Home Family Sanibel Island: The perfect family getaway

I love the beach. It fills my soul with peace and happiness. And the older I get, the more in love I fall with the endless crashing of the waves, the salty air, and the feeling of sand between my toes. And Sanibel Island, Florida is a great place to fall in love with the beach all over again!

So when our extended family began planning a beach trip for Thanksgiving over a year ago, I was thrilled.

Every year, we join another extended family for a weekend trip. We’ve done this since 1999. As the have years passed, and our families grew, this became one of the highlights of every year. When two sets of grandparents, each with two sons and their wives and families, descend upon a decided destination and enjoy a weekend filled with hiking, eating, playing, and reminiscing….how could it not be a highlight?

But the grandparents wanted to do something special in 2016. And one of them had recently been to Sanibel Island, Florida for a business trip. And that’s when they decided to take their families over Thanksgiving.

Sanibel Island a perfect family getaway

And that’s how the 22 of us found ourselves traveling to Sanibel Island, on the gulf side of Florida, this past November to make incredible memories with our friends and family.

Sanibel Island Beach

Traveling in November, the water was a little chilly when we arrived. On our first day, the air temp was 63 degrees, but that didn’t stop our landlocked brood from diving right in. It did warm up to the mid-eighties by the week’s end, so our beach days got a little easier.

Sanibel island family destination

Where we were at on the island, it was pretty shallow out in the gulf. We could walk out over 100 yards and still be able to touch. The kids enjoyed playing football, frisbee, and boogie-boarding.

The marine life, though abundant, were friendly. They were able to find live sand dollars and we met some friendly jellyfish (at least no one got stung).

This is a beach filled with shells. While we bought water shoes, our kids were just fine running around in their bare feet (but if you and/or your family have softpaws, I would recommend water shoes).


Sanibel Island is known for its shells. There are millions (and likely more than that) along the beach. People from all over the world travel here to see all of their shells.

Sanibel Island family destination shells

We spent a lot of time combing the beach for our favorite shells. (Anyone can remove shells from the beaches, as long as they are not “live shells”…meaning some form of marine life can not be residing inside of the shells.)

Of course, the locals know the best times to snag the best shells, just after morning and evening high tide. During those times, a shell seeker can have the first pick of the most recent tidal treasures.

Our resort, Sanibel Moorings, offered a shelling lecture so we could learn all about the various types of shells that can be found on Sanibel Island.

Cayo Costa

My favorite part of our trip was our little excursion to Cayo Costa, a small island north of Sanibel Island. We hired Captiva Cruises to take our crew on a highly recommended trip to this gorgeous little island. Our tour guide, Elliot, filled us in on the history of Captiva as we motored north of the island (Eliott also happens to be a shark wrestler, NBD), towards Cayo Costa.

And this island did not disappoint!

Sanibel Island: Cayo Costa great family destination

The majority of the island is a Cayo Costa State Park, but it boasts of over nine miles of beaches and the view is breathtaking. We spent the morning walking along the shoreline and wading into the gulf, searching for shells. We were there for a couple of hours before we had to head back to Captiva.

The absolute highlight of the trip came while we were approaching North Captiva on our way back. A pod of dolphins were relaxing in the bay. Our captain slowed down, drove near the pod, and then began to create a wake for them to play in. There is nothing that could compete with dolphins jumping alongside our boat.

Other notable things:

  • Mucky Duck Restaurant: Best place to view the sunset in Southwest Florida
  • J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge: A wonderful place to drive through and see wildlife.
  • Blind Pass beach: The beach between Sanibel Island and Captiva…great for shelling and fishing
  • Captiva: A quaint island town north of Sanibel Island
  • Ft. Myers Beach: Before you make the drive to Sanibel, you pass through Ft. Myers which has a much more bustling beach life than you can find on Sanibel Island.

I can’t wait to go back and look forward to seeing this island again. If you’re planning a trip to Florida, put this stop on your list!

Reader. Writer. Runner. Loser of things. Lover of Grace. Mama to 3 crazy fun boys and wife to an amazing man. PR by day and Social Media by night. You can find her occasionally blogging at www.judydaniell.com.
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