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.
How to Do a Digital Detox Holiday Near Fort Myers
Leave your devices at the door when you visit Sanibel and Captiva islands, just across the bridge from Fort Myers, Florida. Stay at the beachfront Island Inn, eat at Sweet Melissa's Cafe, go to Cabbage Key Restaurant, visit a wildlife refuge and search for a coveted junonia shell.