Sunny, sandy, and idyllic, Sanibel Island in Southwest Florida is a slice of paradise. The clear Gulf waters and blindingly white sand ensure visitors never want to go home.
Sanibel Island has something for everyone. Nature lovers swoon over the 50 species of fish, 230 types of bird, and 250 varieties of shells – while adventure seekers cannot get enough of the 25 miles of bike trails.
That said, Sanibel Island at its heart is an epicurean paradise. Fresh, fabulous seafood from the Gulf combined with global flavors make this tiny island a hidden gem. Enjoy a fruity tropical cocktail and succulent shrimp by the sea, or take it up a notch and try some of the freshest lobster around – either way, you will not be disappointed by the waterfront views or the fare.
If you are not already booking your Sanibel vacation, read on for the best waterfront restaurants on Sanibel Island!
Best Waterfront Restaurants in Sanibel Island
- Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant
- Traditions on the Beach
- Gramma Dot’s Restaurant
- The Green Flash Restaurant
- Turtle’s Pool & Beach Bar
- The Mad Hatter Restaurant
- Old Captiva House
Thistle Lodge Beachfront Restaurant
2255 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
Located in the luxurious Casa Ybel Resort, the Thistle Lodge Restaurant has a reputation for excellence. The elegant-but-humble atmosphere and vintage decor make Thistle Lodge perfect for all occasions. Once frequented by figures Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, this restaurant keeps guests feeling like a million bucks. To find Thistle Lodge, walk out of the hotel building and straight back towards the ocean – you cannot miss it.
Thistle Lodge boasts an extensive wine list, along with delectable seafood and steak options. The lobster bisque is a personal favorite, and I love the pistachio-crusted salmon with Yukon gold mashed potatoes as well.
Traditions on the Beach
3111 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
Bright and welcoming, Traditions on the Beach pride itself as one of the staple family-owned restaurants in Sanibel. Serving contemporary fare with a casual atmosphere, guests can sit back and enjoy their meal while listening to local music. Traditions on the Beach is inside the Island Inn hotel, which sits steps from the water.
Traditions on the Beach offers modern cuisine Sanibel style, blending European and Latin flavors to create one of the most exceptional menus in Southwest Florida. I always order the surf and turf – they use an oak grill, so all meats have a robust, woody flavor. If you have a small appetite, their tapas are incredible, too!
Gramma Dot’s Seaside Saloon
634 N Yachtsman Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
If you want authentic, home-cooked comfort food, look no further than Gramma Dot’s. Enjoy your meal on the tropical deck and take in the spectacular ocean views. The atmosphere at Gramma Dot’s is laid-back, casual, and quick-service. After a day of exploring Dixie Beach, located about a block away, stop into the Seaside Saloon for fresh seafood and friends.
Comfort food is my ultimate weakness, so Gramma Dot’s is one of my top picks in Sanibel. The coconut shrimp are my go-to appetizer, and I never leave without ordering the lobster tail. Finishing up your meal at Gramma Dot’s with a slice of key lime pie is life-changing.
The Green Flash Restaurant
15183 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924
Next up is none other than The Green Flash Restaurant. This famous European restaurant is named for the famous green flash phenomenon that occurs at sunset when the conditions are right.
This place is located right off of Captiva Drive and there’s even a boat dock for any hungry seafaring patrons to tie up and come ashore for some delicious food and a waterfront view.
I highly recommend either the oysters Romanoff or the oysters Rockefeller to get you started. After that, be sure to try the stuffed grouper. It’s a house specialty.
Turtle’s Tiki Bar
1451 Middle Gulf Dr #4, Sanibel, FL 33957
Nothing says tropical vacation like a tiki bar! Sip on a fruity drink and snack on yummy shrimp poolside at Turtle’s. The vibe here is the highest level of casual.
Bathing suits and flip-flops are welcome! You can visit this fun spot on the patio of the Sundial Resort, one of the largest resorts on Sanibel Island. After you finish your drink, take a short stroll down to the shore and enjoy the blue waters of the Gulf.
Fruity drinks are what I like most alcohol-wise, so this bar is a favorite. I love being able to walk up in my suit and grab a cocktail. You cannot go wrong with the Sundial Beach Chips – homemade chips topped with bacon, crab, and cheese.
The Mad Hatter Restaurant
6467 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957
Back towards Sunset Grill is The Mad Hatter, a New American restaurant that is only mad because it is so good. Vibrant murals line the dining room walls, while the white tablecloths and close quarters give off an intimate feel.
You can find The Mad Hatter steps away from the Gulf shore at the Sanibel Captiva Road and Mangrove Lane intersection.
The aesthetic of The Mad Hatter admittedly plays a large part in why I adore this place so much, but the food is nothing to ignore, either! With creative eats like goat cheese pillows and spiced watermelon salad, The Mad Hatter has offerings you cannot get anywhere else.
Old Captiva House
15951 Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924
Laslty, I want to mention the Old Captiva House restaurant. This place is located right off of Captiva Drive, and you can get a fantastic view of the Gulf of Mexico from this restaurant.
I love coming here to eat after a long day at the beach nearby. It’s even more convenient if you’re staying at the ‘Tween Waters Island Resort & Spa in which Old Captiva House is located.
When you come here, definitely grab yourself a cocktail to sip on while you enjoy the view, but be sure to try some of the fresh seafood as well.
Sanibel Island is a special place – whether you want a classic family vacation with tiki bars and shopping or a refined adults-only venture, you can find it on Sanibel Island. The cuisine served here is truly unmatched in freshness! So get your beach chair, settle in with a fruity drink, and relax by the Gulf.
If you’re planning on traveling to the nearby Fort Myers, you can check out our list of places to eat in the area.
Did we leave out your favorite Sanibel Island restaurant? Comment down below, and we will check it out!
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