Sanibel and Captiva Islands off the Gulf Coast of Florida are one of the most magical vacation destinations in the world. They boast wonderful beaches (15 miles of them, known especially for the variety and number of shells), warm waters, a world-renowned nature preserve, and cool restaurants.
A visit to Sanibel and Captiva really is enjoyable for everyone: families, couples, and single people will love the beaches, warmth, natural attractions and cuisine. It is an excellent vacation destination to couple with visits to other Florida spots or by itself. Last but not least, kids, adults, and senior citizens will find it walkable and accessible.
Known for Its Beaches…
Sanibel and Captiva are on the Gulf of Mexico, so the water is warm. The sand is also beautiful and pristine. About those shells: USA Today ranked shelling in the islands the seventh-best attraction in Florida…and given the wealth of attractions in Florida (Disney World, Miami, and the Everglades come to mind), that lets you know ow impressive it is. They are also rated one of the Top 10 places to escape the snow.
You can also snorkel or scuba in the clear water, sail, canoe, or kayak in the ocean, fish for abundant seafood, or just relax and enjoy the view.
…a Fantastic Wildlife Sanctuary…
If you or your family want to see the colorful animals associated with Florida (pelicans, flamingos, and alligators), Sanibel specifically boasts one of the world's best wildlife sanctuaries in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a U.S. National Park, and a great place to visit to get a sense of natural wonders and the ecological charm of Florida.
Naturalists estimate at there are 245 different species of birds in Sanibel. All of them live in the Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which takes up nearly half of Sanibel Island—more than 6,000 acres of mangrove forest and wetlands. (The Refuge is named for a political cartoonist and resident who was instrumental in getting President Harry S Truman to set aside the land for the refuge.)
The National Wildlife Refuge is an extraordinary place to view birds that are extraordinary looking. There are masses of white winter pelicans, roseate spoonbills and ibis in addition to herons, ospreys, and mangrove cuckoos. The Refuge is famous both nationally and internationally for its large migratory bird populations.
Best of all, perhaps, birds and other wildlife are abundant in every season.
On the age group front, the Refuge can be seen via hike, bicycle, or—for those not athletically inclined or wanting an explanation of all that they are seeing—a tram with a naturalist onboard. The latter run along Wildlife Drive, a 4-mile stretch that is the main way to see the preserve.
Although birds tend to be the stars of the Refuge show, it is also a great place for mammals such as raccoons, otters, and—what else—alligators.
Visitors to the Darling Refuge can also kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or fish.
…and Its Excellent Restaurants
After a day of relaxing, water sports, or seeing the sights at the Darling Nature Preserve, you can have everything from a gourmet meal to family-friendly fare. Sanibel and Captiva are known for creative restaurants and has an unusually high concentration of them.
You can get fresh seafood, for example, at George and Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille or the Key Lime Bistro (which has live entertainment every night). Do you or a family member want gluten-free food? Both these restaurants serve gluten-free options, as do Traditions on the Beach and Matzaluna’s. Family friendly? Matzaluna’s pizza fits the bill here, as does Pinocchio’s Original Italian Ice Cream. Their ice cream, gelato, and sorbets are all handcrafted.
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