Our Five Favorite Sanibel and Captiva Family Fun Activities (Besides the Beach)

Yes, everyone vacations to Sanibel and Captiva for our pristine, sugar-sand beaches and world-renowned shelling. But let’s say you forget some sunblock one day, or Sanibel Stoop (or Captiva Crouch) over one too many shells — and you need to break from your relaxing routine. What to do?

Here are Sanibel Captiva Island Vacation Rentals five fave go-tos when you’re not going to the beach.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. The only museum in America dedicated to our crustacean friends, this wonderfully fresh and fun museum provides not only visual and interactive displays, but real-world tours and adventures where you’ll see, hear and touch first-hand Sanibel’s spectacular shell world. Just remember, if it’s alive, return it to the sea!

Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). Technically a wildlife hospital and recovery center for sea life, wild life and bird life, CROW also offers a fun- and fact-filled visitor center where kids and adults can learn about the many fascinating species that call our islands home. Note: under the leadership of Dr. Heather Barron, CROW is the only accredited care center for sea turtles between Sarasota and Miami.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. With more than 6,400 protected acres, the Wildlife Refuge is part of the largest mangrove ecosystem in the United States — home to water life, crawly creatures and more than 220 species of birds. There’s a great interactive visitor center, plus a five-mile trail for walkers, bikers or vehicles to get up close and personal. Named for Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, environmentalist and Sanibel lover J.N.”Ding” Darling.

Sanibel Sea School. Another hands-on island experience that’s a touch more geared toward children and teens. Here, led by the acclaimed Dr. Bruce Neill (“Doc Bruce” to everyone), kids learn about the delicate balance between sea and land, and the truly vital importance of preserving and protecting our oceans for the survival and prosperity of our planet.

History Here, There and Everywhere. Finally for a touch of history, both Sanibel Island and Captiva Island offer travel-back-in-time options: the Bailey Homestead Preserve (part of the  Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation preserve system), the  Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, and the Captiva Island Historical Society.

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