These two charming islands lie on the Gulf of Mexico just west of Fort Myers, on the opposite side of the state. The beaches are world famous for their beauty, tranquility and seashells.
Sanibel and Captiva are sometimes called "the Shell Islands," not because of the abundance of shells on the beach, but because the islands themselves are made out of shells. Because of the islands' unique east-west geography, they tend to scoop up shells brought up by the Caribbean and other southern seas. The best selections can be found every March at the annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show.
In addition to shells, the islands are refreshing just for their lack of high-rises, chain restaurants and neon signs. Captiva's beauty and solitude inspired Anne Morrow Lindbergs' best-selling memoir, A Gift from the Sea. Sanibel boasts 25 miles of bike paths and a national wildlife refuge, as well as excellent canoeing, kayaking, fishing, boating, diving and snorkeling.
Assorted vendors offer day trips, from airboat adventures to more sedate cruises of the nearby islands, as well as fishing charters, bicycle and moped rentals, boat rentals and more.
There also is a children's science center, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the Sanibel lighthouse, a fishing pier, marina, nature walks, and Sanibel's Old Town area, with quaint village shops and more.
There are a number of galleries, theaters and a March music festival, not to mention the famed Bubble Room, a restaurant that also functions as a museum of kitsch from Baby Boomer childhood.