There are so many different activities to enjoy at the beach. Many people visit coastal areas to take a break from their lives, relaxing in the sand with a good book or enjoying a picnic with family or friends. Others prefer to stay active at the beach, diving out into the water for a swim or bringing along their surfboard to take on the waves. Another excellent beach activity is shelling. For shelling enthusiasts, there’s nothing quite as special as walking up and down the beach, feeling the softness of the sand beneath your feet and looking out for little natural treasures to add to your collection. But you have to pick the right beaches to enjoy the best shelling, and some of the very best can be found in Florida. Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1.Blind Pass Beach
7.Gulfside City Park
7 Best Sanibel Island Beaches
- Blind Pass Beach, Photo: scottevers7/stock.adobe.com
- Turner Beach, Photo: Omm-on-tour/stock.adobe.com
- Lighthouse Beach, Photo: Kenneth Keifer/stock.adobe.com
- Tarpon Beach, Photo: Daniel/stock.adobe.com
- Captiva Beach, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Causeway Beaches, Photo: lunamarina/stock.adobe.com
- Gulfside City Park, Photo: Alexander Ozerov/stock.adobe.com
- More Info, Photo: Jag_cz/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Chad McDermott - Fotolia.com
Attraction Spotlight: Sanibel Historical Museum & Village
Sanibel Historical Museum & Village preserves the history of Sanibel Island, Florida back to the Calusa and Spanish Era, through the early pioneer families of the 1800s. With historic buildings restored to their original state, volunteer docents are on site to tell the stories of warriors, fisherman and entrepreneurs who built a rich cultural history here.
The city of Sanibel, Florida was founded in 1974 and within a few years historian Elinore Dormer had formed the Historical Preservation Committee with a goal to obtain an early Sanibel home that could be restored and turned into a museum celebrating the history of Sanibel.
The Meunch family donated the Rutland house to the City of Sanibel and it was moved next to Big Arts and restored before opening as a museum in November 1984 to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the incorporation of Sanibel as a city.
Sam Bailey became chairman of the Historical Preservation Committee and with his election, money was donated for the expansion of the museum into an entire Sanibel Historical Village. By 1992, three more buildings were donated and restored—The Bailey General Store, A tea room, and post office, all from the mid 1920’s. These buildings were moved onsite and restored by the historical preservation’s volunteers. In the following years, a cottage, packing house, garage, schoolhouse, theatre, shore haven, caretaker’s cottage, were added totaling 10 buildings in the village. Many of these buildings have donated family heirlooms, exhibits, and displays that complement the era of the homes original building.
The village at Sanibel is comprised of buildings that were brought from different places on the island to be preserved as historical sites for visitors.
Shore Haven- The main entrance to the village and where visitors purchase tickets. This is the newest acquisition for the village and was opened to the public in 2014. Built in 1924, this home was a Sear and Roebuck kit home once used as a vacation home by Pennsylvania contractors Ross and Daisy Mayer. This home was a midgrade model and had electric lights and plumbing.
Morning Glories- This cottage was built in 1926 and was another Sears kit belonging to the Mayer family as a sister home to Shore Haven.
Caretakers Cottage- This small home was built to serve both Morning Glories and Shore Haven properties as a care takers cottage and guest house. This structure could have also possibly housed the generator for the homes at one point.
Bailey’s General Store- The Bailey family was one of the first early pioneer families to settle on Sanibel Island in 1895. Frank Bailey purchased properties on the wharf and started a packing business for shipping produce which became the island’s general store. A hurricane swept away the original structure in 1926 but the rebuilt store was moved to the village in the 1960’s and is still operational and owned by the Bailey family.
Post Office- This post office was built from scraps of destroyed buildings and floating wood fter the 1926 hurricane on the island.
Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room- Built in 1926 by the Bailey family, this structure was designed as a gas station but became the temporary grocery during the hurricane that destroyed the wharf. After the general store was rebuilt, the structure was gifted to Charlotta, the Matthew’s niece, who turned it into a tea room and then in 1934 was used to house school teachers through the 1950’s.
The Burnap Cottage- Built in 1898 as a fishing cottage, this structure on Tarpon Bay eventually became a home and had a second story added ad features stained glass windows, and was used as a church at one time also.
The School House for White Children- On Sanibel Island, there were two separate school houses, this one, originally located on Bailey Road was intended for white children only, while black children had to attend school on Tarpon Bay Road. The First integrated school was not until 1964. The schoolhouse was used as a theater after the schools were integrated.
The Rutland House- Owned by Clarence Rutland, a fisherman, this home was built in 1913 and is an example of a “cracker house”. This home was in the Rutland family until Clarence died in 1982 and brought to the village and used as the museum.
Museum Store- Attached to the Rutland House, the museum store sells merchandise related to the history of Sanibel Island and educational books and resource, as well as souvenir items. The store is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10am to 1pm.
950 Dunlop Road, Sanibel, Florida, 33957, Phone: 239-472-4648
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Attraction Spotlight: Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a unique museum dedicated to showcasing shells and the soft-bodied mollusks that make them. Located on Sanibel Island, the natural history museum is the only one of its kind in the United States and run by a world-renowned malacologist and two marine biologists who provide an informative and inspiring experience. The unique Museum exhibits beautiful and unusual shells from around the world, as well as provides educational insight into the life and lesser-known complexities of shells.
The vision of The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is to connect people to the natural world through the beauty of shells and the incredible creatures that create them. Following this, the Museum's mission is to inspire curiosity about these amazing creatures and increase knowledge and appreciation for mollusks and their shells. They hope to do this by presenting informative and knowledgeable exhibits and displays, educational workshops and programs and scientific research to tell the story of mollusks' and the vital role they play in the natural world.
Established in the late 1980s and named after the parents of the founding members, The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum was opened to the public in 1995. It has since been a renowned information and reference center for scientists around the world, as well as students and shell enthusiasts who have an interest in marine and terrestrial mollusks of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum features over 30 permanent exhibits, as well as a range of temporary exhibitions, both of which boast a spectacular display of beautiful and exotic shells and offer a unique and informative insight into the life of mollusks and their organic homes. Collections include ‘Shells From Around the World', ‘Shells of Sanibel and Captiva', ‘Worldwide Record-Size Shells', ‘Shells in Architecture, Art and Human History', ‘Florida's Fossils and Original Shell People', ‘Nautilus, Squid and Octopus' and a ‘Children's Learning Lab'.
Shells From Around the World focus on unusual shells from the Indo-West Pacific and Japanese Provinces, while ‘Shells of Sanibel and Captiva' showcase all the types of shells found on local shores. The Museum is the leading authority on shells from the Sanibel and Captiva regions, which include shells like prized junonias, fig shells, and pen shells. ‘Worldwide Record-Size Shells' displays the world's largest shells such as the Goliath conch, the lightning whelk, the Atlantic trumpet triton, and the horse conch.
Shells in Architecture, Art, and Human History' explore the role in which shells play in daily life, how they have been used in architecture and design and their importance to certain cultures around the world. ‘Florida's Fossils and Original Shell People' explore how shells played a role in the lives of Florida's original human inhabitants, and ‘Nautilus, Squid and Octopus' showcases life-size models of a giant octopus, squid, and nautilus, and delves into cephalopod biology. ‘Children's Learning Lab' is an interactive, hands-on display for children that features a live shell tank, tactile displays and shell games.
In addition to excellent shows and exhibitions, the Museum also offers educational programs, workshops and classes for all ages, as well as special daytime and evening events throughout the year. Guided beach walks are held every week of the year where visitors get to explore the coast and discover more about the shells found on Sanibel's shoreline. The beach walks are led by expert marine biologists who are happy to share their passion and impart their knowledge about shells and mollusks in fun and entertaining ways. In addition to daily walks at the Island Inn, the Museum also offers monthly guided excursions with world-renowned Marine Biologist Dr. José H. Leal at Bunche Beach during the summer months.
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum offers a new program called The Shell Ambassador program, which gives people the opportunity to become ‘Shell Ambassadors.' These ambassadors don specific apparel when on the beach to show that they are available to identify shells and answer questions.
Regular programs such as Arts & Crafts and Live Tank Talks presented by a marine biologist are included with paid admission and visitors can explore the museum in their own time or enjoy a guided docent-led tour. The Museum Store has beautiful marine-themed items for sale, ranging from shell books and cards to shell-inspired jewelry, clothing, home décor items and fun souvenirs.
3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel, Florida 33957, Phone: 888-679-6450
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Attraction Spotlight: The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife
The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW) on Sanibel Island, Florida is both a visitor education center and a teaching hospital. CROW is committed to saving wildlife through education, research, state-of-the-art veterinary care, and conservation medicine. It was first started in 1976 by a group of volunteers and now the Visitor Education Center provides visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at the clinic's animal care through interactive displays, live camera feeds, and daily presentations by volunteers, staff, and students. CROW cares for around 3,500 animals every year, including over 200 species of orphaned, injured, and sick wildlife, at its veterinary hospital. It has become of the leading rehabilitation facilities for migratory and native wildlife in the country.
The Visitor Education Center was created to connect guests with the wildlife in CROW's care, although patient privacy is still maintained. A tour through the center is self-guided and emphasizes the time the patients spend here, from when they are admitted to when they are released back into the wild. These animals can be viewed via the live feed from the "critter cams" in the outdoor rehabilitation area.
Daily presentations featuring CROW's Animal Ambassadors are also provided at the Visitor Education Center. The "Wonders of Wildlife" presentations offer visitors an up-close experience with these creatures and a chance to learn why the animals now live at the clinic. There is also an invasive species exhibit at the center that features a knight anole, tokay geckos, and a marine toad. The exhibit explains how these species threaten the local habitat and environment. Visitors can also see the threatened non-venomous eastern indigo snake, a protected native species that is the country's longest native species of snake.
The Visitor Education Center's interactive exhibit area includes patient rescue stories, a timeline of CROW's history, a "Taking Action" quiz, past medical records, a "Be the Vet" game, a "Surgical Challenge" game, treatment methods, x-rays, and migratory and native species profiles. With the live camera feeds, visitors can view the pelican, raccoon, otter, and large flight enclosures. They can also see the surgical suite, the intake room at the wildlife hospital at CROW, and other outdoor animal enclosures.
Wildlife Walks with staff and rehabilitators are also offered at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. CROW offers a unique chance to see into the rehabilitation of wildlife and meet the people responsible for the care of the interesting wildlife that call southwest Florida home. Visitors have the excellent opportunity to learn the in-depth details about the treatment process and the hospital's inner workings during a Wildlife Walk. These walks are made up of two parts: The first is the introductory presentation that explains CROW's rehabilitation and medical methods and the second part is a guided tour of the hospital's treatment areas that ends at the clinic's rehabilitation grounds. Each part of the Wildlife Walk is about 45 minutes long and visitors also have an opportunity to take photos with CROW's Animal Ambassadors at the end of the tour.
Back to: Things to Do on Sanibel Island, Florida Phone: 239-472-3644
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