Shell collection

Visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Your Sanibel Island Vacation!

Guests in our Sanibel Island vacation rentals constantly ask about the best things to do and see in the area. Of course, we have to recommend taking a trip to the beach! The beaches on Sanibel and Captiva Islands are considered some of the most beautiful in the country, and they’re also well-known for their shelling opportunities. The unique layout of the islands creates a distinct tidal pattern and brings some of the ocean’s most unique seashells onto our shores. But you don’t have to stick to the beach when you want to see some fantastic shells!

If you need to get out of an afternoon shower, are looking for a break from the heat, or enjoy a change of pace, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum is the place to go. It’s just minutes from our Sanibel Island vacation rentals and will impress guests of all ages. 

About Bailey-Matthews

There’s no secret that the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is truly one-of-a-kind. According to their website, they are “the only accredited museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks.” If you’re in the area, you don’t want to miss out on this unique experience!

This museum has been going strong since 1984 and has welcomed thousands of visitors. Not only will you find all kinds of fascinating exhibits, but you’ll also be able to learn about the area’s nature and history from the dedicated team. Learn about the history of the area’s layout, the various plants and animals that call Sanibel home, and what you can do to protect our beaches and oceans for years to come. 


The exhibits are among the main reasons that Bailey-Matthews is among the best things to do on Sanibel Island. Guests, young and old, are sure to be impressed by the sheer number of exhibits on display here, offering something new and fascinating around every turn. You’ll find permanent and rotating exhibits throughout the museum, so you can visit repeatedly and always find something new to check out. 

Kids having fun at an aquarium touch-tank

While you’re here, be sure not to miss out on the Hall of Shells. This breathtaking permanent exhibit holds the most impressive of all the Museum’s collections, totaling approximately 550,000 shells! You can also head to the “Beyond Shells” area, a beautiful aquarium gallery holding more than 60 species of marine creatures. Peer into the fish tank and see if you can recognize any playful species below the water!

If you bring your kids to the museum, they’ll probably want to get up close and personal with the wildlife. Luckily, they can! The museum holds several touch pools where you can hold mollusks, pet stingrays, and more. Daily Keeper Chats are also held here, allowing you to talk to the museum staff and learn about the animals on display here. These chats happen twice daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Live Octocam

Whether you’re hanging out in one of our Captiva Island condo rentals or have returned home after vacation, you can still experience the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. The museum keeps a live OctoCam running around the clock, so visitors and interested parties from around the world can check out what their resident octopus is doing in real-time.

When you log on to the OctoCam, you’ll have a chance to see the octopus swimming around, enjoying his daily meals, and playing in his aquarium like any other marine creature would. It’s fascinating to get an inside look at the life of an octopus in this way, so be sure to check it out!

Octopus floating around the aquarium
Photo from Shutterstock


If you’re looking for things to do on Sanibel Island that are both fun and entertaining, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum has you covered. Whether you want to teach your kids something new or learn about the marine creatures for yourself, you can find a fun educational experience for the entire family.

Now and then, the museum will host fascinating lectures about all things ocean, from shelves and marine life to conservation and preservation efforts. You’ll learn from the most experienced and knowledgeable experts in the field and gain valuable insights into the future of our waters.

The museum offers a range of adult education classes for the adults in your group. Your trusting instructor will answer any questions you may have throughout the course, which might cover a wide range of topics, including local field trips, where to find seashells on Sanibel and Captiva Islands or the typical day of an aquarist. It’s best to inquire about these classes in advance since they require a fee and tend to fill up quickly.


You’ll need to purchase tickets to enjoy everything the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum offers! You can easily buy tickets online before arriving, saving time on your trip.

Be sure to also ask about discounts for seniors and active-duty service members if you or a family member falls into one of those groups. 

Sanibel, Florida, is the place to be with beautiful seashells, friendly people, and unique experiences of all kinds. But before you can get involved in all the best Sanibel Island things to do, you will need a place to call home. That’s where Gopher comes in.

Plan Your Visit!

If you’re looking for a unique excursion during your trip to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, check out the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum! To plan your trip, simply view our rentals, reserve your favorite, and prepare for an unforgettable trip!

We’re proud to offer a wide range of Sanibel and Captiva Island vacation rentals for groups of all sizes, from individuals and couples to even the largest of extended families. No matter which rental you pick, you’ll find amenities such as high-speed wireless internet, flat-screen TVs, spacious kitchens with all appliances and cookware, and so much more. Step outside to enjoy beautiful views of the area or travel to some of the area’s most popular attractions.

Our team is here to serve throughout your stay in our Sanibel Island rentals. We’ll do all we can to answer your questions or recommend fun things to do in the area. We want to ensure your trip to Sanibel and Captiva Islands is a success! Contact the team at Gopher Rentals today to learn more about our rentals and to book your next trip.