How to Save on Sanibel Island

Have fun on a budget at this sunny Florida spot  


Just off Florida’s southwest coast, near Fort Myers, lies beautiful Sanibel Island. It’s easy to splurge on its sun-soaked shores, but there are also plenty of low-cost activities to keep everyone entertained in this part of Florida. 

At about 6,400 acres, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a bargain for nature-lovers. The entry fee to the park’s Wildlife Drive Trail is only US$5 per car or US$1 for hikers and bikers. The trail weaves through a rich ecosystem of shady mangrove forests and shallow seagrass beds teeming with lizards, mangrove crabs and fish. 

Visitors can also rent a canoe to paddle Tarpon Bay (US$25), or take an interpretive tour (US$13). Be on the lookout for more than 250 migratory and nesting bird species, as well as alligators, Florida manatees and Loggerhead sea turtles.  

Head indoors to discover exotic shells from around the world at Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, the only shell museum in the U.S. The vintage and contemporary shell art on display is dazzling, and the museum shop items are top-quality and affordable. Or you can find your own perfect shell for free on the high-tide line at Turner Beach located at Blind Pass, where Sanibel meets Captiva (its sister island). 

If beachcombing makes you hungry, head to Lighthouse Café, near the 1884 Sanibel Lighthouse, for its legendary all-day breakfast. Then go next door to The Sporty Seahorse Shop to browse an array of inexpensive souvenirs.

Getting There: WestJet flies to Fort Myers 13 times a week from Toronto and Ottawa.

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