Sanibel Island: America’s Best Beach? (and close to Orlando!)

Sanibel island near orlando

Sanibel island provides a unique destination for individuals of all ages and personalities. It could end up being the perfect romantic getaway for newlyweds or young lovers, the perfect family trip, or even a great nature trip for those who are interested in fishing, shelling, or simply want some peace of mind.

A great beach on Sanibel Island that many visitors love is the Lighthouse Park. The views from the beach here are incredible and offer a great combination of architecture and nature that can truly be spectacular. The exotic architecture of Naples can be seen, and the hotels of Fort Myers Beach also provide a great backdrop to the lovely waters.

The beach at Lighthouse Park is wide, and the water is shallow, which makes it a safe option for families and for individuals of all ages. However, at times, the currents can get a bit intense. This is also a popular windsurfer spot, as well, which can make the beach activities more interesting and be the perfect way to pass the time. It should be noted that the beach does charge for parking. This remains one of the busiest beaches on Sanibel Islands, and it can certainly get crowded on holidays and the weekends, as well. The restrooms and outdoor showers also help beach-goers maintain their hygiene and continue their vacation conveniently. There’s also a picnic area for families and vacationers to eat in between their swimming, and a fishing pier, as well. The historic lighthouse also provides an air of elegance to the beach, as well.

There are many who consider Blind Pass beach the best beach on the Sanibel Islands, and it is widely considered one of the best beaches in the area, as well. One great thing about this beach is that it spreads across two sides, the Sanibel and the Captiva sides. This beach is perfect for shelling, which the Sanibel Islands are actually world famous for. In fact, Travel and Leisure named the area the #1 place for shelling in North America. In fact, the shelling has become so popular that hotels are actually accompanying for shelling, as well, equipping their rooms with sinks and worktables, as well.

The shelling has become part of the entire culture of the Sanibel Island beaches, as well, with many calling the stance of an individual bending over to pick up a shell as the “Sanibel Stoop”. This has also led to the local community creating all sorts of amazing shell art, as well, which help to give a local whim to the area. There is even an annual Sanibel Shell Fair and Show, where locals can gather to compare and celebrate their respective shell collections.

For those who want to get some Gulf Coast flavor while still inhabiting some of the closest beaches to Orlando, Naples, and Fort Myers – Sanibel island beaches really do present a great way for you to spend the weekend with a significant other or with family.

Speaking of the Gulf Coast, another favorite beach in the area is none other than Gulfside City Park Beach. There’s a couple of advantages when it comes to this low-key gem, one of them being that it is much more pet-friendly than others. This is great for families who want to walk their dog on the beach or have them frolic on the sand with them. Rather than have the children pout about not having the family pet, bring them along! In addition, there are trees to help shade when the sun is out, and there are even cooking grills so families can BBQ it up! This beach is also known for shelling but is much less known to tourists. There is even a local nature walk for those who have had their share of the beach. For those who want to make sure that they stay active on their vacation, there are bike racks ready to be utilized, as well.

There are some great dining options around Sanibel Beach, as well, for those who are in the mood to be served rather than grill their own food. One historic option is “Traditions on the Sea”, aptly named, because it has been around since 1895! It’s a great relaxed place to choose from a tapas menu and enjoy the company of your family or romantic partner. Another great option is the fun diner the Island Cow, which has been consistently voted the best family dining in the Sanibel area. It’s great for the whole family, and there’s something for everyone – the menu has over 300 options! As if that wasn’t enough, there are cocktails and live music. When you combine that with the beach, it sure is hard to beat.

Sanibel island close to Orlando

Another top-notch beach in the Sanibel area is the well-known Tarpon Bay beach. This particular beach is known for its state-of-the-art restrooms and high sands, and for kids, it can be a great family option, because an ice cream truck even comes by every now and then! It’s also known for its pelicans, which is great for those who simply want to relax and listen to the calming sounds of nature around them. It’s also pet-friendly, as well, and is known for its convenient parking.

However, we have saved the best for last. When it comes to Sanibel Island beaches – there is often one name that keeps getting mentioned as the favorite, and that would be the scenic Bowman’s Beach. It is possibly the most famous beach in the area, and it is pet-friendly as well, and the parking area even accommodates RVs and trailers, which is great for those who are traveling a long distance.

We must warn you that the walk is a solid quarter mile from the parking lot to the beach, which is great for those who love a remote beach but might not be perfect for those who don’t feel like walking that distance. However, it’s a scenic walk, that takes you on a wooden bridge over freshwater, as well. There is even the option for courtesy beach wheelchairs if given 24-hour notice. All sorts of visitors congregate, whether they dare to windsurf and sail, or simply want a quiet place to shell or swim. There’s a picnic area, vending machines, and also canoe/kayak options, for the whole family to take advantage of.

Sanibel island shells near orlando
Photo: Kullez

Ultimately, the Sanibel Island beaches are a pristine way to spend a day, weekend, or longer. While there are many who travel to Florida to find the nightlife hotspots at Miami, the closest beaches to Orlando, or feel like exploring the Everglades – sometimes it’s the quiet little beach town that ends up being the perfect destination. That might be why it’s often chosen as the destination for quiet Florida beach weddings, as well.

Whether you are into watersports, kayaking, fishing, swimming, or shelling – the area will certainly grab your attention, and you just might end up falling in love with Sanibel Island. It certainly has a way of drawing you in, and the dining options with beachfront settings, the homey cottages, and the clear water all might just end up hypnotizing you back the next year, as well. It’s a great way to get away from the city and enjoy a beach, and still be around people, yet feel like you are taking a remote trip for yourself and your loved ones. The fact that the area is so pet-friendly is also a huge plus, and many of the restaurants are even pet-friendly, as well. Of course, the fact that there are picnic areas, nature walks, and biking paths are also just icing on the cake for those who want to make sure that they stay in shape while on vacation, as well.

Whether you come for a specific reason, or simply want some nice and quiet near a beach, you might find yourself coming back to the Sanibel Island beaches more than you thought.

Featured photo: Peter & Michelle S


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