Sanibel offers some of the best shelling beaches in North America. Gulf access extends from the Sanibel Lighthouse all the way to North Captiva where millions of shells roll in from the sea. Before heading to the beach, learn more about shelling at The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum or download the Shell Museum App to help identify the shells you find.
Keep in mind that some of the best shelling days follow storms. Full and new moons also bring a variety of shells that can be best collected during low tide.
Among the more than 400 species of shell on Sanibel, you may even find live shells such as sand dollars, starfish, or sea urchins. Please be sure to respect Sanibel Shelling Regulations that protect these living creatures and appreciate their beauty on the beach rather than taking them home.
There’s no better way to get out on the water than with knowledgeable local guides. They know where you can find miles of uninhabited beach for shelling and how to get the dolphins jumping in their wakes. Whether you want a relaxing serenade as the sun goes down or a thrill ride to a fishing hotspot, rely on the local professionals to make it happen.
Dine in the open-air restaurant on Cabbage Key and leave your own signed dollar bill. Cruise Pine Island Sound and learn fascinating facts about the Calusa Island Shell Mounds. Whether you cruise in San Carlos Bay or Pine Island Sound, choose an eco-tour or a sunset cruise, there’s something for everyone.
With so many types of cruises available, consider taking more than one. Check out all the options at the Sanibel Visitor Center and you may even score a coupon! Also, be sure to ask for a guide of events happening during the week of your visit.
Florida Sunshine – Don’t forget sun protection! Sanibel’s daily temperatures year round are an average range of 70-90 degrees with a UV index between 5 and 7.
Wildlife Experiences – The dry season is the best time to see animals on land and on the water, including alligators sunning on our shores. December through March is also peak manatee season, and the JN Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge says January to March is “one of the best times of year for birding!”
Beautiful Sunsets – Many of the sunset cruises offer dinner and cocktails. Keep in mind that during the winter months, the sun hits the horizon closer to dinnertime – a full two hours earlier than summer sunsets.
Sanibel Bike Trails – Cruises aren’t the only way to see secluded Sanibel beaches. With over 20 miles of bike trails on the island, cycling provides access to wildlife trails, beaches, and even a pioneer cemetery. Cycle through town to museums, shops, and restaurants or even over the causeway.
Sanibel Segway Tours – Interested in the bike paths on Sanibel, but not the pedaling? No problem. Consider a Segway rental where training and instruction by Segway experts is included.
Ding Darling Tram Tour – This reasonably-priced and highly-rated tour provides so much information on the local area and wildlife ecosystems. Knowledgeable guides in covered trams introduce the flora and fauna of the wildlife refuge.