the sanibel island lighthouse on sanibel island

Tour of the Islands

Looking for somewhere unique and exciting to spend your next vacation? You’re probably already thinking about soaking up the sun and surf in Florida. But most people want to visit crowded destinations like Miami, Panama City Beach, or Tampa.

Why not come somewhere that’s going to give you smaller crowds to contend with while still offering plenty to see and do? You can find just that here on Sanibel Island.

Our Sanibel vacation rentals are ideal for all groups, whether you’re staying for a weekend or planning a more extended trip. Either way, you’re probably going to want to get a good feel for the island while you’re here. Lucky for you, we’ve done all the hard work and research ahead of time! We’ve picked the best Sanibel Island things to do to make sure you hit all the high points while you’re in town. No matter how long you’re in town, even if it’s just for one day, you’ll have time to experience all these popular attractions. 

Breakfast at Lighthouse Café

wonderful evening on sanibel island
Photo From: Shutterstock

They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and there’s no better place to get breakfast here on Sanibel Island than at the Lighthouse Café. This eatery was established in 1987 and is easily one of the most popular places to eat on the island. For breakfast, you’ll find all your favorite classic dishes, including eggs benedict, the applewood smoked bacon and cheddar omelet, blueberry whole wheat hotcakes, and more. Be sure to pair your breakfast with a mimosa, Bloody Mary, or sangria to really get the day started on the right foot! 

Visit the Historic Sanibel Lighthouse

Once you’re done at the Lighthouse Café, you’re going to want to go check out a real lighthouse! The Historic Sanibel Lighthouse is one of the most popular kid-friendly Sanibel Island activities, since it combines both history and fun into one incredible attraction. This breathtaking landmark has been standing since 1884, and it was recently restored in 2013. You’ll definitely want to go more in depth with your history lesson when you get there, and don’t forget to snap a photo! If you don’t happen to make it to any other historical destination during your time here, be sure to make some time for this one. 

Go Shelling at Bowman’s Beach

No trip to Sanibel Island would be complete without heading to the beach and doing some shelling. This hobby is so popular that residents and visitors alike do a move called the “Sanibel Stoop” when they bend over to pick up those unique shells! The island gets tons of shells thanks to the special alignment in relation to the flow of the ocean. When it comes time for your family to go shelling, Bowman’s Beach is a great option. There’s a huge beach to cover, so you don’t have to worry about competition for the best shell. Plus, once you’re done shelling, you can spread out a blanket to relax on the sand or jump in the water to cool off on those hot summer days. 

Lunch at The Island Cow

Spending all that time out in the sunshine has probably made you hungry! Now it’s time to grab lunch. For this meal, you’ll want to head to The Island Cow. “Udderly Great Food” doesn’t even begin to cover it! This business has been family-owned and operated for more than 15 years now, and locals and visitors all love to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and world-class food. Once you try their mouthwatering selections, you’ll understand why The Island Cow has been voted “Best Lunch” by The Best of the Islands! Kids and adults alike love both the food and the atmosphere here, so we definitely recommend you grab a quick lunch at The Island Cow. 

Cruise Around J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge 

Once you’ve had your fill at lunch, it’s time to relax and enjoy some time in nature. For this, head to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. While you could certainly take on the refuge yourself and explore it at your own pace, we highly recommend that you take an eco-cruise with Tarpon Bay Explorers. Their special 1.5-hour cruise takes you all throughout the refuge and puts you with an experienced guide who will tell you all kinds of interesting facts about Sanibel and the local plant and animal life you see along the way. Plus, taking a cruise around the refuge is often much more relaxing than hiking or walking all around, and you’re guaranteed to see all the best parts of the area. 

Enjoy Dinner at Timbers Restaurant

Done at the refuge? Now you can head on to dinner at Timbers Restaurant. Not only is this establishment a delicious restaurant, but it’s also an incredible fish market! You can rest assured knowing you’re about to dine on some of the freshest seafood that Sanibel Island has to offer. Visitors and locals have been coming here since 1978 to sample mouthwatering menu options like Florida lobster tail, sea scallops, shrimp scampi, fried oysters, and more. They’ve even got sushi, steaks, and special menus for vegetarians or those who want to avoid gluten or dairy. The entire family is sure to love whatever they choose here at Timbers Restaurant.

Bubble Room for Dessert

Hopefully you didn’t stuff yourself too full at dinner because now it’s time for dessert! There’s no better place to enjoy a delicious sweet treat than the Bubble Room. Here, you’ll find all kinds of delectable cakes, cookies, and other bakery selections prepared fresh every single day. But the Bubble Room is so much more than just a place to stop in for dessert. In fact, it’s one of the most unique attractions on the entire island! Everywhere you look, you’ll find something new to admire, from vintage toys and Christmas decorations to vinyl records and more. It’s truly an experience all its own at one of the most interesting Sanibel Island restaurants

Retreat to Your Sanibel Island Rental

We’ve backed this day full of the most exciting family friendly activities on Sanibel Island, but eventually, the day must come to an end. At this point, you’ll probably be pretty tired, which is why we recommend heading back to your Sanibel or Captiva vacation rentals for some much-deserved rest and relaxation. You’ll be able to curl up and get some shut eye in your spacious private bedrooms, end the night with a movie on your flat screen TV, or indulge in a late-night snack in your fully equipped kitchen.

Book Your Stay

Sound like the perfect day? Gopher Rentals can help you make it happen! We’re proud to offer tons of Sanibel Island vacation rentals to suit any family on any budget. All of the rentals on our website are exactly as they appear in person, so you know just what to expect when you arrive. Before or during your stay, our team is available to answer any questions or concerns. All that’s left to do now is book your rental! Contact our team today to learn more about all of our Sanibel Island rentals and to book yours.