A year ago I, Brittany, got the crazy idea that we should load our family up and take off to a place we had never been before for 5 weeks. My husband Daniel is a web designer and is fortunate enough to be able to work from anywhere. I am a work from home entrepreneur/mom to my four boys (baby five to make his/her appearance in fall 2017.)
In summers past, we would sign the kids up for camps so that we could both continue working throughout the summer. When I thought about how much money we were spending on camps, and how much we were missing out on time with the kids, I was able to convince Daniel that we should take that money and put it towards a big family adventure where we could spend more time together.
I started researching places to take the family. I knew we wanted to go to a place where we could settle in but not tire of things to do. We had visited many beaches before, and the kids always loved it. For me, those were always the most relaxing vacations. Kids just don’t get tired of sand and water. During my search, I stumbled upon a list of the best shelling beaches in the world. Sanibel Island was listed as number one! The more I researched it, the more I knew we just had to go there!
Sanibel Island was amazing! More than half of the island is a wildlife refuge and we saw so many different animals, plants and wildlife that we had never seen before. Peak shelling season typically happens in the winter months, however when we arrived in June we hit the shell jackpot! A tropical storm was passing through and left endless shells, and starfish everywhere. Each day is different at Sanibel and every inch of the island is gorgeous.
The welcome center provides a weekly tide chart that is helpful for finding the best shells. We stayed at the lighthouse end of the island and found that to be some of the best summer shelling. On the other end of the island is Blind Pass where the tides are slightly different and you can also find amazing shells if you are there right at low tide.
Things to do on Sanibel Island:
Outside of the obvious amazing beach and shelling, there are so many things to explore on Sanibel Island. The summer days were HOT and with 5 of us being fair skinned, we just couldn’t stay out in the sun all day. We would usually start our days at the beach and then to escape the heat of the day we would explore everything we could on the island. Some of the stops we made included:
The Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum: While small, it was really interesting and has some really incredible works of art made from shells. They also have programs for kids throughout the day. It is the perfect spot to spend a rainy day and get inspire to make some shell art!
Sanibel Public Library: The Sanibel Library has a great children’s section with games and toys and occasionally a story time. During the summer months the kids can take part in a summer reading program and earn free books. At the end of our 5 weeks we had collected at least 30 new books! The library also has a large collection of shells and some great shell art that is worth stopping by to see. There is a large area that you can set up and work from your laptop for the day.
Sanibel Playground: Located near the library at 2231 Periwinkle Way, is a nice fenced-in and shaded playground. This also became an almost daily stop for us. My kids enjoyed playing with the other children and there was enough variety to appeal to all ages.
Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife: CROW is a small wildlife hospital that you can visit. There is a small museum and they offer daily presentations. They also offer tours of the hospital, but unfortunately we were unable to fit that into our schedule.
Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge The Ding Darling has a great visitor’s center where kids can pick up a Jr. Ranger book to complete. There is a small museum and gift shop inside. You will also find helpful guides that can tell you more about the refuge. Because we were there for 5 weeks, we bought the season pass for $12, which allowed everyone in our family to visit as many times as we wished. I drove the 4-mile wildlife drive every day at nap time. It was peaceful to watch the birds and jumping fish, but it was also peaceful because my youngest two would sleep! The loop is one way and can be walked, or biked as well. Along the loop there are several spots that you can pull off and view birds, and if you are lucky maybe an alligator! I looked every day and only saw one.
Tarpon Bay Explorers One thing not to be missed are the activities going on at Tarpon Bay! While we were there in the summer, I took the kids to several free nature talks. Our family also took a sunset cruise to the rookery islands. It was really neat to see all of the birds coming in for the night. We also got to visit the touch tanks. We learned about some of the sea life we had seen on the island and the kids really liked the hands on experience. Tarpon Bay explorers also offers kayak tours through the mangroves. My husband and I have since gone back alone and took this tour! I would recommend it to anyone with children old enough to paddle their own boat.
Check out the Top 10 things to do with kids on Sanibel Island