A short drive south of Fort Myers (roughly 45 minutes) brings you to one of Florida’s most spectacular Gulf Coast islands. A family vacation on Sanibel Island is all about the simple things—wading in the calm, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, collecting shells along sugar-fine beaches, scouting for the green flash at sunset or pedaling a bike along palm-lined lanes. This is old Florida at its most inviting. And with a good selection of Sanibel Island resorts, condo-style accommodations and family-run motels, there’s no shortage of appealing places to settle in and stay a while.
1. Sanibel Inn
If seeing the sparkling Gulf of Mexico from your hotel room is a key requirement for your family’s vacation enjoyment, you’ll love Sanibel Inn, a 93-room beachfront hotel where all of the guestrooms, suites and two-bedroom condos have water views. A path winds from the heated outdoor swimming pool to a beautiful white-sand beach just out front. There’s a poolside tiki bar for casual lunches, you can rent kayaks and paddleboards onsite, and guests get access to tennis, golf and even comedy nights at the nearby Dunes Golf & Tennis Club.
2. Tortuga Beach Club Resort
Tortuga Beach Club Resort is a condo-style property with hotel-like amenities that strikes the balance between a vacation rental and a resort stay. Gulf-front in Sanibel, the two-bedroom townhouse-style condos can accommodate families of six and have full kitchens, washers and dryers and screened patios. There’s a well-shaded pool and hot tub onsite, tennis courts, shuffleboard courts for family competitions and picnic areas where you can grill out with the gang. Complimentary greens fees at an 18-hole championship course nearby are an additional perk for guests.
3. Sundial Beach Resort & Spa
Five onsite swimming pools, three restaurants, suites with full kitchens (and one, two or three bedrooms) and kids’ activities like tie-dying, poolside bingo and shell-painting ensure there’s little reason to ever leave Sundial Beach Resort & Spa. Kids love playing beach volleyball between dips in the Gulf of Mexico in the hotel’s front yard. And the onsite Sanibel Sea School offers half- and full-day courses that give them a hands-on experience in Sanibel’s diverse ecosystems.
4. Island Inn
The oldest inn on Sanibel, Island Inn has a colorful history as a private home and boarding house and has been an island fixture since 1895. Of course, it’s far more expansive these days, with a collection of rooms, suites and one-, two- and three-bedroom Gulf cottages strung across a gorgeous stretch of beach. The hotel’s pool is quite small, but it’s just steps from a powder-fine beach where you’ll likely spend the bulk of your days anyway. A light continental breakfast is included with your stay, and tennis, paddleboard rentals and bike rentals are all available at the hotel. There are free barbecue grills, too, for picnicking under the palms.
5. Waterside Inn on the Beach
The selection of standard guestrooms, efficiencies, beachfront condominiums and free-standing cottages shaded in a grove of palms at this beachfront property offer much in the way of where to stay. And Waterside Inn is understandably a popular place for family reunions and multi-generational get-togethers. A pool, shuffleboard courts and barbecue grills are among the amenities. And the lovely cycling and walking paths of the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge are just a five-minute stroll away.
6. Sanibel Moorings
Located right near the Sanibel Lighthouse and spread across six lush acres on the island’s east end, this large condo-style resort with a private beach and two heated pools is one of the best hotels on Sanibel Island. Choose from one-, two- or three-bedroom condos, all of which have full kitchens and screened-in first or second-story patios for relaxing outside sans mosquitoes. There’s a marina if you happen to have your own boat in tow. And guests have access to kayaks, canoes and bicycles for pedaling miles of surrounding trails, too. Other amenities at Sanibel Moorings include tennis courts, a kiddie pool, grills for barbecuing and a butterfly garden.
7. Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa
You’re technically still on the mainland here, but Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa is just a short hop across the bridge from this sprawling 347-room harborfront resort to Sanibel Island. Guestrooms have a king or two queen beds, with room for a rollaway bed in all. And while there”s no beach here for swimming (head to Sanibel for that), the hotel’s three outdoor pools and water sports center with paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis and pontoon boats for rent offer plenty in the way of in-water entertainment. There are tennis courts and walking and biking trails on the hotel”s property, too.
8. West Wind Inn
On a quiet stretch of sugar-fine beach roughly in the middle of Sanibel, this low-rise hotel with 102 spacious guestrooms appeals to families thanks to the serene location and easy beach access. All rooms at West Wind Inn have screened balconies or patios, some with ocean views. And you can also opt for a room or suite with a kitchenette if you’d like access to a microwave and refrigerator during your stay. There’s a main pool and separate kids’ pool. Barbecues and laundry facilities are available to guests. And turtles can sometimes be spotted laying their eggs on the beach at night.
9. Sanibel Island Beach Resort
On the east side of Sanibel, this beachfront resort offers standard hotel accommodations, as well as one-bedroom suites with separate living rooms and kitchenettes. There’s an onsite pool, and beach chairs are complimentary for families who like to spend their days on the sand. The hotel’s tennis courts are free for guests and you can rent bikes to explore the area, too. Sanibel Island Beach Resort also offers an onsite restaurant where you can enjoy breakfast daily and dinner seasonally.
10. Casa Ybel Resort
Spread across 23 acres lush with palm trees and flowering plants and strung with hammocks, the luxury gulf-front Casa Ybel Resort has much for families to admire. Chances are, you’ll spend lots of time on the hotel’s private sandy beach, but there”s also an Olympic-sized pool overlooking the water, a kids’ wading pool, six tennis courts, shuffleboards, croquet and a kids’ club for whiling away lazy tropical days. The one- and two-bedroom suites feel more like a luxury vacation home than a hotel, and all have Gulf views, sleeper sofas, full kitchens and outdoor grills.
What to Pack for Your Next Trip
Girls Chill Beach Outfit for Summer
Boys Chill Beach Outfit for Summer
Men’s/Dad’s Chill Beach Outfit for Summer
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