How to Save On a Vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida

Four ways to enjoy the outdoors on a budget at this sunny spot near Fort Myers.

The Sanibel Lighthouse, photo by dosecreative/Thinkstock

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 in the family entertained. Here are four things to do.

Hike or bike at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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 (closed Fridays) 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.

Go canoeing in Tarpon Bay

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.

Go to a seashell museum or find shells at Turner Beach

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).

Eat breakfast at the Lighthouse Cafe

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.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the April 2016 issue of  WestJet Magazine and has since been updated. 

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