A few months ago, I was able to spend a weekend on Sanibel Island, Florida. I had never been to Sanibel Island or in this particular part of Florida. We’ve pent time in Orlando and Miami and we’ve been to Tampa a few time because my mother-in-law lives there, but unfortunately we never went to much further down the Gulf Coast. I really didn’t know too much about Sanibel Island or what it had to offer before I arrived, but a quick Google search told me that Sanibel Island was named the the No.1 family-friendly vacation spot in the country on NBC’s Today Show, in May 2015. You can imagine how excited I was to check it out after reading that.
So, what makes Sanibel Island so special?
Sanibel Island No. 1 Shelling Beach
Sanibel Island is the No. 1 beach in North America for shelling and with 15 miles of beach and over 250 different types of shells, they take their shelling very seriously here. I have never seen so many shells on the beach in my life! To see them is one thing, but to walk barefoot and feel them is another. A storm was definitely a brewing during our visit in late fall, but that didn’t keep us — and many other people — off the beach to walk among the millions of shells beautifully scattered everywhere. My kids were not with me on this, trip but I could definitely see them collecting buckets of shells that would require an extra suitcase to take home!
My weekend in Sanibel was during the off-season, so it did rain quite a bit while I was there. But, rain aside, feeling the warm tropical breeze and listening to the waves crash made it special anyways.
Sundial Resort & Spa
I was invited to get a little taste of Sanibel Island by the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa, a condominium style resort that caters to families looking for that laid back beach family vacation. As we drove down the long coastal stretch of road to the Sundial Beach Resort, you could feel the simplicity and relaxed beach vibe instantly. One thing you’ll notice while in Sanibel is that there are no gigantic high-rise hotels or buildings obstructing your view or closing in on you. There are very strict building codes to preserve the island’s natural habitat and keep it from looking like a concrete jungle.
Our two-bedroom suite was just what you would hope to find in a fully-furnished condo for a family vacation at the beach. This is always a great option for families — plenty of room for everyone to have their own space, a large kitchen for making small meals, and a comfortable family room area for relaxing after a long day exploring the beach. Our condo faced the ocean and had a large screened in patio, which was perfect for watching the sunset, or the sun rise!
Sanibel Sea School
The Sundial Beach Resort and Spa has many kid-friendly amenities including the Sanibel Sea School campus, which offers more than 30 half- and full-day educational classes, helping kids become ocean stewards. This was one of the most impressive features of the Sundial Resort. When my family travels we want our kids to be engaged with their surroundings and maybe even learn a thing or two. I’m not a fan of kid’s clubs that only offer television and video games as activities… they can watch TV at home! The Sanibel Sea School is a hands-on learning experience that is both fun and educational.
Kay Casperson Spa
During every family vacation, there needs to be a little “mom-time” on the itinerary. The Sundial Beach Resort and Spa is home to the Kay Casperson Spa where you can spend an afternoon pampering yourself while the kids are at Sea School. The spa pedicure chairs face the ocean and the service was great!
Sanibel’s sister island is Captiva Island, a small charming town just a short and very scenic drive from Sanibel. Everyone told us to go and I could certainly see why! Captiva has many unique restaurants and shopping, so it’s perfect for spending the day just wondering around. We literally got caught in the rain, but it gave us the chance to stop for lunch at the famous Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grill and then hit up the Key Lime Bistro for some of their award winning key lime pie. I have to say, it was the best key lime pie I’ve ever had!
My time on Sanibel Island was short and sweet but it definitely made quite an impression! It’s the quintessential spot for a family vacation that is less about the hustle and more about spending quality time as a family. This is a perfect spot for multi-generational family vacations and I can see why it has been awarded the No. 1 family-friendly destination in the country. So now, I am making plans to return to Sanibel Island… with the kids and both the grandmas, too!