5 Best Beaches on Sanibel Island, Florida

Bowman's Beach Sanibel Island

The beaches of Sanibel Island, Florida are known for being completely covered by seashells!

Sanibel Island Beaches are some of the best shelling beaches in the world. USA Today ranked shelling on Sanibel Island 7th for Best Florida Attractions and Sanibel Island as One of the Top 10 Places to Escape the Snow.

The island offers 15 miles of beaches, 22 miles of bike paths, and the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the country (impressive for an island that isn’t that big).

While there may be 15 miles of beaches, it is important to note that most of them are closed to the public. All of the beaches included in this post are free to use and open to the public.

Are there public beaches on Sanibel Island?

Yes, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island both offer public beaches that are free to use.

Where is Sanibel Island?

Located off the coast of southwest Florida; it is a 40 minute drive from Ft Myers, Florida.

Best beaches on Sanibel island

1. Sanibel Lighthouse Beach

In addition to a gorgeous white sand beach, there is a historic lighthouse, fishing pier, and a boardwalk nature trail. There are bike racks if you choose to cycle around the island. 

Lighthouse Beach Parking

Parking lot at Lighthouse Beach
Lighthouse Beach Parking Lot

The parking payment machine takes both cash and credit cards. Make sure you put the ticket on your dash. We saw multiple attendants checking cars while we were there, so it appears they ticket consistently.

Lighthouse Beach was by far the hardest beach to find parking at. It took us multiple days to find a spot. When we finally did get a spot, it was complete luck. If you are an early riser it will probably be MUCH easier to get a spot.

There are 3 separate parking lots that will take you to different areas of the beach. They are all close enough together to where you can park in one lot and easily walk to the main beach. We parked in the second of the three lots and walked over to the main entrance for Lighthouse beach.

Amenities at Lighthouse Beach

  • Fishing Pier, Lighthouse, Boardwalk and Nature Trails
  • RV Parking – 2 spaces
  • Free handicap parking
  • Restrooms and outdoor shower
  • Bike rack – no fee for bikes
  • 24 Hour paid parking

Find all >> Hotels on Sanibel Island

2. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island

With no hotels in sight Bowman’s beach offers a nice relaxing vibe. Once you park you will take a small hike from the parking lot to the beach. The walk to the beach is beautiful. You will pass along a nature path, a playground, and cross a bridge over small waterways on your way to the beach. This is the only beach with barbecue grills.

Located off Sanibel-Captiva Rd., turn left on Bowman’s Beach Rd.

Bowman’s beach was one of my favorite beaches on Sanibel island. Partially because the parking was more accessible, but also because the beach had amazing sand, good shelling, and great nature path talk walk down. 

This beach is very family friendly. There are nature paths, a playground for children, bathrooms, and changing rooms.

It is also a great launching point if you are interested in canoeing or kayaking.

Bowman’s Beach Parking

The parking at Bowman’s Beach was far easier to find than some of the other beaches on this list. The parking lot was bigger and people seemed to be coming in and out all day making it easier to find open spots. 

Cost – $5 per hour

Amenities at Bowman’s Beach

  • Restrooms, changing rooms and outdoor shower
  • Oversized vehicle parking
  • Free handicap parking
  • Picnic tables and Barbecue grills
  • Fitness and nature trails
  • Canoe and kayak launching
  • Public telephone at restrooms

3. Tarpon Beach, Sanibel Island

Tarpon Bay Beach
Tarpon Bay Beach on Sanibel Island

This was one of my favorite beaches on Sanibel Island. It is quiet and never overcrowded. Great for walking, looking for seashells, and enjoying the water. This beach also offered some of the best shelling I have ever seen! Very unique.

It features easy parking and a short walk from the parking lot to the beach. It is located at the south end of Tarpon Bay Rd. at West Gulf Drive.

Amenities at Tarpon Beach

  • Restrooms and outdoor shower at beach entrance
  • Bike parking at beach entrance – no fee for bikes
  • Oversized (20 foot and over) vehicle parking – several
  • Free handicap parking – 3 handicap spaces at beach entrance

Parking at Tarpon Bay

Cost – $5

4. Blind Pass Beach, Sanibel Island

Located on both the Sanibel and Captiva side of the Blind Pass Bridge, this beach is another popular site with shellers and fishermen. You will find signs warning against swimming because of the currents, so be careful. Blind Pass Beach is located on Sanibel-Captiva Rd. at Blind Pass Bridge.

Amenities at Blind Pass Beach

  • NO restrooms on Sanibel side
  • Parking on both sides of Blind Pass bridge
  • Restrooms and outdoor shower on Captiva side
  • Free handicap parking – 1 space only on both sides (Captiva and Sanibel)

5. Gulfside City Park (Algiers), Sanibel Island

Gulfside City Park is a very nice clean beach. Like most of the beaches on the list, parking is limited so get here early to make sure you get a spot. There is also a toll to cross the bridge to get here. Plenty of nature to walk around and see as well.

Amenities at Gulfside City Park

  • Public beach offering picnic areas
  • BBQ grills
  • Bike racks
  • Outdoor showers & restrooms.

Shelling at Sanibel Island

The Sanibel Island Seashells are world famous. The shells at the beaches were unlike anything I had ever seen before. While doing my research most websites said that all the beaches were great for shelling. After visiting most of the beaches on Sanibel Island I found this not to be true. Keep reading to see which beaches I found were best for shelling.

Which beaches are best for shelling?

If you are interested in seeing the shells I recommend Tarpon Beach, Blind Pass Beach, and Bowman’s Beach. Tarpon beach is small and pretty secluded while Bowman’s beach is bigger and more crowded with more sand.

To be honest, the sand at Tarpon’s Beach had some of the best shelling but the sand wasn’t as nice as some of the other beaches.

Low tide is best to venture out and find seashells. If you can go after a storm the shelling choices will be even better.

Where to Stay on Sanibel Island

Hotels on Sanibel Island can be booked year round. Here are a few of the most popular hotels you can check out.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the best beaches on Sanibel Island. Which beach would you add to the list?

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