Last Updated February 15, 2018 2/15/2018

Why Sanibel Island is the “Sea Shell Capital of the World”

Our research is editorially independent but we may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

One of Florida’s most beloved beach destinations, Sanibel Island offers visitors a combination of outdoor adventures and natural attractions. Boasting an alluring small-town charm, this Gulf Coast barrier island’s laid-back ambiance lets visitors escape from the daily stressors of life. Known as the “Shelling Capital of the World,” people travel from all over the world to scour the beaches each every morning for the array of unique pieces that have washed up ashore.


Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Running from west to east, its unique banana-like shape allows it to catch over 250 species of shells from the Caribbean that are easily accessible to even the littlest beachgoer. Whether you want to unwind under the tall swaying palms or mimic the famous bent-at-the-waist “Sanibel Stoop” posture and search for souvenir shells, you are sure to find a peaceful day of tropical surroundings in the best shelling spot in North America.

Sanibel Island

With 15 miles of pristine beach, visitors make the pilgrimage to Sanibel Island to find a collection of colorful coquinas, conch shells, lightning whelk shells, cockle shells, tulip shells and sand dollar shells. Head to any of the Gulf-side beaches from the Lighthouse to North Captiva to find the tiny treasures, with low tide typically the perfect time to hunt. If you want to take a few of these beauties home, make sure to bring a bucket or net bag to save your favorite discoveries.

Sanibel, Florida

An island that has been described as true, quiet island bliss, Sanibel Island is home to many restaurants, shops, and galleries in the area, but it likes to preserve its small-town feel, and you will be hard-pressed to find many chain restaurants, streetlights, or even traffic lights. Impressive for its ability to maintain its easy-going character amongst its popularity, Sanibel is a perfect island destination for the entire family.

Credit: EricRi
Sanibel Island

After spending time at the beach, nature lovers can appreciate an afternoon exploring nearby J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, while a day island hopping to nearby Captiva Island and Lovers Key State Park will have you feeling like you found your own slice of paradise. Take a peek at the historic Sanibel Island Lighthouse, and if you’re really curious about the island’s biggest celebrities, explore the Baily-Matthews Shell Museum to see shells from around the globe.


Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.


Please fill out highlighted fields and click "Compare Prices" to continue.