Island is home to 25 miles worth of bicycle paths, and that’s how many guests and locals get around the island. When you’re staying at a Sanibel Island vacation rental, you can bike to the beach, to one of the delicious restaurants, shopping districts, or just take a low-key ride around the island. Sanibel Island bike paths are perfect because they are an activity the whole family can participate in.
What Are the Top Sanibel Island Shared Use Paths?
Besides breathtaking white sand beaches and emerald-blue Gulf of Mexico water, Sanibel is also home to 25.5 miles of scenic shared use paths and that’s how many guests and locals get around the island. When you’re staying at a Sanibel Island vacation rental, you can use the paths to walk or bike to the beach, to one of the delicious restaurants, shopping districts, or just take a low-key ride around the island. Sanibel Island shared use paths are perfect because they offer activities the whole family can do.
It’s not uncommon for Sanibel’s main drag, Periwinkle Way, to be full of bikers, walkers and skaters at all hours of the day. Some of the best Sanibel Island shared use paths are scattered throughout the island.
This trail is four miles long so it’s not for the faint of heart. Nature lovers and bird watchers enjoy driving on the one-way loop around J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which stops three miles north of its starting point on Sanibel-Captiva Road. If you want to do some hiking, you can stop along the way and hike some of the refuge’s short trails. Also, don’t miss out on climbing the bird observation tower. The views of the refuge are soothing and relaxing.
Dixie Beach Road
This one-mile-and-a-half trail whisks you from Periwinkle Way, near the Heart of the Islands shopping center, to San Carlos Bay. The beautiful bayfront homes are a sight to see; or you can turn left and follow the winding shell road and enjoy the island’s natural beauty.
Civic Core Circle
This paved trail takes you on Dunlop and Wooster Roads. You’ll be able to visit the Sanibel Library, Historical Village, BIG ARTS cultural center and City Hall. If you use the crosswalk in front of the Sanibel Community Association to access Periwinkle Way, you can bike parallel to Dunlop Road east of the Herb Strauss Theatre.
Rabbit Road Trail
The Rabbit Road path runs parallel to Rabbit Road, behind homes and along a canal. A good tip is to go cycling early in the morning when you’re more likely to see the small gray marsh rabbits that give the road its name. The one-mile stretch between West Gulf Drive and Sanibel-Captiva Road is also known as a hotspot for herons and maybe even an alligator or two.
Sanibel Island Vacation Rental Shelling Tips
On Sanibel, shelling is a way of life and many people vacation here for that very reason. Sanibel’s unique location acts as a shovel. According to the Sanibel Captiva Chamber of Commerce, the island scoops up all the seashells that the Gulf of Mexico brings in from the Caribbean.
If you’re looking for some Sanibel Island shelling tips, look no further. Prime shelling times are during low tide when the shells are more exposed. Another favorite time is just after the Gulf storms because wind has driven shells from the Gulf’s bottom onto Sanibel’s beaches, making them easier to spot.
What do you need to go shelling?
You’ll need a net bag and a scoop. Wear water shoes and make sure you shuffle your feet to scare away stingrays and expose the empty shells.Also remember that smaller shells are normally found on the east end of Sanibel near the Lighthouse, while the larger shells are scooped up around Blind Pass toward Captiva.
Some shells you’re likely to find in the wild on the beach include the fighting conch, lightning whelk, cockle shells and the fabled junonia. The “Sanibel Stoop” was also invented here. Shellers walk with their backs bent and eyes focused on the sand looking for all the little shell treasures being washed ashore.
Shells Are a Way of Life on Sanibel
Every March, shell aficionados gather at the annual Sanibel Shell Festival & Show to compare shell collections and shell art. Throughout the year, shops sell seashells by the seashore and shells are the standard form of decor and boutique gifts on the island. Some of our Sanibel Island vacation rentals even feature this type of aesthetic throughout.
On Sanibel, you’ll find everything from intricate shelligrams and sailor’s valentines to a Volkswagen Beetle car plastered with shells. If you want your home to have more of that beach feel, Sanibel is the place to go for custom shell items and art.
No Live Shelling, Please
Mollusks, the animals that create shells, are an essential part of the islands’ ecosystem, and since Sanibel and Captiva are refuge island, all life here is considered valuable. The State of Florida prohibits the collection of live shells on its beaches and the City of Sanibel is especially protective of these animals.
A “live shell” contains an inhabitant, whether the mollusk appears to be alive or not. This includes sand dollars, starfish and sea urchins.Live shelling is illegal on the beaches, shoreline and waters of Lee County.
Sanibel Island Beaches Near Royal Shell Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
Sanibel Island is a barrier island, a dune system that forms by waves or other types of tidal actions occurring parallel to the mainland coast.
Barrier Islands absorb energy and protect the coastline. This means Sanibel is dotted with shallow bays, mangrove trees and of course, white sandy beaches.
- Sanibel has a few different options for beaches ranging from the Causeway to the East and West ends of the island.
- Courtesy beach wheelchairs are available. A 24-hour notice to the City of Sanibel Police Department Dispatch is required. Their number is 239.472.3111.
This is a favorite beach for locals and visitors alike. Many people like coming here because it is far removed from homes, condominiums, hotels and resorts. If you’re looking for more than just relaxing on the white powdery sand, there is also a nature trail for you to enjoy. It runs parallel to the beach and is about a mile long.
There is plenty of parking available here, too. Bowman’s Beach is the farthest beach going north before you reach Captiva. There are restrooms, woods and grass-covered dunes. The beach also faces southwest so the sunset views won’t disappoint. To get to Bowman’s Beach, take Periwinkle Way north to Sanibel-Captiva Road and keep traveling north. Bowman’s Beach Road is just after the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Head west on Bowman’s Beach Road and go a quarter-mile until you reach the wooded and unpaved parking area.
Make sure you bring water and snacks with you because the beach does not have a concession stand that sells food or drinks. Also, make sure you have a backpack or a cart or cooler on wheels because it’s about a 10-minute walk from the parking lot to the beach through the wooded area and across the bridge spanning the lagoon.
Lighthouse Beach Park
This beach is located on Sanibel’s eastern tip and features a majestic and picturesque lighthouse built in 1884. If you need some shade, Lighthouse Beach Park has a few big trees you can use to seek refuge from the hot Florida sun. Take a dip in the warm Gulf water, enjoy a picnic, go for a walk and watch the waves, or try a watersport like sailing, kayaking or parasailing. Pets are also welcome.
Gulfside City Park Beach (Algiers)
Did you know this beach was named after an old steamship called the Algiers? Although it is no longer there, the steamship was converted into a home. The beach is also adjacent to part of a nature preserve, which helps protect the beach from being developed with resorts and condominiums.
Beachgoers can enjoy a picnic using the beach’s public picnic tables. Since Algiers Beach faces south and the beach is wide and flat, this is a prime location to look for unique and special Sanibel shells. If you want to visit Algiers Beach, drive north on Periwinkle Way, the island’s main thoroughfare, and turn left onto Casa Ybel Road (which eventually becomes West Gulf Drive). Next, turn west onto Algiers Lane and follow the winding shell road to the parking lot.
Tarpon Bay Beach
This is one of the least crowded beaches on the island. Also located on the southern coast, Tarpon Bay Beach boasts clear emerald-blue water perfect for swimming, soft white sand, and shells. An ice cream truck occasionally stops by and you may even see a dolphin or two in the water. Public restrooms are also available.
Sanibel Village Historic District
Once upon a time, you could only get to Sanibel by boat. Before pioneers settled on Sanibel in the 1800s, the island was inhabited by Spaniards and Calusa Indians.
The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village consists of nine historic buildings that have been moved from their original sites. However, each structure has been restored as closely as possible to its original aesthetic.
At the museum, you’ll find the Sanibel Packing House and a garage housing a Ford Model T truck from 1927. According to the museum’s website, volunteer docents tell Sanibel tales to almost 10,000 visitors a year.
Historic Buildings Include:
Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room built in 1926
Throughout the years, this building has served many purposes. It was built to be a gas station, but never used as one. It was originally used a temporary store and from 1928 to 1935, it was a tea room. Toward the end of its life, it was used as a private home.
Morning Glories Cottage built in 1925
In 1925, this home cost $2,211. It is a Sears & Roebuck pre-made home. It came to the island in 30,000 pieces on a flatbed truck that sat on top of a barge.
Old Bailey General Store built in 1927
In the ’20s, this was the place to go. The Bailey General Store was equipped with telephone and telegraph links. Mail boats, steamers and ferry boats stopped at the docks and there was even a small miniature golf course.
Burnap Cottage built in 1898
This is the second-oldest structure in the Historical Village. It has been utilized as a cottage to host Sunday services, as a fishing haven in the winter and lastly, as a home. In 1998, the Burnap Cottage was given to the Village and restored to his original condition.
Sanibel Packing House built in 1900
Islanders used to ship vegetables, produce and citrus up north and they would pack and store theproduce in the Sanibel Packing House. From the 1880s to the 1940s, agriculture was the main source of commerce for Sanibel Island residents.
Post Office built in 1926
It’s hard to walk by this building without stopping to check out what’s inside. It even has a mail drop. In 1895, the Sanibel Post Office was chosen as a test site for rural mail. It was permanently recognized in 1900.
Rutland House built in 1913
This house is as Old Florida as it gets. Built in the typical cracker style, it is made of hard Florida pine. Some typical cracker home features include windows and doors opposite each other to take advantage of cross breezes and 11-foot ceilings to help keep the home cool.
Sanibel School House for White Children built in 1896
This is a traditional one-room schoolhouse. It has a platform in the front where various grades did lessons with the teacher and it has a wood stove in the center to keep the room warm in the winter. In 1932, a second room was added to accommodate more students.
Shore Haven built in 1924
The only thing modern about this home’s exterior is the sun porch. Everything else has been restored back to its 1924 look. Shore Haven is a two-story Verona model Sears Roebuck kit home. From 1909 until the 1940s, you could get one through the Modern Homes catalog of Honor Bilt Homes. They were tremendously well-built homes and were available in three grades. Shore Haven is a middle grade home.
The Caretaker’s Cottage built in 1925
This cottage was built a year after the Shore Haven house. It’s been used as a guest house, annex, bath house and caretakers’ home. In 2012, the Caretaker’s Cottage was donated and transported to the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village to accompany the Shore Haven house. It also features an exhibit showcasing Sanibel’s black history.
The Best Sanibel Island Restaurants Near Our Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
According to Fort Myers local expert, Gina Birch, Sanibel is known for its seafood (it is an island after all), but there are a few places that outshine the rest of competition.
This is one of the most popular spots on the island. In fact, people from the mainland even talk about how good it is. It features a fun, laid-back atmosphere and Caribbean-style fresh fish. And if you’re a rum lover, there are 40 different kinds to choose from.
The best part about the Fish House’s menu is that it caters to all different types of food allergies. If you are on a low-carb diet, are vegan or gluten-free, this is a good option for you. The Fish House also won the 2015 Taste of the Island Award for Best Seafood, 2017 Taste of the Island Award for Best Appetizer, and the 2016 and 2017 Award for the Best Happy Hour.
This is a good option if you’re looking for something healthy, especially if you are on the lookout for vegetarian and gluten-free options. Located on the main drag, Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Fresh gets ingredients from local sources. The restaurant’s beef hails from Jackman Ranch near Clewiston. Its eggs and chickens are from Lake Meadow Naturals near Orlando, and honey is sourced from the Harold P. Curtis Honey Co. based in LaBelle. They bring hives to the island because the special mangrove honey produced there is just too good to pass up.
This lunch and dinner locale boasts a truly unique menu with an assorted array of tastes, textures and eclectic ingredients. A review from Yelp user Bill A. called his experience, “My favorite meal while on the island. The oyster artichoke stew was excellent and nicely filling. The lamb is osso buco made with neck bones [and] was excellent and unlike any I had before. Others in our group had the halibut special and scallops. All were excellent.”
This restaurant, located on the island’s main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is one of the most well-known on the island. Be sure to try the conch fritters, Buffalo wings and shrimp. If you’re feeling brave, give the Dead Parrot Wings a try. According to the Lazy Flamingo’s website, the sauce is very, very hot. The Lazy Flamingo has a second island location just before the Blind Pass bridge to Captiva.
Open seven days a week, this locale serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is a good option because it has a variety of choices and it’s also across the street from the Gulf of Mexico.
This place seems like the type of diner your grandmother would operate. It has a comfortable atmosphere and serves delicious homemade food. The portions are large and the seafood is fresh. Locals rave about the coconut shrimp. Grandma Dot’s is open for lunch and dinner and features views of the canal and marina.
Sanibel Restaurants On or Near the Water
The views from Sanibel are breathtaking and if you can enjoy them while you’re eating a delicious meal, that’s even better. Here are a few options for dining on the water with beautiful waterfront views.
Not only does the Thistle Lodge have picturesque views of the water, it’s also on the beach. Part of the Casa Ybel Resort, it has quite a storied history. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were known to enjoy lunch and dinner here. It features an eclectic menu with European, Asian and,of course, Floridian dishes.
The Sea Breeze Café is located at the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Enjoy a quiet, romantic lunch or dinner or spend time with the whole family. Everyone will appreciate the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico views. Make sure you stop by for live entertainment and Margarita Mondays.
The décor is reminiscent of Old Florida and highlighted by the restaurant’s beachfront views throughout. Traditions also boasts live music year-round. You can hear everything from resort style dance music, classic and popular jazz standards, Mo-Town, R&B, disco and dance hits. This locals favorite features Italian and Mediterranean style fare.
This eclectic restaurant is on the way to Captiva Island. It is overlooks the Gulf and features delicious, fresh food prepared from scratch. The best part is the atmosphere and the unbeatable sunset views.
Pet-Friendly Restaurants on Sanibel
If you don’t want to leave your furry friend behind, some restaurants on Sanibel don’t mind if Fido tags along, too. According to BringFido.com, these are some of your best bets:
The Island Cow is not only known for its colorful name, but it is also one of the laid-back, pet-friendly hotspots on the island. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the menu features a variety of options.
If you want to try some of the best ice cream on the island, you can bring Fido with you, too. Pinocchio’s has been going strong since 1980 and the handcrafted gelato, ice cream, sorbet, sherbet and frozen yogurt are all prepared in-house. There’s always a crowd at Pinocchio’s and if you stop by sometime, you’ll know why.
George and Wendy’s is yet another local favorite serving entrees like seafood, classic American fare and tapas. Dogs are welcome on the patio and the restaurant is open until midnight, much later than most hot spots on the island.
Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals
Royal Shell offers an excellent selection of Sanibel Island vacation rentals in a great location. Some are beach front and some are steps from the beach with amazing Gulf-front and Gulf coast views. Visitors can decide what type of accommodations best fit their needs, whether it’s a single-family home with beach access or a beachfront condo. Royal Shell manages more than 2,000 vacation rental properties in Southwest Florida. Let us help find the right location so we can help make your trip one for the record books.
It’s easy to get swept up in Southwest Florida’s charm, and it’s even easier to fall in love with Sanibel. If you don’t think you’re going to want to leave or you see yourself retiring on the island or starting a family here, let us know! All of our Royal Shell agents are happy to show you around and help you make the right decision. After all, buying, renting or selling a property is a big deal. We make it easy.
Helping people find their forever home or dream Sanibel vacation rental is what we do best. Come for a weekend, or longer. Who knows, you may end up staying for a lifetime.