Of all the things to do on Sanibel, one of the most exciting is exploring all the best local seafood options. The seafood here is world-renowned and truly has to be tasted to be believed.
But you don’t have to always go out to a fancy restaurant to get a taste of the wonderful seafood offerings here; you can often make it yourself right in one of our Sanibel vacation rentals! Before you dive in, here’s everything to know about the fresh seafood in Sanibel.
Why is Sanibel Island Known for Great Seafood?
So, what makes Sanibel Island’s seafood so great in the first place? One of the main reasons is the abundance of big game fish. Sanibel Island and the neighboring Captiva Island make incredible fishing spots with plenty of prime places to cast your line. Luckily for the area’s anglers, it’s very easy to go out for a couple of hours and return with a whole bucket full of delicious fish of all kinds! And guests to Sanibel Island get the rewards here since the vast amount of fish are available for unbelievable prices.
Types of Great Seafood Offerings
You might be surprised at just how many varieties of seafood in Sanibel Island you can find! One of the area’s favorite delicacies is the pistol shrimp. You may not have heard of this creature, but you likely have heard them crawling around on the shore or in a wildlife refuge. They sound like Rice Krispies or crinkling paper! They live just under the water’s surface and hunt their prey with their very own “pistol,” a claw that slams shut so fast that a bubble emerges toward their prey at more than 60 mph, creating a sound more than 200 decibels when it hits the surface!
Another local favorite? The blue crab. This 4” to 5” crab is a challenge to catch, but that just makes them all the more delicious! They are widely found at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Blue crabs are incredibly fast swimmers, which is part of the reason they’re so hard to catch. If you do try to catch some for yourself, be aware that you can only use a dip net and are not allowed to bring baits or traps.
You’ll also find stone crab claws and soft shell crabs in the waters surrounding Sanibel, Florida. Stone crab claws are a local delicacy and are only available in certain seasons to prevent overfishing, but if they’re in season when you visit, you’re in for a treat! Finally, red snapper is a species to keep an eye out for. Many guests will plan a Sanibel Island summer fishing trip just to try to catch this elusive fish!
Where Can You Buy Fresh Seafood to Make Yourself?
If you’re interested in preparing your own Sanibel Island fresh seafood, you have to make your way down to The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market. They’ve been serving the area since 1980 and keep a wide variety of fresh seafood available for guests. You can almost always find species like grouper, salmon, shrimp, oysters, and lobster tail. They do also have some varieties that are usually in stock, like cobia and swordfish, as well as the occasional selection of bluefish, flounder, halibut, and more.
Another option that you might not think of at first is the Sanibel Island Farmers Market! You can, of course, find all your fresh produce, cheeses, baked goods, and flowers here, but they also carry a great selection of fresh seafood that varies from week to week. If you’re visiting from October through May, be sure to stop by!