Photo Courtesy of Sanibel Island Visitors BureauSanibel Island, Florida egret in flightcrabgreat egret launching from treesunrise over FMBplover momplover chickplover and chick

Families will love:

  • Best beaches for shell collecting
  • Calm, warm blue waters and miles of beaches
  • 5,000-acres of wetland

If you think Hawaii and the Caribbean are the only nearby areas with islands offering laid-back beaches, you haven't heard about Florida's best-kept secret -- Sanibel and Captiva islands. Nestled on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, less than an hour from Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva represent the Florida of ... more
If you think Hawaii and the Caribbean are the only nearby areas with islands offering laid-back beaches, you haven't heard about Florida's best-kept secret -- Sanibel and Captiva islands. Nestled on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, less than an hour from Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva represent the Florida of yesteryear, pre-Disney. Mother Nature is the lure here, with Sanibel considered one of the three best shelling beaches in the world, boasting seashells from more than 400 species on its 20 miles of shoreline.

Once the kids have gone swimming in the calm Gulf waters and collected their bags of shells, head inland to the tropical paradise known as the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This 5,000-acre wetland, home to alligators and numerous shorebirds -- including herons, storks, pelicans, ibises and egrets -- is best viewed by bike. Simply rent from one of the vendors just outside the refuge.

Besides lounging on the beach, other great family activities include biking around the Sanibel lighthouse, taking a boat ride with Captiva Cruises to see dolphins and manatees, and touring the only museum in the world dedicated to seashells -- the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum.

Written by Stephen Jermanok less

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