Sanibel offers affordable leisure, day trips

The more isolated Bowman’s Beach in Sanibel, Florida, offers visitors clear blue water and white sand and a hotel-free area to tan without worrying about blocked sun, on September 21, 2013. This beach is also great for shelling and is stocked with picnic tables and barbecues. Aisha Moktadier // Contributing Photographer
Bowman’s Beach in Sanibel, Fla., offers visitors clear, blue water and white sand as well as a hotel-free area to tan. The beach is also known for shelling and is packed with picnic tables.
Aisha Moktadier // Contributing Photographer

The clear, blue ocean that glitters on either side of the Sanibel Causeway captures the beauty and tranquility that awaits visitors just over the bridge onto the narrow streets of Sanibel Island.

Known for its shell beaches, Sanibel is filled with independently owned and affordable restaurants, hushed beaches, bike rentals and lanes, and art galleries. Located on Florida’s west coast, and only a 2.5-hour drive from Miami, the island makes a great location and affordable alternative for a day trip.

Start the day right at Bowman’s Beach, located right off Sanibel-Captiva Road and Bowman’s Beach Road. This location offers up bright blue water, white sand and what seems like an ever-flowing sea breeze. Afraid of skyscraping buildings blocking your sun while you tan? Not here. Bowman’s Beach offers a peaceful atmosphere for tanning with no hotels in sight. There is also plenty of public parking and picnic tables.

Once you’ve soaked up enough sun, head over to The Lazy Flamingo, a raw bar and grill that serves up ice-cold brews for $2.25, and seafood so fresh their tagline is, “If our seafood were any fresher, we’d be serving it underwater!”

The restaurant offers up big food at small prices – like the Big Burger Burger for $9.99 or Dead Parrot Wings for $11.99, that are so hot they come with their own warning on the menu.

Next up is a leisurely bike ride across the island. Drive over to Billy’s Rentals to rent a bike for only $5 for two hours. Separate bike lanes are found all over the island, weaving in and around the luscious tropical greens and gift shops. Bike over to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum to see themed exhibits and art (all made of shells) for only $9 per person, or check out the gift shops all over the island. She Sells Sea Shells is one of the most creative, as it offers gifts made of seashells for visitors to take home such as figurines, jewelry boxes and seashell flower bouquets.

Head back to the beach to watch the sun set on the island, turning the ocean water into rich hues of orange and gold. Pack up your trunk with the remnants of a good day’s adventure, and let the peaceful sound and salty smell of the Sanibel waves linger as you make your way back down to Miami.