Sanibel Island Fall Getaway

Fall weather makes for a perfect visit to this shelling paradise.

It’s the off-season here in southwest Florida, at least until Christmastime. So you can have 15 miles of beach almost to yourself—and pay less for it. There’s no neon, no loud WaveRunners, no high-rises. Just a lush island with blooming hibiscus, bike paths, and beach shacks. Crowds thin out, but it’s still warm enough to swim.

Shelling Secrets: Waves wash ashore more than 200 species of shells on Bowman’s Beach. Go an hour before low tide or the day after a storm; shells will be so thick you need to wear flip-flops.

Local Dish: Try grilled grouper tacos at Doc Ford’s, a restaurant named after the main character of local author Randy Wayne White’s 17 murder mysteries, set on Sanibel and other Gulf Coast islands.

Saturday Morning: Pedal a bike (try Billy’s Rentals) through the 4-mile drive at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to spot wood storks and eagles or manatees in warmer months.

Sanibel Legend: If you find a rare junonia shell, nicknamed the “Prize of Sanibel,” the Islander newspaper runs your photo on the front page.

Photo Op: See the sunset on Blind Pass Beach, the island’s only west-facing beach, where Sanibel and Captiva meet.

After Sundown: Drive over to Captiva’s famous Mucky Duck (five minutes from Blind Pass) for live music and a cold beer.

Lay Your Head: Suites at Casa Ybel Resort overlook 23 acres of secluded beach. It’s built around the Thistle Lodge, the island’s first resort, now a white-tablecloth beachfront restaurant.

Closest Airport: Fort Myers (RSW), 1 hour east via Summerlin Pkwy.

Forecast: 81°/62° 

Dress Code: shorts, sundresses, and a light sweater