What to do on Sanibel and Captiva Islands this August

The summer months are winding down but the great thing about Florida is that it’s summertime living all year-round. Even though the sun is slowly setting on summer, that doesn’t mean the fun has to end!

Last month, we shared some exciting outdoor excursions and activities, as well as some amazing places to stay and eat! But this month, we want to highlight some of the incredible nonprofit attractions that the islands of Sanibel and Captiva have to offer.

National Nonprofit Day was August 17th, but here at the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber, we’re celebrating our nonprofit members all month long! The island nonprofits have not only provided an immense sense of community on the island, but also lots of educational and entertaining activities for visitors and locals to enjoy.

Ding Darling – Wildlife Society

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is dedicated to protecting and conserving the wildlife on Sanibel Island. In the early 1900s, Jay Norwood Darling was instrumental in blocking the sale of environmentally valuable land to developers. His persistence and hard work led President Truman to sign an executive order to create the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945, renamed for Darling following his death.

color-blind child sees wildlife in color for the first time through a spotting scope on Sanibel Island

The greatest part about the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge is its ability to carry on Mr. Darling’s legacy and passion for educating generations on the importance of conservation. The Visitor & Education Center strives to teach visitors enough about conservation that they can then extend that knowledge and ethic to their communities back at home.

Recently, the team at “Ding” Darling launched new technology that allows color-blind individuals to see a wider spectrum of colors while they are observing the wildlife around them. The idea came to fruition when Refuge Ranger Toni Westland had some downtime during the COVID-19 lockdown, and she decided to refurbish the three spotting scopes at the Wildlife Drive observation tower.

It had been years since the spotting scopes had been refurbished, so when she sent them back to the manufacturer, they informed her they could install color-blind correcting lenses. Ranger Toni couldn’t say “no” to an inclusive opportunity like that.

Whether you want to go for a paddle, nature cruise, hike, bike ride, a tram tour of Wildlife Drive or maybe just visit the free-admission Visitor & Education Center (don’t miss its award-winning restrooms!), the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a must-do during your stay on Sanibel and Captiva Islands.

CROW – Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife

Children scout troops at CROW on Sanibel and Captiva Island

The Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife aka CROW is a teaching hospital and visitor education center solely dedicated to saving wildlife through exceptional veterinary care, research, education, and conservation medicine.

The CROW Visitor Education Center offers visitors a behind the scene’s look into CROW’s animal care through live camera feeds, interactive displays, and daily presentations by students, staff, and volunteers!

If you’re an animal lover, be sure to check out CROW’s onsite programs and field trips while you visit the Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Choose from several program packages that offer tours of the education center as well as the animal hospital

The nonprofit even offers Scout Troop and Service Learning Projects for kids who are interested in taking their passion for wildlife and conservation to the next level.

After you stay on the islands, be sure to check out their Live Wildlife Wednesdays Series where they cover all things conservation and wildlife.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

Touch pool National Shell Museum

If you want to explore some of the most beautiful shells created by Mollusks in the area, then we have the best place for you to go! The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only accredited museum in the United States solely dedicated to shells and mollusks.

One of the most exciting things about the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is that it offers more than just shells. They have an aquarium gallery filled with living mollusks, two touch tanks where you can interact with live mollusks, and they even have a designated area for their Giant Pacific Octopus. You definitely don’t want to miss this!

The museum also recently released an aquarium gallery that is filled with live mollusks and they even have two pools where you can touch and interact with the mollusks.

Their daily programming involves the touch pools as well as a fun scavenger hunt and educational mollusk movie. The museum also has 30 permanent exhibits, some of their most popular being:

  • Shells of Sanibel & Captiva
  • Shells from around the world
  • Record-breaking shells
  • Shells in Architecture, Art, and Human History

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation

family conservation programs on sanibel and captiva islands

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) was founded in 1967 with a very clear mission in mind: to protect and care for Southwest Florida’s coastal ecosystems through their focus on Water Quality Research, Policy and Advocacy, Sea Turtles and Shorebirds, Nativa Landscaping, Habitat and Wildlife Management, and Environmental Education.

SCCF has more than eight miles of nature trails at preserves throughout the island as well as a garden center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve where you can shop for native plants, local honey,  and SCCF T-shirts.

There is no better way to immerse yourself in Sanibel-Captiva Island life than joining the SCCF Sanibel Sea School. If you’re only visiting the Island for a couple of days, they have daily programs that are full and half-day for kids to get the chance to fall in love with the ocean. They also offer family and group programs so everyone can be together!

Big Arts

Big Arts was created by and for the community in 1979. A small band of dedicated artists who were inspired by not only each other but the islands of Sanibel and Captiva as well.

This group of artists set out to create a special gathering place where people could refine their artistic abilities and educate themselves further. Today, their vision carries on as Big Arts continues to provide long-lasting joy and inspiration to the community.

They offer Performing Arts (Music, Theater, Dance), Fine Arts, Film, and Community Creation programs to the public.


There’s no time to waste when staying on Sanibel and Captiva, the salt air and fresh breeze are waiting for you! We hope this helps you navigate your stay here to ensure that no second is wasted during your vacation. But, there are even more activities waiting for you – we’ve only scratched the surface! Need extra time to squeeze in every fun activity? Extend your stay by checking out accommodation deals – because you deserve to stay in paradise a little longer.