by Janet Malin
The barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva on Florida’s West coast are famous for their white sand beaches and amazing shelling. Visitors take a three-mile causeway from Fort Myers and find themselves on the palm tree lined island of Sanibel. Here, it’s all about enjoying an island lifestyle, complete with cute cafes and shops selling seashells. Located on the quiet, east end of the island near the historic Sanibel Lighthouse is Sanibel Moorings. Built in 1974 and spread across six acres of beautifully maintained gulf-front property, this hotel offers vacationing families a laidback beach retreat.
Sanibel Moorings’ one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums feature fully equipped kitchens, dining areas, private screened-in lanais and cozy living rooms. Families enjoy the resort’s heated swimming pools and tennis courts, and many reserve the kayaks and canoes available on the property for fun in the water. Guests are encouraged to bring their own boats, too — dockage is available for boats up to 25 feet in length.
While the beautiful sunsets and sugar white sand beaches are the main attraction, the immaculate grounds of the hotel are a pleasant surprise. It’s no wonder there’s a full-time gardener on staff — the lush tropical plants throughout the property are exceptionally maintained. Don’t worry if you miss the weekly free tour of the gardens — be your own guide and take advantage of the small signs identifying the kinds of flowers or plants that you are admiring while strolling through the colorful and inviting setting that is Sanibel Moorings.
Our Editor Loves
- Gulf-front location
- Two heated swimming pools
- Tropical gardens with guided tours
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Kids' Pool
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Sanibel Moorings' 122 individually owned one-, two- and three-bedroom condominiums are fully furnished and provide a living room, dining area, full kitchen and screened-in lanai. The full-size refrigerator is a true convenience for traveling families, and microwaves, stoves, ovens and coffee makers are appreciated, too. The living rooms also have a pullout coach, handy for siblings who don't do well bunking together. A DVD player is provided, too.
The decor in the condominiums varies as each unit is individually owned and decorated. Tropical patterns are a common theme, and some of the furniture appears dated.
As far as the views, this is where you'll want to be specific when booking, depending on your desires. The best views of the sunset and beach are from the gulf-front suites on the second floor. The gulf-view condominiums offer a side-glimpse of the Gulf of Mexico from one of the suite's balconies -- a view that may leave you wishing for a full frontal. The dock front suites have views of the canal and boat dockage, and have lanais perfect for counting passing boats. The courtyard view units are quiet and offer lovely vistas of the colorful tropical landscaping.
Although connecting suites are not available, three-bedroom suites can sleep up to eight at one time and groups traveling together may request suites located in the same building or on the same floor.
Tip: Bring your own play yard, and don't count on a rollaway bed. While the hotel will arrange rentals from an outside vendor, you'll be charged a minimum of $70 (even if you're only staying one night).
My favorite rental property in Sanibel, having accumulated at least ten visits to the island, the last four have been strictly at Sanibel Moorings. Great for families, pool for adults and toddlers. Staff is very friendly and accommodations are clean and fresh.
We are always warmly welcomed by the staff. The whole staff is extremely professional, friendly and courteous and all of them go out of their way to make sure that we are comfortable, that we have everything we need and that we are having a great vacation. The accommodations and grounds are first class.
The warm gulf waters and shallow coastline of Sanibel Island make spending the day at the beach a relaxing family activity. This area is famous for shelling, with more than 400 species of shells waiting to be deposited into your child's beach bucket.
Although plenty of beach chairs and umbrellas are available (and included in the hotel's amenity fee), don't forget to bring your own beach towels. If you leave yours at home, be prepared to cough up a rental fee for one of the hotel's beach towels.
Get a break from the sand and salt water and take the gang to one of the hotel's heated pools. The main pool, on the gulf side of the property, has a separate kids pool with a depth of just 2 feet -- perfect for toddlers to get in on the water fun. The smaller pool fronts the newly renovated dockage and provides a good vantage point for taking in boats cruising the canal and sometimes dolphins, too.
In fact, a wildlife sighting is practically guaranteed if you get your crew out on the water. Take advantage of the kayaks and canoes provided by the hotel and spend an afternoon with your family exploring the canals and Back Bay. You'll spot shorebirds wading in the mangrove roots and will likely encounter a dolphin or two along the way -- maybe even a manatee!
For some land-based fun, rent a bike for a nominal fee for a few hours or the whole day and explore the hotel and island. Spend the day peddling the 20-plus miles of paved bike paths that traverse the island and see many of Sanibel's highlights along the way.
One drawback of the hotel is that it doesn't have a kids club, nor does it offer any organized kids activities. Don't worry though -- with all the fun to be had between the beach, pool and biking the island, your children will surely be exhausted come bedtime.
Plan to take advantage of the fully equipped kitchen in your suite, as there are no restaurants on the property. Hit a Publix supermarket on your way to the island (the Publix at Sanibel Beach Place on Summerland Road is your best bet) to load up on plenty of food and beverages for your stay. Utensils, silverware and pots and pans are all provided, so you can go about cooking meals very much in the way that you would at home. Only a dishwasher is missing.
If you're in the mood for an off-property dinner outing, there are many options within a 10-minute drive of the hotel. Periwinkle Way (one of Sanibel's main roads), with its laid-back pizzerias and seafood restaurants, is a good destination for casual family dining.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There is an amenity fee per reservation that includes the use of kayaks and canoes, Wi-Fi throughout the property and chairs and umbrellas on the beach.
Additional perks include a library of books, laundry facility, fitness center and gift shop with T-shirts, beach towels and sunscreen.
Guests may fish off the beach and off any of the hotel's docks -- don't forget your rods and bait. Gas grills and shaded picnic areas are also available on the property.
Dogs are welcome at the hotel for a nightly fee, though several breed restrictions apply.
The Art of Smart Timing
The prices are higher and the hotel is often at capacity during the popular spring break months of February and March. The summer months can be brutally hot in Florida, but if the high temps don't scare you, rates are likely to be best in late-July and August. If your children's schools have a fall break, October and November are ideal for a visit to Southwest Florida -- the crowds are down and the weather is often perfect.
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is the closest airport to the hotel and is about 25 miles from the resort. There is no shuttle available to the hotel, but all major rental car companies have kiosks at the airport. When you leave the mainland and cross the Sanibel Causeway, there is a toll. A rental car will also be helpful when food shopping for your condo.
A rental car will be helpful when visiting, especially when food shopping for your condo.
For Mom and Dad
Sanibel Moorings doesn't provide babysitting services, but if your kids are old enough to look after themselves, plan to steal a night away for a romantic dinner at the Mad Hatter Restaurant. The gulf-front location is spectacular and Florida seafood favorites, such as grouper and snapper, are often on the menu.