Florida >> Lee County >> Sanibel and Captiva

Sanibel and Captiva

On the west coast of Florida, the Islands of Sanibel and Captiva are a paradise with fantastic beaches famous for shells, the calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and relaxation.

Shells on Sanibel Island

Shells on Sanibel Island

Piles of perfect shells wash up on Sanibel and Captiva every day. The south side of Sanibel faces south (not west like the west Coast of Florida) and the result is that currents carry tons of shells right onto the beaches.

Sanibel and Captiva are directly west of Fort Myers.

Sanibel and Captiva Beaches

Sanibel and Captiva sit on the Gulf of Mexico and have about 15 miles of white sand beaches. There are many public beaches and several of the resorts such as Tween Waters Inn are directly on the beach.

Sanibel Lighthouse Beach

The south east tip of Sanibel is Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, which is known to have the best shells of all the Sanibel and Captiva beaches. That is because it faces directly south. This beach has a good sized parking lot and you can take a long walk east toward the lighthouse or west down the beach.

Bowman Beach

A wide sandy beach with no hotels or other buildings, Bowmans beach is somewhat isolated from the relative hustle and bustle of Sanibel. Bowmans beach is located on the northern side of Captiva off Sanibel Captiva road.

1700 Bowmans Beach Rd, Sanibel, FL

Bowmans Beach has a good sized parking area and you walk over a bridge to the beach - it’s a bit of a walk.  In the parking area there are showers and restrooms and there is a covered area for picnics and a playground.

Once you walk out to the beach there is just white sand and beautiful water. Consider brining an umbrella as there is no shade on the beach.

Bowmans Beach does have occasional nude sunbathers although there are signs indicating that nude sunbathing is not permitted.

Captiva Sunset

Sunset on Captiva at Tween Waters Inn

Captiva Beaches

Captiva is very narrow (much more narrow than Captiva) so there is very limited parking. If you are staying at one of the resorts like Tween Waters Inn then you just walk out of your hotel to the beach.

At the end of Captiva Drive is Captiva Beach, which has parking for about 20 cars.  Captiva Beach is beautiful, has excellent shells and is a perfect spot to watch a sunset.

Boating on Captiva and Sanibel

Surrounded by water Captiva and Sanibel offer unlimited destinations for fishing, shelling, and island exploration.

Inshore fishing is the most common type of fishing you will find on Captiva and Sanibel. The fish species that are most sought after include Snook, Tarpon, Redfish, Trout, Grouper, and Snapper.

The challenge is where to launch your boat, where to store your trailer, and where to dock your boat.  If you are trailering your boat then you have very limited options.

There are two resorts on Captiva that have a boat ramp and Marina. South Seas Island Resort on the northern tip of Captiva has a full service marina with a boat ramp. And Tween Waters Inn in the cent of Captiva has a boat ramp and slips for your boat. In both cases usage of the boat ramp and marina is primarily available to hotel guests.

Fishing Guides on Captiva and Sanibel
There are professional fishing guides that specialize in the Captiva and Sanibel area. A professional guide will take you out for a half day or full day and provide all fishing gear you need. You just show up with you food, drinks and sunscreen.

Boat Rentals on Captiva and Sanibel

If you have experience handling a boat then there are boat rentals available. If you are not familiar with the area then get a chart and study it before you head out on the water.

Boating Destinations

With water everywhere there are unlimited boating destinations in Captiva and Sanibel. A few of our favorite spots are: Cayo Costa Island, Cabbage Key, and Boca Grande Pass.

Cayo Costa is about 30 minutes north of Captiva by Boat. It has sandy beaches so smaller boats can pull up right up to the beach.  It’s a great beach to take a long walk and find all kinds of shells and sand dollars.

Cabbage Key is an Island and a great restaurant. There is a marina where you can pull in your boat or come by ferry. If you are coming by boat, Cabbage Key is directly accross from marker 60 on the Intracoastal.

The restaurant is famous for its cheeseburger, which we can attest is excellent. They also have great shrimp, crab claws, and much more. The walls of the restaurant are covered with dollar bills that visitors staple and tape to the wall and write their names on.

There is about $70,000 on the walls at Cabbage Key and an estimated $10,000 falls on the floor each year. It is donated to a local charity. 

Bowman Beach Sanibel

Bowman Beach on Sanibel Island


Sanibel and Captiva both have great restaurants. Here are a few that we have tried and really enjoyed.  McT’s Shrimp House on Sanibel Island calls itself the best shrimp house in Florida and we have to agree. The Inside Florida team liked McT’s so much that we ate dinner there twice on our last trip. What did we eat - Shrimp. All you can eat Shrimp prepared steamed with butter or Bayou Style. We had both and could not get enough.

The Bubble Room on Captiva has great food (huge portions) and even better desserts. They are famous for their bread and sweet buns brought to every table. Be careful or you won’t be able to eat your dinner. We like to eat a little of the bread and sweet buns and take the rest to go - mm good for a late night snack or breakfast.

Those are just two examples of many excellent restaurants on Captiva and Sanibel.

Hotels and Resorts on Captiva and Sanibel

Both Captiva and Sanibel have many great places to stay. If you want to rent a home then there are several rentals properties that range from small cottages to massive homes right on the beach. Keep in mind that these Islands are very narrow so everything is within walking distance of the beach.

Tween Waters Inn
When the Inside Florida team goes to Captiva we stay at Tween Waters Inn. As the name suggests Tween Waters is in between water. To the west is the Gulf of Mexico and to the east is Pine Island Sound (and the Intracoastal).

Tween Waters has two types of accommodations, hotel rooms and cottages. In our experience the hotel rooms were spacious, clean, and very reasonably priced. Our room was a suite with a view of Pine Island Sound and the marina.

There is a marina with a boat ramp at Tween Waters. That means you can bring your boat, keep it at the marina and they even have space for you to store your trailer. That is rare on these small islands.

If you are lucky you will see a group of manatees hanging out around the marina.

Another positive of Tween Waters is that it is really a family friendly place. There is a huge pool, exercise room, and tennis courts. And the beach is excellent with beautiful white sand, beach umbrellas, and shaded chairs. And shells, lots of shells.