Sanibel Island is a beautiful tropical island just off the coast of Fort Myers, Florida with white sand beaches, shopping, and wonderful restaurants. The island is an ideal place to spend a day on the beach and enjoy year-long fun.
Sanibel Island is a barrier island in Southwest Florida in the Gulf of Mexico, connected to the mainland by the Sanibel Causeway on San Carlos Bay. You can drive there from Fort Myers. The drive from Fort Myers is only 45 minutes and covers about 25 miles.
Because of its proximity to the mainland, Sanibel Island is an easy tropical destination to drive to. Read on to learn more about how to get there, alternative routes, and what to do when you arrive.
Can you drive to Sanibel Island?
|3 miles||5 minutes||$6|
*Fee calculated at the time of writing for 1 vehicle
Sanibel Island is just off the southwest coast of Florida. It's connected to the mainland by a 3-mile-long bridge called the Sanibel Causeway, which you can drive on to reach the island. The nearest major city is Fort Myers, just under 30 miles away.
Unlike the inland cities, there's no public transportation to Sanibel Island. If you want to get to the island you have to drive or charter a private boat.
The drive to Sanibel Island takes you through beautiful residential neighborhoods and areas with plenty of wildlife. You'll see landmarks like Fort Myers, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, the Southwest Florida Historical Society, Alliance for the Arts, and Punta Rassa.
Once you're on the island, you can enjoy the calm neighborhoods that line the beaches and canals. If you've had your fill of driving, it's easy to rent a bike or even walk around the island.
However, if you are planning to drive to Sanibel Island, keep in mind that the City of Sanibel has kindly asked non-residents to respect that the recovery work following Hurricane Ian is still undergoing and that they are asking the visitors to hold off a while longer before visiting to allow the recovery work to go smoothly and efficiently.
Something to plan and look forward to, which could even be a great cause to contribute to!
How to drive to Sanibel Island from mainland USA
The drive from Fort Myers is straightforward. You'll drive along FL- 867 (McGregor Boulevard) all the way to the Sanibel Causeway, which crosses the Caloosahatchee River.
The causeway enters the island's roads, which are not very big. Because of the road sizes and the residential neighborhoods around the island, the speed limit is only 35 MPH.
There is a $6 charge to cross the bridge to the island. Because the weather in Florida is so nice, the bridge is open year-round.
How long does it take to drive to Sanibel Island?
|Origin city||Distance||Driving Time|
|Cape Coral||20 miles||40 minutes|
|Fort Myers||25 miles||45 minutes|
|Tampa||160 miles||3 hours|
|Miami||170 miles||3 hours|
|Orlando||185 miles||3 hours 50 minutes|
|Jacksonville||350 miles||5 hours 45 minutes|
|Tallahassee||430 miles||6 hours 30 minutes|
|Savannah||490 miles||7 hours 40 minutes|
|New Orleans||800 miles||11 hours 50 minutes|
The crossing on the Sanibel Causeway itself takes only 5 minutes. It takes approximately 45 minutes to drive to Sanibel Island from Fort Myers and 40 minutes from Cape Coral. Interstates and highways connect Florida to other US cities, so getting to Sanibel Island is a breeze.
If you're driving from Miami or Tampa, it'll take you about 3 hours to reach Sanibel Island. The drive from Orlando will take you 3 hours and 50 minutes.
Which port should you arrive at on Sanibel Island?
Although driving is the best option, you can hire a private boat to take you to the island. This will take you about 30 minutes if you are traveling from Cape Coral.
Once you cross the 15 miles to the island, you'll dock at the Sanibel Island Marina, on the eastern end of the island. From here, you can walk or bike around.
The wet slip charge is about $60 plus tax at the Marina. Charges for docking a private boat depend on the size of the boat and which marina you use.
A fun fact is that there used to be a ferry crossing to the island from the mainland. However, in 1963, the creation of the Sanibel Causeway eliminated any need for a ferry and now only private boats make the journey.
Things you need to know about driving to Sanibel Island
Although the drive to Sanibel Island is straightforward, there are things to keep in mind to help make the journey even smoother. Below are our top tips to prepare for a drive to Sanibel Island.
It's important to note that tragically, Hurricane Ian hit the area on September 28th, 2022. The causeway was badly damaged and so were many of the neighborhoods on the island. The causeway re-opened on October 19th, 2022, and public beaches opened on January 2nd, 2023.
There's still lots of rebuilding on the island, but residents are working hard to bring Sanibel Island back. Please be respectful to their hard work and plan your trip according to the announcements of the City of Sanibel.
Here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a drive to Sanibel Island:
- The drive from Fort Myers to Sanibel Island is straightforward.
- You'll drive on FL-867 (McGregor Boulevard) leading to Sanibel Causeway.
- The speed limit on the bridge is 35 MPH.
- When entering the island, traffic peaks between 8am and 10am. When leaving the island, traffic peaks between 4pm to 6pm.
- The busiest months are December to April.
- There are no in-person tolls for the Sanibel Causeway anymore. The causeway now uses a license plate recognition system so you can easily drive through without stopping.
- Once you pass, the easiest way to pay the $6 fee is to use a transponder such as Leeway, Florida SunPass, E-Pass, Uni, Georgia Peach Pass, North Carolina NC Quick Pass, E-ZPass, I-Pass or Riverlink.
- Without a transponder, the cost is $9 (at the time of writing) and they'll send the bill to the address registered on the license plate. If you're using a rental car, ask about toll packages, as many rental car companies offer these services.
- Avoid Periwinkle Way during the afternoon rush hour.
- If you're there for shelling, visit after a storm for fruitful pickings.
- Bowman's Beach is one of the island's quieter beach spots.
- Hire a bike to get around the island and explore.
- Public beaches have parking but expect to pay.
Things to see once you reach Sanibel Island
Sanibel Island is a major tourist destination on the southwest coast of Florida. Even though it's small, the island is full of shops, restaurants, bars, and nightlife. Below are our top things to do and see once you get to the island.
- Beaches - Enjoy a day on one of the many beautiful beaches. Sanibel Lighthouse Beach is at the eastern tip and close to the bridge's end, so you can leave the island and avoid the traffic. Bowman's Beach and Gulfside City Park are quieter and on the west of the island, allow you to take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico.
- J.N Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge - Drive, bike or hike through this wildlife-filled drive. The one-way drive has plenty of trails to stop and walk on. This is also a magnificent spot for birdwatching, with over 245 species in the refuge.
- Boating - You can take a charter boat or rent canoes and kayaks. As you float in the Gulf of Mexico, it's common to see dolphins and occasionally manatees.
- Fresh seafood - There are over 50 restaurants on the island with a wide selection of cuisine. But fresh seafood is becoming a Sanibel Island staple and many places specialize in it.
- Scuba and snorkel - Off Bowman's Beach you can find the Belton Johnson Reef. This artificial reef is a thriving habitat for marine life. A charter can take you to the top snorkeling spots like this, or you can simply stay close to shore and enjoy the clear waters.
- Health and wellness - Sanibel Island is home to spas and fitness centers. Check in and enjoy a massage or a yoga class on the beachfront.