Savor the Sunshine with Our Favorite Sanibel Island Outdoor Activities
With our fine Florida weather and stunning scenery, Sanibel Island is an absolute delight for outdoor enthusiasts. From endless walking and hiking trails to adrenaline-raising watersports, there’s an impressive selection to help you fill your exciting days on Sanibel Island, here are our top picks for what to do in the great outdoors.
The best outdoor activities on Sanibel Island
Enjoying the outdoors is an absolute must for both visitors and residents of beautiful Sanibel. After all, there are few things more relaxing than breathing in the fresh ocean air and admiring the island’s natural beauty. The outdoor activities on Sanibel Island cater for a range of ages and abilities, so whether you’re idea of outdoor heaven is a leisurely stroll, or a hair-raising aqua adventure, you’re sure to find it - and love it.
Hiking & Walking
There are few better ways to explore Sanibel’s beauty and diverse ecosystem than on foot. Not only is it an eco-friendly way to discover the island, but it also gives you the chance to really explore the natural environment. You can even combine it with a spot of Sanibel shelling.
Around the island you’ll find a plethora of great trails perfect for all abilities. In particular leisure walkers and beginners are well catered for with plenty of easy pathways. The half-mile Silver Key Trail (park at Blind Pass) takes in some beautiful beach views, while the Pond Apple Trail is 4.5 miles and wanders past residents including racoons alligators and many bird species.
You can find a map of Sanibel walking trails here.
Sanibel’s walking and hiking trails are particularly unique as many of them have a conservation slant. In particular, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge offer a number of trails which are a gorgeous introduction to the flora and fauna of Sanibel.
The island also offers a number of accessible trails via more than 20 miles of paved shared use trails. So, there’s certainly something for everyone!
Canoeing & Kayaking
There are even more trails to explore if you can rustle up a kayak or canoe. If you don’t have your own, don’t worry - there are plenty of places to rent them such as Tarpon Bay Explorers.
You might also like to join a guided tour where equipment (including the kayak) is provided. This option is great as it also allows you to learn about the environment and wildlife of the island.
Alternatively, you might like to choose your own adventure by launching your kayak and exploring at your leisure. There are a number of great places to launch off from, including Bowman’s Beach Kayak Launch. From here, you can stay close to the mangroves or venture further out into the gulf.
Sanibel’s emphasis on conservation is part of what makes the kayaking and canoeing so unique and fascinating. As well as walking trails, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge also offers miles upon miles of kayaking – arguably the best way to see the mangroves and meet the local wildlife, including fish and birds.
Fishing is an ever-popular option on Sanibel and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a great day out – and you’ve got a pretty good chance of catching a delicious dinner. What’s not to love?
Keen anglers will tell you that the Gulf of Mexico is the place to go to hook fish including grouper, snapper and hogfish. For the biggest catches, you’ll want to head out into the deep blue – for this, a decent boat is a must. Luckily, there are plenty of charter companies such as Endless Summer Charters who will be happy to share their boat – and their best fishing spots – with you.
Heading out into the deep blue sea is far from the only option, however. Inshore fishing (anywhere in view of land) is an equally popular pursuit for visitors and residents of Sanibel. The fish may be a little smaller but there’s still a great variety including snapper, snook and tarpon.
You might even like to combine two of our picks and bring a handline or rod while out kayaking. There are plenty of great spots – just be sure to check the signage especially in conservation areas.
Back on land, cycling is a much-loved past-time on Sanibel island, and definitely something to try if you love the outdoors. Sanibel is perfectly sized for adventures on two wheels, so it’s no surprise that the paths are often busy with bicycles and their enthusiastic riders.
In total, Sanibel has around 22 miles of paved mixed-use paths which are ideal for bike riders of all abilities. If you don’t have your own bike, you can easily hire one from somewhere such as Billy’s Bike Shop.
The most well-known bike path is along Periwinkle Way, which connects many of Sanibel’s most beautiful sights. If you follow the entire path, you’ll breeze past iconic Island locations, the beautiful lighthouse and more along this main thoroughfare.
You can also bring your bike to the much-loved J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It costs just $1 to enter the Refuge, and you can expect to see a dazzling array of local wildlife. It’s definitely a must-do when cycling on Sanibel, and you can enter from Periwinkle Way.
If you’re looking for a longer ride, avid cyclists may like to head across the causeway to Fort Myers. Here, you’ll find a long, clear stretch of beach popular amongst cyclists – just make sure you time your visit with low-tide!