One of the most delightful discoveries awaiting you on your visit to Sanibel and Captiva Islands is the number of things you can do “beyond the beach” including fabulous Sanibel Island nature walks! Our Florida islands are dotted with numerous natural, historical and artistic attractions, all guaranteed to provide a day of family fun and education. See a full list of nature tours and historical walks on Sanibel and Captiva Island.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands has large variety of Florida Wildlife including birds, alligators and dolphins. Our islands provide a nature vacation for the entire family from the avid nature lover to the budding naturalist.
Chapel by the Sea
11580 Chapin Lane, Captiva
Originally built in 1901 as a schoolhouse that doubled as a church on Sundays, this charming chapel now serves as a seaside meditation site, an interdenominational church (November through April) and popular wedding spot. Trimmed in lattice fencing, the cemetery next door guards the graves of many early settlers who came to Captiva in the late 19th century to homestead and farm.
Clinic for Rehabilitation of Wildlife
3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road
Dedicated to restoring the health of Florida islands’ wildlife, this well-respected facility for injured and orphaned birds and animals treats more than 3,400 patients each year. C.R.O.W. offers an educational presentation, appropriate for ages 5 and up, year-round Monday through Friday at 11:00am. The program is also available Sundays at 1:00pm from Thanksgiving through Easter.
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
One Wildlife Drive (off Sanibel-Captiva Road)
This 6,354-acre Florida wildlife refuge, named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, is – at latest count — home to 220 species of birds, more than 50 types of reptiles, and 32 different kinds of mammals. The refuge features wonderful bird watching spots, bike and walking paths, winding canoe trails and a four-mile scenic drive, all of which are lush with seagrape, wax and salt myrtles, red mangrove, cabbage and sabal palms, and other native plants. A booklet available from the refuge Education Center highlights points of interest, including an observation tower where naturalists will obtain the best view of flora and fauna. The educational value of “Ding” Darling’s helped make Sanibel Island one of Sherman’s Traveler Top 10 Family Beaches, click here to learn more.
Every year (in October) the Refuge has a week long event called the “Ding” Darling Days. One can explore nature, listen to talks and participate in a nature photography competition. Click here for more information on the event.
The drive is open Saturday through Thursday from 7:30am to a half-hour before sunset. Closed Friday. Low tide, when birds feed, is the ideal time to visit. The Education Center is open daily. Hours are 9:00am to 5:00 pm from November through April, and 9:00am to 4:00pm May through October. Interpretative tram tours of the sanctuary are scheduled through Tarpon Bay Explorers; reservations required at 239-472-8900.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF)
3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road
The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation is dedicated to the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. SCCF manages over 1300 acres of land on the islands (and owns an additional 500 acres on nearby Pine Island). SCCF offers a wide array of educational programs for people of all ages, from beach walks to trail walks, boat tours, wading trips and kayak tours plus classroom-based activities. At our Nature Center on Sanibel, we have four miles of trails (with an observation tower), exhibits, a touch tank, butterfly house and Nature Shop. We invite you to come explore our natural world. CLICK HERE for a map and description of the walking trails on Sanibel Island.
Sanibel Historical Museum and Village Inc.
950 Dunlop Road
This collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century buildings brings early Sanibel back to life in a beautifully serene setting. Dedicated to the pioneer families of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, the Village includes “Uncle” Clarence Rutland’s home, Bailey’s General Store, “Morning Glories” (a Sears/Roebuck catalog home), Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, the 1926 Post Office, the Burnap Cottage, the island’s original schoolhouse — transplanted in late 2004 from its former Periwinkle Way location where it served as a theater for years. All of the buildings are furnished with items from the early 1900s.
A handicapped-accessible boardwalk and shell paths take visitors past a pioneer garden, antique Model T truck, and a replica of a packinghouse with farm equipment. The Village relates the history of the islands beginning with the days of the Calusa Indians up to the mid-1900s. The Historical Village and Museum is open November through July, Hours from November through April are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hours from May through July are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Closed August through October. Children under 18 are free.
Sanibel Island Lighthouse (Point Ybel Light)
Perhaps the most photographed structure on Sanibel Island, the Sanibel Lighthouse was first lit in August 1884. In 1972, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it would extinguish the light, but then abandoned the plan when faced with public outcry. The Florida Coast Guard continues to maintain the lighthouse, which is not open to visitors, but the City of Sanibel now manages the surrounding property, including the keeper’s quarters, fishing pier and beach access.
Guided Botanical Tour – Sanibel Moorings Resort
The Botanical Gardens at Sanibel Moorings Resort is overflowing with many native, tropical and unusual flora and fauna. Join our Head Gardener for an open to the public 1.5 hours walking tour. A must-see for plant lovers and garden clubs. Every Wednesday at 9am. RSVP required. Call for reservations and/or info at 239-472-4119 or visit sanibelmoorings.com.