I love to research where to eat and things to do when we visit a new spot for vacation. We exchanged our Orlando timeshare week for one in Sanibel this year and we found some fun things to do!
Eating out is a special treat when we are on vacation, and I love not cooking and cleaning up!
We usually eat in for Breakfast and Lunch, but once a week we will splurge on vacation. We at ate The Over Easy Cafe and I would definitely go back.
From the outside the place is pretty nondescript, but inside is a warm, cafe decorated like a French Country kitchen! They had some really interesting egg dishes that we tried, some yummy toppers and fillers for eggs benedict and omelets. The kids had pancakes that were a little overworked and tough, but it might have been a bad pancake day.
After a long 14 mile bike ride exploring the island, we popped into The Island Cow for lunch. This restaurant is funky and silly with a cow theme throughout.
There is a large front porch and a bright airy inside for sitting. Surrounding the restaurant are colorful Adirondack chairs for lounging while you wait for a table. Be sure to read the funny signs posted throughout on chalkboards!
Walk around the right side of the building to the back courtyard to play some games, watch the hermit crabs while waiting for your table. Be warned that the portions are HUGE so maybe you would want to share. I had fish tacos that were delicious.
The Island Cow had a great looking breakfast menu too, I'd probably try this for breakfast the next time I visit.
The Lazy Flamingo caught our eye as soon as we got into town with it's bright "flamingo pink" paint job. We had a great grouper platter and had fun watching the servers clip tickets onto the old timey wire and zing them into the open kitchen. The decor was fun, a collection of beachy items and the manager (owner?) was friendly and posed with this flamingo hat.
I especially liked it when he came around to tell the kids that cell phones and ipods have to be put away at the table, "Vacation is for family so talk to each other!"
Doc Ford's Rum Bar is like two restaurants in one - inside the main building it is like a sports bar with lots of tv's but if you turn to the left there is a huge porch attached to another building that I preferred for it's beachy vibe.
The owner is an author who writes books about Sanibel and Captiva, so his posters decorate the walls. The service staff is super friendly and brought the kids a huge plate of veggies and dip to tide them over until dinner.
I had an amazing dish of shrimp and cheesy grits that I would definitely order again!
One night, when the wait was too long at another restaurant we had planned to go to, we popped into the Blue Giraffe and found our table of 10 could sit right away.
The decor is not as exciting and it's located in a strip mall, but the food was fast and tasty.
Grandma Dot's was right on the marina and there was plenty for the kids to look at while waiting. It had a screened in porch feeling, though it was air conditioned, and I loved it.
I had a snapper special and seafood bisque that was delicious! They even served fruit on the side in a little chocolate, shell-shaped dish. The kids were served quickly so they could get back outside to explore the marina, allowing the adults to linger over dinner.
On our last night, we drove to Captiva to see the sunset and eat at The Mucky Duck. We had high expectations since every website mentions this seaside restaurant and we were sorely disappointed. We had an extremely long wait and a terrible meal and service.
If I did it again, I would pop in to see the sunset, then have a drink at the Mucky Duck, then head back to Sanibel for dinner. Waiting for our table in the sand while playing the ring game and listening to a singer playing guitar was the best part of our Mucky Duck experience.
Pinocchio's Ice Cream Shop seems to be the place to go at the end of the night in Sanibel. There was a long line that moved quickly and lots of rockers and Adirondack chairs to sit in on the front porch to enjoy your cones. The servings are huge so a small is plenty for anyone!
What to do?
We rented equipment at The Bait Box and went out to the lighthouse pier to fish in the morning and evening. Lots of locals are there looking for the big fish and are a great source of information about the island.
The kids caught a sea trout, a puffer fish, and another fish I can't remember.
We rented bikes at Finnimore's Cycle Shop (the owner looks just like Kenny Chesney!) and they had us on bikes lickety split! The guy who sizes the bikes could adjust seats to the exact right height by just glancing at you. Amazing.
We explored the whole island on our bikes thanks to the awesome bike lanes throughout the whole island. On Earth Day, we parked our car and only biked everyplace the whole day.
One of our exploring days, we visited Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge and for a few bucks we could bike around the entire refuge as long as we wanted. We saw turtles, birds, snakes, and crabs while there. I loved the boardwalk paths through the mangroves!
On our Captiva evening, our first stop was to 'Tween Waters for the Crab Races (in hind sight, we should have stayed there to eat rather than trying the Mucky Duck).
Sunburned Willie runs crab races with a lot of jokes (usually at the guests' expense). You choose your crab (don't touch them or you will get yelled at - yes I got yelled at! Just tell him the number of the crab and the name you choose) and after many hours of stalling, Willie will eventually begin the races.
He has lots of rules, lots of yelling, lots of mean spirited jokes...can you tell I wasn't too crazy about this? But, the kids loved it. My husband got picked to run the sound effects (he's to the left in the sunglasses) and Willie yelled at, hit, yelled some more at him the whole time. By the end of the night, the Big Guy was flinching if anyone raised their arm after getting slapped in the head so many times!
I stuck to the back of the room and watched quietly til I could leave, but the kids were very entertained. Make sure you go to the early show if you have kids, the jokes get nastier and more suggestive at the later (9 pm) show.
So THAT was my trip to Sanibel Island, Florida!