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Getaway Guide: Weekend Trip to Sanibel Island

Sanibal Island
(photo credit: Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

Florida has had a hard time finding the right balance between controlled development and urban sprawl. One area that's been able to maintain this equilibrium is Sanibel Island. The island off Lee County offers a mix of civilization and unspoiled nature that should please just about anyone looking for a getaway from Tampa Bay.

Getting There

Getting to Sanibel Island from Tampa couldn't be any easier: go south on I-75 about 99 miles to exit 158 Cape Coral/North Fort Myers. Then turn left on the Tamiami Trail and go about 17 miles to Florida 867 south. Continue 10 miles on 867 and keep going on McGregor Boulevard. All in all, you're looking at a trip of less than three hours and about 150 miles to visit one of America's Top 20 Beaches.

What To Do


There may not be a better place for shelling in Florida (and few in the world) than Sanibel Island. It was actually voted the "Best Shelling Beach" by Weather Channel Facebook friends. Collectors can look for over 60 types of shells ranging from conch to cockle shells. This activity can easily fill up a day at the beach.

The Bait Box
1041 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
(239) 472-1618

Fishing is always an option when you're on the Gulf of Mexico. The Bait Box is a one-stop shop for beginning anglers and veterans alike. You can buy the necessary licenses, find a guide, get all your baits and lures and soak up great advice on where to find the best fishing from owner Ralph Woodring.

Related: Best Hiking Trails In Tampa Bay

J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Drive
Sanibel, FL 33957
(239) 472-1100

Enjoy a lush walk through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge where you can expect to see many types of wildlife. Keep a close eye out and you might catch a glimpse of an alligator or two. But you can definitely count on seeing various types of birds as this refuge is "world famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations." The whole family will enjoy it.

Where To Stay

Shalimar Resort
2823 W Gulf Drive
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
(239) 472-1353

If you want to make it as easy as possible to collect sea shells while staying in comfortable accommodations, Shalimar is a great choice. Offering an old Florida-style motel or individual cottages, Shalimar is on the beach and provides all the comforts of home along with easy access to all of Sanibel's recreational opportunities. One word of caution: Shalimar does not accept pets.

Periwinkle Park & Campground
1119 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
(239) 472-1433

If you prefer to take your accommodations with you, Periwinkle Park and Campgrounds offers everything RV lovers and campers could want from a full-service campground. Wireless Internet, complete hookups and LP gas are on site for RVers. Campers have access to restrooms, showers and picnic tables. There's plenty of entertainment within walking distance as well.

Where To Eat

Chip's Sanibel Steakhouse
1473 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
(239) 472-5700

Sanibel Island has numerous locally owned and operated restaurants that will fit every taste and budget. Fine dining with everything from seafood to top-quality steaks and an excellent wine list are available at Chip's Sanibel Steakhouse. Whether you prefer your oysters on the half-shell or prepared in a beautiful Oysters Rockefeller as your appetizer, Chip's Sanibel Steakhouse will take care of you every step of the way.

Schnapper's Hots
1528 Periwinkle Way
Sanibel Island, FL 33957
(239) 472-8686

If your main goal for going to Sanibel is to relax in a casual atmosphere, Schnapper's Hots will accommodate you in a shorts and flip-flops atmosphere with hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and hand-dipped ice cream. It also makes claim to the title of "The Island's Best Pizza." Such an extravagant claim is definitely worth checking out.

Related: Tampa Bay's Best Challenging Golf Courses

Mike Hennessy is a veteran news man who has won Florida AP awards for feature reporting and covered almost every kind of story imaginable from on-the-scene coverage of Hurricane Andrew, to some of the highest profile murder and corruption trials in Florida history. Mike is versatile and has the curiosity it takes to get to the bottom line of any story. His work can be found at

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