Gentle waves roll in to the sugar-sand beaches of Sanibel and Captiva from the beautiful, turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
At the end of Periwinkle Way, on the eastern tip of Sanibel, is the Sanibel Lighthouse with a lovely beach where San Carlos Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. While not open to the public, the historic lighthouse has been preserved as a museum and still projects its light to mariners.
For both swimming and shelling, try the Lighthouse Beach, Tarpon Beach at Tarpon Bay and West Gulf Drive, and Gulfside City Park, on Algiers Drive off Middle Gulf.
Visit Bowman’s Beach, just off Sanibel-Captiva Road, for a beautiful gulfside beach that is also part of a nature preserve. No hotels or buildings overlook Bowman’s, which also offers the most public parking of any of the island beaches.
The shelling is also good at Turner Beach, just a little further up San-Cap Road from Bowman’s right at the Blind Pass bridge that separates Sanibel from Captiva. Tides can be treacherous at Turner’s, so swimming is not recommended.
All of these destinations are accessible from Sanibel’s 23 miles of shared use paths. If you didn’t bring your own bike, there are several rental facilities including Billy’s (239/472-5248) at1549 Periwinkle Way and Finnimore’s in Winds Plaza at 2353 Periwinkle (239-472-5577).