10 Reasons to Visit Sanibel Island, Florida

    By Melissa Vincent

    As if the sunshine and the beach weren’t enough…

    1. Sanibel Island Lighthouse: First lighted in 1884, this historic lighthouse is on the eastern end of the island. A quiet beach, perfect for relaxing, surrounds it. You may even catch a glimpse of a dolphin swimming nearby.
    2. Bowman’s BeachYou'll see why Bowman's was named one of the top beaches in the world by U.S. News Travel when you arrive at this picturesque spot. Bring a picnic and spend the day combing for shells and bird watching along several miles of undeveloped beach. 
    3. Shelling: People travel from all around the world to visit Sanibel Island for the shells.  Travel & Leisure named it the #1 shelling beach in North America. The island lies east and west, unlike most islands that lie north and south, and the curved shape causes it to act like a shovel, scooping up shells from the Gulf of Mexico. Check out iloveshelling.com for shelling and identification tips.
    4. Sanibel Island Farmers Market: More than 30 different vendors are included in this open-air market every Sunday at City Hall. You can find fresh seafood, homemade goods, locally grown fruits and vegetables, tropical plants, and more. You'll want to spend lots of time here chatting with the locals. 
    5. J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge: The number one spot for bird watching in North America with more 245 migratory and residential species. It is the most visited refuge in the nation, with close to a million visitors annually. You can hike, bike, or drive through the area, which occupies half the entire island. Closed on Fridays.
    6. Bailey-Matthews Shell MuseumThe only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to shells and mollusks from all over the world. A staff marine biologist presents different live mollusks daily during their “Tank Talk.” The interactive learning displays are perfect for kids. 
    7. Dolphin and Manatee sightings: Sanibel Island is teeming with wildlife and these creatures are no exception. I saw both during my three day visit to the area and even had the special privilege of having a dolphin swim up to me while kayaking. They are not shy and love to show off by jumping and flipping in the wake of a passing boat. 
    8. The Mad HatterA Gulf-front restaurant with whimsical Alice and Wonderland themed decor is the perfect spot for any foodie. It’s fine dining with an ever-changing view.
    9. Outdoor fun: Sanibel provides an abundance of outdoor activities to enjoy during your visit, including biking, fishing, kayaking and golf.
    10. That island feeling: Sanibel Island is unlike any other place in Florida. The geography, abundant wildlife, shells, and undeveloped areas make it stand out. Visit and do it all or lay back and do absolutely nothing. Either way you’ll leave with a renewed sense of peace and tranquility. 

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