This was my (our) first time to Sanibel and it was great!!! Myself, husband, and 3 kids (ages 10, 6, and 2) have never been here and we were worried about not having enough to do while staying here for the week. We live on the east coast of Florida and at first, thought why spend the money just to go somewhere that is so much like where we live (HOT weather and beach). Boy were we surprised!!! We did not want to travel to far with my 2-yr old son, who isn't all that thrilled with long car rides. Sanibel fit the bill perfectly.
We stayed at the Beachview Cottages, and we couldn't be happier. Only about 200 yds to the beach made it so convenient to just walk out whenever we wanted, without having to lug a bunch of stuff with us back and forth. Our cottage was very simple but clean and suited us just fine. What I like about Beachview is that it isn't a big place, so there is never a crowd around the pool, or the laundry. It felt just right like you were staying in your own place. Loved everything about it.
Having kids, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of other things to do, besides the beach. We spent lots of time looking for shells, and I was amazed at the number of shells here!!! There is nowhere near this many shells on our coast. Not only that, but after a day or so, we all became 'experts' at identifying the shells and still laugh that we sound like we are 'shell snobs', knowing the names of them all. We found a few good-sized lightening whelks, apple murex, and banded tulips, along with lots of augers, olives, kitten paws, and calico scallops.
Our first couple of days was spent at the beach and the pool at the Beachview, and then on Monday, we went on the Sanibel Thriller. This was awesome!!! The dolphin 'show' was the highlight, of course. And we had nice weather for it, too. You know the kind of Florida day....clear, bright blue skies, no clouds, and just downright HOT. Coming from a native Floridian, I just loved it. My New Englander husband....not so much. :) Anyway, we went to the Shell Museum on Tuesday (my girls loved it, and enjoyed the little scavenger hunt they give you), Ding Darling refuge on Wed. (the visitor center and then did the drive ourselves...way too hot for the tram), the Sanibel Historical Village and Museum on Thurs., (recommended...a great display), and on Friday, we visited the CROW, the SCCF (not much there but a nice stop nonetheless) and the touch tank with Tarpon Bay Explorers. During the week we also did some bike riding, light shopping, and just overall relaxing.
As for dining, we usually have really bad luck when eating out on our vacations. No matter what reviews, etc, we always are never very impressed by many places. Here is where we went: Schnapper Hots was very good, and convenient for a quick meal. We ate at Gramma Dot's for lunch after we rode the Thriller, and while the food seemed ok, I'm sure it's much better when it's not so hot out (there is no a/c in the restaurant) and to me, fried food and heat just don't mix. All we want is a cold beer and maybe some ice cold watermelon. But it wasn't too bad. We LOVED Doc Ford's, and went there 3 times during our stay. I recommend the mojitoes, the banana leaf snapper, shrimp and grits (my FAVE) and the yucatan shrimp. We also went to the Island Cow 3 times (once each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and while not as good as Doc Ford's, it was ok and has an extensive menu. We waited for 45 min the first time and the two times after that, we were able to get seated right away and if there would have been a wait, we would have left. The food is good, but not THAT good, IMO. We don't even know why we went there 3 times...we weren't overally too impressed. But it's not bad. We also went to Over Easy Cafe for breakfast one morning, and it was very good. My girls loved the oreo pancakes (who wouldn't!??!) We got take out cake from The Bubble Room for my son's 2 yr birthday and the orange crunch cake is too good for words! You can't even describe it. We also got the rum cake, and it was good, but not as good as the orange crunch. As for ice cream, we tried both Pinocchio's and the Sanibel Scoop. We did Pinocchio's twice, and really liked it there. I had both the Sanibel Krunch (YUMMY) and the Wedding Bells (even better...if you like Italian amaretto type of flavor...). My husband and both of my girls really liked the Dirty sand dollar (they are whoppers fiends). Don't even bother with the Sanibel Scoop, unless you are desperate for ice cream and are looking for no lines and maybe the location. We thought it was horrible. Especially compared to Pinocchio's. We also got coffee every morning from the Bean and the coffee and selection was good.
Overall, we had a wonderful trip to Sanibel. We are alittle heavier in the tush, a lot lighter in the wallet, but it was a relaxing time and I'm so glad we came. The best part, too, is that we only have a 3 hr drive home. Nothing like feeling like you went so far away when you aren't really that far from home :)
I've been on TA for months, getting information with regards to our trip, so thanks to you all for all you've written and suggested, because it's helped with our trip, as well. We hope to be back soon.