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Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; Sanibel & Captiva Islands


best Florida family beach vacations; sanibel & captiva islands SHELLS; img courtesy of annechovieblogspot.com

Fort Myers is the gateway to both Sanibel and Captiva Islands and besides being hailed as the shelling capital of North America, it has all the makings for a wonderful Florida family beach vacation.

Unlike the hustle and bustle of the Emerald Coast, Ft Walton Beach, Destin and the Florida panhandle’s huge white sandy dunes where thousands of families roam the beaches, Sanibel and Captiva Islands embody the epitome of a nice quiet vacation surrounded by hundreds of flowering bougainvillea and miles of peaceful beaches.

Sanibel & Captiva, with their 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, 22 miles of bike paths, 50 types of fish, 230 types of birds, 250 types of shells and ZERO stop lights, it’s no wonder so many find them as beautiful and serene as they are relaxing. That’s not to say the Emerald Coast isn’t absolutely gorgeous, it just draws more vacationers and offers a wider range of attractions. If that’s more your style then, read all about it here.

“Sanibel stoop” at Sanibel & Captiva Islands; img. courtesy of sanibel-captiva.org

Both Sanibel & Captiva Islands are considered the best shell collecting beaches America.  In fact, as Stephany says in her Top 5 Kid Friendly Beaches post, “the beach is literally covered in shells, and collecting the shells is so popular, the most common sight you’ll see is the ‘Sanibel Stoop’, where young and old alike are stooped over looking for the perfect shell to add to their collection.”

During your Sanibel stay, you might spot a few of the “locals”, such as the roseate spoonbills, ospreys, bottlenose dolphins, turtles (Gopher Tortoise), manatees, great herons, sea otters, alligators, bobcats and pelicans. But most likely, you won’t run into any alligators or bobcats (though you might spot them in the wildlife refuges located on the islands. (Read more below on attractions and activities). More pictures of Sanibel can be seen at annechovies blog here.

Ellen, a long time magazine editor with an amazing list of clients (including Redbook, Good Housekeeping, SELF, Glamour, Martha Stewart Living, Body & Soul, In Style and American Baby) along with a myriad of accolades, wrote a guest post for bestkidfriendlytravel about  her family vacation spent at Captiva Island called “Kid Friendly Captiva Island” with tons of great information about the area’s fun family activities. See it here.

Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; Sanibel & Captiva Islands at Fort Myers- Family Friendly Attractions & Activities

There are so many great family friendly activities around Ft. Myers, Captiva and Sanibel Islands that you’ll never be bored.

Captiva Cruises is a great dolphin spotting short cruise fun for everyone and short enough that you don’t have to plan your whole day around it.

Sanibel & Captiva at Ft. Myers- Florida Family Beach Vacation activities; Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens img courtesy of caribbean gardens.com

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge for the nature lovers is a wonderful place to take the kids where you’ll see many of the “locals” mentioned above like the roseate spoonbills, gopher tortoises and such.

The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens (small but perfect for young children) This is two great attractions in one, with a nationally accredited zoo, and historic gardens.

When it comes to shelling (the favorite pastime of most visitors) you’ll most likely find all types, from scallops, whelks and sand dollars galore, but if that doesn’t satisfy your shelling appetite make sure to see

the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, a very popular Sanibel sight, and considered by many to be one of the best things to do on Sanibel Island. The Shell Museum is the largest museum in the world entirely dedicated to shells and contains over 30 exhibits. It’s only been operational since the mid-1990’s, and has allowed both kids and adults a fun way to better understand the environment around them.

For families, the Imaginarium is certainly the must see destination in the area.

Check out the Imaginarium while in Sanibel/Ft. Myers on your Florida Family Beach Vacation; img. courtesy of imaginarium.com

This hands-on museum and aquarium brings science and nature to life, encouraging kids to learn through participation rather than by looking at one exhibit after another. Experience the thrills of petting a live stingray, play virtual soccer, experience a hurricane, or try your hand at weather forecasting, all without ever leaving the building. Read a nice write up about the Imaginarium here at Sanibel-Captiva.com.

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates is another destination that travelers will not want to miss. You’ll see the winter home of Thomas Edison as well as the neighboring property that was owned by Henry Ford. There are museums onsite that showcase many of the inventions created by these two remarkable men as well as beautiful homes, gardens, a lab, and much more.

Besides shelling, other outdoor activities around Captiva and Sanibel include; biking, fishing, bird watching, boating, golfing, and snorkeling, just to name a few.

Also check with the Sanibel & Capitva Chamber of Commerce for more activities, or see their website here.

Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; Sanibel & Captiva Islands at Fort Myers, Florida :

Kid Friendly Restaurants


The Bubble Room – Definitely one of my favorites on the island, “The Bubble Room is Florida ‘s most outrageous and award-winning restaurant – a delicious holiday from the ordinary. The decor is unlike anything you have experienced – unless you normally dine where Christmas, nostalgia, antique shops, and Hollywood are all rolled into one. This fascinating American-cuisine restaurant is composed of eye-catching memorabilia from the 1930’s, 1940’s, and 1950’s. Toy trains, twinkling colored lights, and more than 2,000 movie stills and glossies of stage and screen legends greet customers curious to see Captiva’s famed restaurant. Servers are aptly titled “Bubble Scouts,” and sport zany hats and khaki uniforms covered in crazy buttons. These dutiful scouts serve large tropical drinks, local seafood, and choice cuts of prime rib, pork, and poultry.” Located at; 15001 Captiva Dr., Captiva, FL 33924-, Phone; (239) 472-5558

The Green Flash
On the waterfront, with docks for boats, great seafood, a separate bar area and sells souvenirs, located at; 15183 Captiva Drive

Mucky Duck
Very popular so limited parking. It is on the beach, has good, classic American food and sells souvenirs located at; 11546 Andy Rosse Lane

Holy Smoke Heavenly Barbecue (at South Seas resort)-yum, yum yummy Bar-B-Q, and fun for the whole bunch! Located at; 5400 Plantation Road, Captiva Island, FL, 33924

Island Cow – Quoted from their website, I had to include thier cute intro to this ‘udderly’ great place, “The herd and I were jus’ hangin’ around the beach one morn’in, when they asked me -“Where can we go when we’re in the mooood for some great cook’in, local fun and prices that won’t make us lose the farm? We mean casual and friendly surroundings inside and out, a place where we can bring the calves and come as we are!” Well, I had it! I knew the answer to this one – Let’s get Moooovin’ to – The Island Cow! Udderly great food, drinks and desserts for everyone.” Located at;  2163 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel Island, FL 33957   |   Ph: 239.472.0606   |   www.SanibelIslandCow.com

The Lazy Flamingo -There are actually three of these restaurants and two are located on Sanibel (at opposite ends of the island), but the one you’ll probably like best is; Lazy Flamingo II, Inc. located at; 1036 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL  33957, phone #239-472-6939.

The Timbers and Lighthouse Café A truly outstanding breakfast, but make sure to call ahead to get your name on the waiting list. Located at;  362 Periwinkle Way Sanibel Island FL 33957 (239) 472-0303

“The homemade ice-cream at Pinnochio’s in Sanibel is a must!”, says Ellen.  The vibe here is very casual, so you can go to dinner almost anywhere in shorts.”  Pinocchio’s Original  Homemade Italian Ice Cream is a Sanibel tradition for nearly 30 years. Visitors come to this wonderful island to enjoy the pristine beaches, excellent shelling and natural wildlife. Families and residents often take the bicycle paths to the Sanibel Lighthouse on the East end of the island. Many say that their favorite stop along the way is at this little ice cream shop.

More Eateries:

Hungry Heron Eatery Incwww.hungryheron.com – (239) 395-2300 – 90 reviews

Doc Ford’s Sanibel Bar & Grillwww.docfords.com – (239) 472-8311 – 231 reviews

Blue Giraffe Restaurantwww.mybluegiraffe.com – (239) 472-2525 – 99 reviews

Island Pizza Restaurant-Sanibel(239) 472-1581 – 103 reviews

Matzaluna The Italian Kitchen (239) 472-1998 – 12 reviews

Lazy Flamingowww.lazyflamingo.com – (239) 472-5353 – 93 reviews

“The most bling you’ll find is in the sky at night, it’s sprinkled with glitter. The stars, the shells—top to bottom, Captiva is beautiful.” – Ellen

Best Florida Family Beach Vacations; Sanibel & Captiva Islands at Fort Myers, Florida :

Kid friendly hotels, resorts & places to STAY

South Seas Island Resort

South Seas Island Resort
5400 Plantation Road
Captiva Island, FL US 33924 Map It
Fort Myers :Sanibel and Captiva Islands
South Seas Island Resort (formerly South Seas Plantation Resort), a 330-acre full-service resort on Captiva Island and has re-opened following a property-wide, multi-million dollar renovation. Resort amenities include the tennis courts, multiple pools, beach access, and the gulf-front Executive Golf Course. New Educational Camps for kids through teens offers activities and educational programs day and night.  Read more here.


West Wind Inn

West Wind Inn
8 Reviews

3345 West Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
The West Wind Inn has the Spirit of the Tropics. Sun-drenched days, tropical breezes, the incomparable gulf sunsets in an unforgettable, beautiful setting. … more

Holiday Inn Sanibel Island -Best Kid Friendly Travel110% Best Rate Guaranteed
Holiday Inn Sanibel Island

28 Reviews

1231 Middle Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Situated on the beach in Sanibel Island, this island sanctuary offers miles of shoreline, shelling, and bike trails, surrounded by lush tropical landscaping. … more

Sanibel Sunset Beach Resort – 110% Best Rate Guaranteed
Sanibel Sunset Beach Resort

19 Reviews

3287 West Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Our huge pool and tennis court on five lush, tropical acres overlook the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy activities like bicycling and shuffleboard, or relax in beach chairs, visit our shell hut, or enjoy our palm-shaded beachfront picnic area. – more.

Waterside Inn On the Beach
Waterside Inn On the Beach
1 Reviews

3033 West Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
An intimate Old Sanibel hideaway, the Waterside Inn is nestled on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach facing the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel is also an ideal location for surf fishing, and bird watching.  The Waterside Inn resides on a 15-mile stretch of beach; well known for excellent shelling, calm waters, and breathtaking sunsets. In addition to an exquisite beach view, the Waterside Inn has two heated swimming pools, shuffle board courts, fishing equipment, and bike rentals available for your entertainment. Propane grills are also on hand for those who like to barbeque. Small pets are also welcomed in selected units.more

Sundial Beach and Golf Resort – Best Kid Friendly Travel110% Best Rate Guaranteed
Sundial Beach and Golf Resort
11 Reviews

1451 Middle Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Sundial Beach & Golf Resort is located on Sanibel Island, a unique barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico that is two-thirds nature preserve. Resort amenities include five heated pools, tennis courts, complimentary wireless Internet, access to miles of paved bike paths around the island, and access to the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  All studios, one and two-bedroom accommodations feature full kitchens, plus balconies or lanais…. more

Song Of The Sea – Best Kid Friendly Travel110% Best Rate Guaranteed
Song Of The Sea
23 Reviews

863 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Song of the Sea is a 30 room intimate European style inn located on Sanibel Island directly on the Gulf of Mexico and 19 miles from the Southwest Florida International Airport. Amenities include complimentary continental breakfast, welcome bottle of wine, complimentary bicycles, complimentary beach chairs, and swimming pool and spa and high speed wireless Internet access (daily fee)…. more

Sanibel Inn-Best Kid Friendly Travel110% Best Rate Guaranteed

Sanibel Inn
34 Reviews

937 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
The Sanibel Inn is located on Sanibel Island, 19 miles from Southwest Florida International Airport. The grounds offer multiple varieties of indigenous … more

The Seaside Inn
The Seaside Inn
12 Reviews

541 East Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957 US Map It
: Sanibel and Captiva Islands
The Seaside Inn offers a touch of Old Island charm in a classic Florida escape just steps from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico on Sanibel Island. Amenities include a continental breakfast delivered to each room and an outdoor pool.. … more

So if relaxing on the beach is more your style, versus the hustle and bustle of the panhandle, then Sanibel and Capitva Islands are for you.

If you’ve stayed or visited on or near Sanibel & Captiva Islands or Fort Myers with kids for your Florida Family Beach Vacation, leave me a comment about it, I’d love to hear about your family friendly adventures! Make sure to stay tuned for more of the “Florida with Kids” series.

If you missed the other editions, check out “Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida”, or ; “Treasure Island, St. Petersburg”, Ft. Walton Beach on the Emerald Coast, or ; “Clearwater Beach” for more family friendly vacation ideas.

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