The art world on the islands is a thriving and boisterous collection of artists and artistes. Their works reflect a variety of disciplines – from painting to pottery to sculpture, photography, basket weaving and jewelry. As vibrant and unique as the islands themselves, our local art community provides a healthy business for the area and plenty of attractions for guests to explore.
There are plenty of co-ops, shops and galleries to keep you busy for days. Here are some of our favorite places if you only have a limited amount of time on your hands. We invite you to take a tour of the islands and enjoy the colorful side of life in paradise.
Over Easy Cafe
You need sustenance for a day of gallery shopping and art critiquing. Get a hearty breakfast at one of the most popular diners on the island. Sanibel has delectable cuisine, but you can’t find many places that serve smoked salmon benedict. They have “eggseptional specialties,” but also serve healthier options such as yogurt parfaits, cereal and fresh fruit. We also suggest not skipping the cinnamon rolls! They serve breakfast from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. and lunch from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
The longest running gallery in the county, Tower Gallery is just up the street from breakfast. Featuring 23 artists, the gallery is a collection of art of mostly paintings with different styles just as landscapes and wildlife. Currently, it is located in a cottage home originally built in the 1915 and moved to its current site at 751 Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel. You’ll know you’re in the right place because of the bright, turquoise building. Open seven days a week, starting at 10 a.m. but closing hours differs in the winter/summer seasons, so check before you decide to make an evening trip to the gallery.
Hirdie Girdie Gallery
Walk next door and find your second gallery of the day located on 2490 Library Way, this gallery features 15 artists and is open 10 a.m. – 5p.m. Monday – Saturday. Named after a French instrument, Hurdy Gurdy, this gallery is actively partnering within the community to create a collaboration between the arts and other businesses. What’s with naming the gallery after a random instrument? You’ll have to ask them when you visit.
The biggest, broadest expression of artistic talent on the islands is BigArts on 900 Dunlop Road. They are the boldest exhibitor of artistic works on the islands. They house two galleries – the Founders Gallery open January thru March and the Phillips Gallery open October thru April. They also host 30 musical concerts annually, the Sanibel Musical Festival in March and several educational forums featuring respected experts on a broad range of topics. Check out their schedule after you book your trip to see what exciting programs they have running during your visit.
Walk 7 minutes to the Sanibel Community Association with around 130 members – some of them are professional, some local residents and some visitors. The annual dues are $30. They meet monthly at the Community House and have paint-outs at various localities and showings – some juried – at the local galleries and at the library. You can also rent the space for events such as weddings. Check out the calendar to see what events or classes are scheduled. It usually is pretty slow in the winter, but they usually have multiple bookings each day including yoga, bridge lessons, cooking classes and even iPhone/iPad classes for beginners.
Hungry Yet? Let’s Grab Lunch at Blue Giraffe
Just another few steps up the road is Blue Giraffe Island Dining at 2075 Periwinkle Way. With a tropical, outdoor setting and fun vibe, this is the perfect restaurant to kick back after so much walking. Sip on a tropical beverage and enjoy a Polynesian pineapple fruit salad or a roast duck club with cranberry mayo. They have options for “fancier entrees” or good, old faithfuls like burgers and fish tacos, so choose your own adventure and relax in the ambiance. They also serve breakfast and dinner.
2 islands Gallery
Hold onto your hats, you’ll have to get back in the car or grab a bicycle for this next stop on the artist tour. A 22 minute drive will land you on Captiva Island. You’ll find this next art boutique at 14830 Captiva Drive in Chadwicks Square. With jewelry, paintings, class, ceramics and textile handmade art, this gallery features 27 artists with unique personality and flair. It is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and is a great place to find souvenirs.
Jungle Drums Gallery
Feel free to walk again because it’s another short stroll to 11532 Andy Rosse Lane where you’ll find the Jungle Drums Gallery. Named by NICHE magazine in the top 100 galleries in the U.S., we consider this a can’t miss on the list of art hubs. With life-size bronze sculptures, wooden figurines and metal wall decorations, this is a true menagerie of delightful artistic expression housed in a colorful two-story building tucked into the trees. Open 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. and closed on Sundays. After exploring the art, feel free to kill time in the shopping district because you’re about to end the day.
Key Lime Bistro
We have a confession. We couldn’t choose with restaurant you should end the day with. It was simply too hard. Your first option is the Key Lime Bistro in the Olde Captiva district. They serve three meals a day, and are well known for (you guessed it) key lime pie… Get a tasty treat in the middle of your shopping or tantalizingly prepared seafood. Open all day and night with live entertainment on 11509 Andy Rosse Lane.
Yet another phenomenal choice and only a minute to walk to! The decorations alone are worth a stop at this bizarre and creative space that covers the wood paneled walls in photographs, old toys, Christmas decorations, fiesta lights, and antique furniture. They’re open every day from 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. & 4:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. They have a well-stocked bar, dessert menu, crazy, delicious food, and their servers wear club scout costumes. What more do I need to say to convince you that a visit to this fine establishment is worth every fun and funky minute?
Are you worn out? We hope so, after our introduction to the island art community go collapse into bed in your island rental. The art tour offers opportunity for participation, appreciation and, generally, just a good time. We hope you enjoy exploring the local art and have a chance to visit with the colorful characters we call friends and neighbors.