Sanibel Island is one of Florida's top island resort destinations, located approximately 25 miles off the coastline of Fort Myers. The island, which has long been known as one of Florida's most prestigious resort areas, is home to gorgeous natural areas like J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which spans more than 5,200 acres and protects native crocodile and manatee populations. Lovely Casa Ybel, the island's most historic resort, serves up excellent seafood entrees at its Thistle Lodge Restaurant, a former favorite of international luminaries like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Many restaurants offer stunning waterfront views, creating the perfect ambiance for a romantic dinner to cap off sunny days on the beach.
1. Cip's Place
© Cip's Place
Cip's Place is a delightful local dining destination named after former Sanibel Island resident Jimmy Cipriani, the original owner of the restaurant's property. The restaurant, which opened in 2010, carries on Cipriani's tradition of dinner parties featuring great conversation and excellent cuisine, recalling the old days of the island in the 20th century. Lovely decor elements include a mural painted by two local island artists, showcasing some of the island's most important historical figures, including J.N. "Ding" Darling, Porter Goss, and the Bailey Brothers. Diners can enjoy high-quality seafood offerings at lunch and dinner, including fresh daily catch cioppino, ginger shrimp stir-fry, and fresh daily catches prepared blackened with housemade mango rum salsa. Casual lunch fare includes crab cake sandwiches, barbecue rib plates, and Southern-style fried buttermilk chicken.
2055 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957, Phone: 239-472-0223
2. Restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida: Mad Hatter Restaurant
© Mad Hatter Restaurant
Mad Hatter Restaurant is one of Sanibel Island's most eclectic dining destinations, serving up inspired modern fare prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The restaurant is considered to be one of the island's top culinary destinations, known as a popular dining spot for vacationing foodies. Unique decor is meant to evoke the whimsy of the classic children's story Alice in Wonderland, a nod to the restaurant's name. Contemporary seafood fare is crafted by executive chef Kurt Jarvis, including favorites like black truffle sea scallops with caramelized shallot beurre blanc and Portuguese oysters with cilantro lime compound butter. Other main courses on the menu include gourmet land selections like Australian free-range rack of lamb with walnut and cherry pesto crust and Harris Ranch filet mignon smothered in bearnaise sauce.
6467 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957, Phone: 239-472-0033
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3. Restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida: The Sanibel Sandbar
© The Sanibel Sandbar
The Sanibel Sandbar is a lively beach cottage-style restaurant on West Gulf Drive, opened in 2013. The restaurant showcases eclectic decor emphasizing its island vibe, including artwork by local artist Myra Roberts depicting mermaids and other whimsical tropical scenes. Wild-caught fish and seafood entrees take center stage throughout the day, including jumbo lump crab cakes, Jamaican jerk-style salmon, blacked grouper, and Gulf shrimp penne rustica. Couples can also share delicious appetizer and raw bar selections like oysters Rockefeller, spicy Mayan mussels, and boom-boom sweet and spicy shrimp. An open-plan kitchen highlights food preparation, while cozy, romantic seating overlooks stunning outdoor garden views.
2761 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957, Phone: 239-472-0305
4. Restaurants Near Me: Thistle Lodge Restaurant
© Thistle Lodge Restaurant
Thistle Lodge Restaurant is the premiere restaurant of Sanibel Island's Casa Ybel resort, acclaimed for more than a century as the one of the world's top travel destinations. The resort, which has historically attracted international luminaries such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, was voted as the world's top travel destination by Frommer. Award-winning menus are offered at brunch, lunch, and dinner throughout the week, focusing on Floridian and European culinary techniques and recipes. Couples can enjoy classics like parmesan-herb crusted sea bass with roasted beet beurre blanc, stuffed free-range chicken with spinach and sun-dried tomatoes, seared yellowtail snapper with crawfish ragout, and seafood Provencal served over angel hair pasta. Steakhouse fare is also served up, accompanied by a carefully-cultivated wine list.
2255 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957, Phone: 239-472-9200
5. Restaurants Near Me: Traders Cafe and Store
© Traders Cafe and Store
Traders Cafe and Store is one of Sanibel Island's best-kept secrets, known as a local favorite for dinner throughout the week for more than two decades. The restaurant, which is helmed by executive chef Mike Patnode, serves up succulent steak and seafood selections at dinner, complemented by live entertainment from local artists several nights a week year-round. Couples can choose from entree favorites like macadamia-encrusted grouper with Thai peanut sauce, pan-sauteed diver scallops over lobster ravioli, and pesto-brushed salmon with English pea risotto. Classic barbecue baby back ribs and ribeye steaks are also served, along with creative small plates like veal meatloaf, fish tacos, and beef short rib flatbreads.
1551 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957, Phone: 239-472-7242
What are the 5 Best Restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida?
The 5 Best Restaurants on Sanibel Island, Florida according to local experts are: