Typically when I hear of someone heading to Florida, I image high volumes of traffic and large numbers of people everywhere. Sort of the Spring Break atmosphere. Before 2021, my favorite city in Florida had become Panama City Beach. It was less touristy than Destin, or Clearwater but still offered everything, including an active night life.
In February 2021 I met a friend in Sanibel for an extended weekend stay. We stayed at Breakers West condos. They were very clean, there was a large utility room right inside the front door and this was super helpful to try and keep the sand somewhat contained.
Our unit had 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dinette area, living room and a great screened in porch. The private beach to the condos was just a short walk down a designated path. Very accessible and easy to maneuver. We also had access to a private pool just outside the condos.
If you've never been to Sanibel, you should know it's called the Seashell Capital of the World. This description cannot be disputed in any way. Having been to many different cities in Florida, including the Florida Keys, I couldn't get over how I'd never seen so many seashells anywhere else. As I was standing in the water ankle deep just watching new seashells arrive with every incoming wave it dawned on me that most likely, I was the first human ever to lay eyes on each of those specific shells as they washed up. It was a very moving moment for me. During our excursions, my friend & I landed at The Island Cow Restaurant. This place has it all. Upbeat friendly staff, such fun decorations and atmosphere inside and out and the food really is amazing. Such beautiful trees all over the property and two large lizards out on the back porch for making friends with.
Recently, my husband and I traveled back to Sanibel for our 33rd Anniversary. Our first evening there we ate at Doc Fords. They are a local restaurant that has both the fine dining atmosphere as well as the casual hangout with friends vibe. The grouper is an amazing meal. I had it once in February when I was there with friends, and once while there for my anniversary. Both times it was amazing. This dining experience will cost you a little bit more than other locations, but I definitely think it's a must-have in your dining experiences while on the island.
After introducing my husband to Doc Ford's I took him to The Island Cow. He proceeded to insist we eat there every meal for the rest of our trip. Breakfast, lunch and dinner options are all amazing and very reasonably priced for a vacation location. Each time you come, they bring their signature muffins to the table as the complimentary food comparable to chips and salsa at Mexican restaurants. I'm not sure of the name, but one of those muffins is a little bit like a muffin, and a whole lot like angel food cake. It's absolutely my favorite! The Island Cow has several locations on the property just with chairs to hang out in under the trees, I noticed cornhole games set up a little closer to the road, and there was a ring toss game in the back. This place is just a little bit like hanging out at Grandmother's house with all of the family wandering around, playing games, and waiting for whatever heavenly things was about to emerge from the kitchen.
We tried several items from the menu while there. My favorite was the Oh Baby Greens salad with chicken salad and strawberries added to it. My husband really liked Kyle's Cow Pie (their version of a Shepherd's Pie) but he also had the Homemade Chicken Salad Wrap that he raved about as well.
Renting bicycles and peddling the island is really a lot of fun and a great way to get through the nature preserves. The Sanibel Lighthouse is very interesting and one of the public beaches is located right beside the lighthouse. Lots of history, beautiful sights, and walking trails that have easily marked directions to rest rooms and parking lots.
The only drawback I could caution about Sanibel Island is that there aren't any motels or hotels on the island for less expensive lodging. Sanibel is very private and the night life, if there is one, is a pretty well-kept-secret. It's definitely reminiscent of the times when the towns would "roll the streets up at 6pm for the night". They might give you a little past 6pm but not much.
Sanibel is hands down my recommendation for a couple's getaway, or even a low-key family vacation. This island really would be beneficial for families who may have anyone who suffers from social anxiety or even just general anxiety. The activities here can all pretty much personally chosen and carried out independently and at your own pace.
Sanibel Island, FL is a true hidden gem! You won't go wrong to consider this destination, your next U.S. vacation location!