Museums & Attractions on Sanibel Island and Captiva Island
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!” Our Florida islands are dotted with numerous places to go to, including natural, historical and artistic attractions, all guaranteed to provide a day of family fun and education.
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road
(239) 395-2233, (888) 679-6450
Named for two pioneer island families, The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum showcases why Sanibel has earned its reputation as one of the world’s top shelling destinations. The most comprehensive museum in the nation devoted exclusively to shells, it features exhibits illustrating shells from geographical, historical, scientific and artistic perspectives. Open daily (except major holidays) from 10:00am to 5:00pm. Museum members and children 4 & under are admitted free, children 5-16 are $4, adults 17 and older are $7. Group rates and tour information available.
Barrier Island Group for the Arts
900 Dunlop Road
BIG ARTS celebrates this season with an extraordinary line-up of performances and educational programs. Whether your interest is in dance, the visual arts, classical, jazz or popular music, children’s summer camp, lectures, award-winning film or theater, or in attending a class or workshop — BIG ARTS has something for everyone!
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 island’s wildlife, this well-respected facility for injured and orphaned birds and animals treats more than 3,000 patients each year.
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
One Wildlife Drive (off Sanibel-Captiva Road)
The Wildlife Drive at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge will be closed for the summer – CLICK HERE for more information.
This 6,300-acre Florida wildlife refuge, named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, is – at latest count — home to 238 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 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. Fees are $5 per car, or $1 per cyclist or pedestrian; ages 15 and younger bike and walk free. Interpretative tram tours of the sanctuary are scheduled through Tarpon Bay Explorers; reservations required at 239-472-8900.
Old Town Sanibel
Old Town encircles the east end of the island near the Sanibel Lighthouse. Historically, it was the center of much of the island’s activity; today, it is a place to stroll quaint village shops, inns and restaurants. The Sanibel Historical Society has produced a walking and biking tour to “yesteryear” that is approximately 2 ½ miles long. You can pick up a map at the Chamber Visitor Center or at the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Center
3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road at Mile Marker 1
The Conservation Foundation’s Nature Center encompasses 260 of the over 1,800 total acres owned and managed as a preserve for Florida wildlife, and offers a unique insight into the island’s ecosystems. Visitors can walk 4 ½ miles of trails, climb an observation tower, and experience a butterfly exhibit. Inside the Nature Center, a marine-life touch tank, an alligator jawbone, a mangrove diorama, and other exhibits showcase island habitat. The foundation also operates a nature shop, bookstore and native plant nursery, and conducts estuarine research. Guided trail tours, shoreline discovery walks and many other programs are available. Price is $3 for adults; members and children 17 and under are admitted free. Additional charges may apply to other programs. Hours of operation vary with the season: October through May, weekdays, 8:30am to 4:00pm; June through September, weekdays, 8:30am to 3:00pm; and Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm, December through April.
Sanibel Historical Museum and Village
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 and Captiva, 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, and the latest addition – 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 mid-August, Wednesday through Saturday, from 10:00am to 4:00pm, although summer hours may vary. Closed mid-August through October. Donations of $5 per adult are welcomed. School children and younger are free.
(Point Ybel Light)
Perhaps the most photographed structure on Sanibel, 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.