Must Visit Spots on Captiva and Sanibel Islands, Florida

The islands of Captiva and Sanibel in Florida may not be the most obvious choice for a family vacation, but these destinations just outside of Fort Myers boasts a grab bag of sights and things to do that are perfect for both kids and adults, especially beach lovers and beachcombers. Boasting a striking contrast from the Floridian vibe of Fort Myers, these two islands—as well as its neighbors—sport a more Caribbean flair and has a penchant for shelling. And it makes for a fantastic weekend getaway or a week-long vacation.  Back in 2013, we featured a number of must visit sights in the destination (click here for a recap); here are five more.

Shells found on Captiva Island

Shells found on Captiva Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Beach at South Seas Island Resort

Beach at South Seas Island Resort, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Sanibel and Captiva Island

Shells found on Captiva Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum

Surprisingly large for such a niche museum, the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum is a rare find as there aren’t a lot of museums out there dedicated to shells and the mollusks that live in them. Because these islands, which essentially act as a scoop for shells that get swept in from the South and the West, are a treasure trove of shells of many shapes, sizes and species, this museum makes perfect sense. It boasts a huge collection of shells, some record breaking, some from the prehistoric times. And it holds live tank demonstrations with one of the marine biologists or naturalists on site, which the kids are guaranteed to love.

Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum, Sanibel Island

Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum, Sanibel Island

Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Bowman’s Beach

The amount and types of shells you’ll find in each of the many beaches on the islands depend on the weather and the surf. On certain days and in certain times of the year, some beaches may have a better haul than others. Bowman’s Beach, however, has pretty much a consistent haul of beautiful shells—from the common kitten’s paw and scallops to the harder to find murexes and whelks to the even rarer junonias. It’s definitely a go-to spot for shellers, and also boasts a lovely stretch of beach with warm, shallow waters perfect for swimming. Be on the lookout for the occasional sea urchins though, you’ll find one or two of them sitting on the sand bar.

Bridge to Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island

Bridge to Bowman’s Beach, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island

Bowman’s Beach, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Cayo Costa

Hop on a Captiva Cruises boat tour and make your way to the island of Cayo Costa, famous for its pristine and uncrowded state park. Depending on the time of the year, you’ll find yourself alone on its long stretch of beach, which you’ll get to past a small mangrove forest. You’ll definitely get a castaway feel here and you might spend an entire day without seeing anyone else. During low tide, find your way to its sand bar, which is home to many sand dollars; but on the beach, there’s shelling opportunities as well. There are no facilities on site, so make sure you bring everything you’ll need with you, including a picnic basket filled with goodies and possibly water shoes.

Beach on Cayo Costa, Sanibel Island

Beach on Cayo Costa, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Beach on Cayo Costa, Sanibel Island

Beach on Cayo Costa, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

The Bubble Room

The Bubble Room is quite a unique dining experience. Located along Captiva’s main commercial strip, the two things that make this restaurant a kitschy but must-visit stop are its massive slices of cakes that you can order for desert and the impossibly busy, crazily fantastic decor. The cakes are delicious, but they’re so big that one slice is big enough for four people to share. The decor—Christmas, fantasy and old Hollywood-themed—is insane, but in a good and entertaining way. Animated Christmas elves, a miniature train that goes around just below the ceiling and a little Alice in Wonderland setup are only a few of the things you’ll find here, and this doesn’t even begin to do the place justice.

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island

The Bubble Room, Captiva Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

Gulfside City Park

Gulfside City Park may not be as popular as other beaches in the area, but it’s a great spot for shelling as well. You’ll find plenty of fighting conchs here, most of them, large ones in fact, deposited right on the shelf where the water hits the beach. There are pretty tulips too—although many have been claimed by hermit crabs—and the occasional shark’s eye. There’s a pretty long stretch of beach as well, so even if shelling is not your thing, it’s still a good place to visit, if only to spend a day at the beach and do a bit of swimming.

Sanibel Island

Fighting conch found on Sanibel Island, photo by Michelle Rae Uy

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About Michelle Rae Uy

Michelle Rae Uy of Another Spur on the Road is an editor, travel writer and music publicist based in Los Angeles, CA. She is the Head of Content for MiniTime.com.