It’s rare to find a slice of undeveloped, virgin beaches in Florida, but in Sanibel Island, it still exists.
Located in the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel Island is a half-wildlife refuge, half relaxing beach town, with spectacular white sandy beaches, nature trails, a boardwalk, and a picturesque lighthouse.
A popular spot for families, lone beachgoers, and romantic beach getaways, San Sanibel Island is easily accessed via a large causeway from the mainland, but still feels like a secluded, virgin island.
The enormous J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to various colorful bird species and stunning shell-studded beaches, providing beachgoers of all ages a chance to collect beautiful shell souvenirs.
After a day of relaxing and swimming in the gorgeous turquoise waters surrounding San Sanibel Island, the small, quaint town center has plenty of dining options to replenish you with delicious food and welcoming service.
- Over Easy Cafe
- Bleu Rendez Vous French Bistro
- Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille
- Cips Place Restaurant
- The Mad Hatter Restaurant
- George & Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille
- The Island Cow
- Gramma Dot’s Restaurant
- Blue Giraffe Restaurant
- The Sandbar
- Cielo Restaurant
Whether you’re looking for a fancy French bistro or a tropical beach shack with amazing seafood, you’ll find the best restaurants in Sanibel Island on the following list.
630 Tarpon Bay Rd #1, Sanibel, FL 33957
Over Easy Café is a cute and cheerful breakfast and lunch eatery in a colorful dining room with checkered floors and tablecloths to match, not to mention a fabulous outdoor patio.
Located a quick drive from the Baily Mathews National Shell Museum, Over Easy Café is a favorite New American diner with all-day breakfasts and bottomless coffee served in hand-made oversized coffee mugs.
The vast menu of egg-centric breakfast and lunch items also features the freshest daily catches. If you want to make it a boozy brunch or lunch, Over Easy Café offers a robust menu of imported and domestic beers as well as wine and mimosas.
I loved the Sanibel Shrimp Benedict with grilled shrimp on a toasted English muffin with two poached eggs and Hollandaise sauce.
2430 Periwinkle Way Suite A, Sanibel, FL 33957
Owned and operated by local Sanibel Islanders Chef Christian Vivet and his wife Mari, Bleu Rendez Vous French Bistro is an intimate and romantic dinner spot, serving authentic French cuisine and fine wines in a luxurious, upscale atmosphere. Bleu Rendez Vous is right off Sanibel Island’s main artery of Periwinkle Way.
The authentic French menu features high-end, beautifully presented steak and seafood dishes with scratch-made sauces.
I recommend starting with the Duck Foie Gras Mousse with balsamic and fig jam, followed by the seafood Vol-Au Vent, a puff pastry filled with lobster tail, grouper, shrimp, scallop, and sherry lobster cream sauce.
2500 Island Inn Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957
Named for a character in owner Randy Wayne White’s novels, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille is a tropical bar and seafood restaurant with four locations on Florida’s most popular Islands.
Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grilled combines high-end, globally-inspired menus, contemporary nautical decor, and a friendly sports bar atmosphere.
Located a quick drive from Tarpon Bay Beach, Doc Ford’s is a great lunch or dinner spot to enjoy fresh seafood, a variety of rum and tropical cocktails, and live music.
The massive menu of appetizers, salads, sandwiches, raw bar specialties, and entrees features flavors from a range of coastal and island countries.
2055 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
Located next door to Periwinkle Place shopping center, Cips Place Restaurant is a local favorite for hearty New American fare in a colorful, friendly atmosphere.
Opened by the late, local islander Jimmy Cipriani, Cip’s Place has a historical mural of the island’s most prominent figures along with a small library of scrapbooks depicting local history to flip through while you sip a delicious cocktail.
Cips Place Restaurant has a great daily happy hour from 3-6 pm with discounts on expertly crafted cocktails like margaritas, martinis, mojitos, and tropical punch.
I enjoyed a top-shelf margarita and a fresh, tropical appetizer of fried grouper cheeks tossed in a sesame sweet and sour sauce then topped with toasted coconut and cilantro.
6467 Sanibel Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957
The Mad Hatter Restaurant is an upscale, New American bistro in a whimsical and funky dining space teetering between Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, across the bridge from Tuner Beach.
Stained glass imagery and murals of Alison Wonderland scenes line the walls and windows, and the creativity also extends to its stunning presentation of globally inspired plates.
The multicourse menu features fresh seafood and high-quality meat along with colorful, tropical sauces, garnishes, and accompaniments.
I loved the spiced watermelon salad with pine nuts, cayenne pepper, mint, feta, and arugula as a refreshing precursor to a decadent New York strip steak entrée.
2499 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
George & Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille is a sports bar, romantic garden patio, and family-friendly grille all in one.
Located at the corner of Periwinkle and Tarpon Bay Road, George & Wendy’s Sanibel Seafood Grille has won Trip Advisor’s Award of Excellence and the Best of the Islands Awards for best bar, best entertainment, and best sports bar.
The vast menu of fresh seafood features everything from Ahi Tuna Nachos to classic fish and chips, with daily specials like barbecue rib Mondays or coconut shrimp Thursdays.
I loved the bacon-wrapped, deep-fried scallops with Asian honey-ginger sauce, served with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh veggies.
2163 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
The Island Cow is a family-owned and operated bar and grille in a colorful and friendly tropical beach house with a dog-friendly outdoor patio, live music, and outdoor family games.
Sandwiched between the Artisans Periwinkle market and Sanibel Community Park, The Island Cow has been a local and family favorite for fun, laid-back, and delicious tropical dining for over 15 years.
Opened for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Island Cow has something for every craving, from pulled pork sandwiches to red beans and rice to seafood quesadillas.
I recommend the Baja Burrito, loaded with pan-seared fresh gulf shrimp, chorizo, black beans, and rice, then smothered in a white queso sauce and green onion garnish. Plus, you get a free Corona with it!
634 N Yachtsman Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
Located right on the Sanibel Marina, overlooking the Sanibel lighthouse and the gorgeous Gulf Coast, Gramma Dot’s Restaurant Seaside Saloon is an American seafood grill and cocktail bar with epic views of the Sanibel Island’s sunsets and active boating scene.
Their expertly crafted cocktails and fresh seafood, salads, and sandwiches have won the Taste of The Island People’s Choice awards seven years running.
I loved their fried seafood appetizers, so I’d recommend a sampler platter to taste their crab meatballs, coconut shrimp, and fried oysters.
Their decadent sandwiches also feature perfectly breaded and fried seafood like the jumbo blue crab sandwich or the fried oyster sandwich.
2075 Periwinkle Way #14, Sanibel, FL 33957
Blue Giraffe Restaurant is an upscale American restaurant, specializing in Island-inspired seafood dishes.
Located across Periwinkle Way from the Sanibel Island Farmer’s Market, The Blue Giraffe has an artsy and inviting dining space with countless colorful prints and paintings of giraffes and a giant tree-covered wooden deck.
Opened for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Blue Giraffe offers an extensive menu of New American classics that run the gamut of regional flavors.
I went for lunch and had a delicious plate of fish tacos with blackened mahi-mahi, tropical slaw, mango salsa, and chipotle cream sauce over fresh flour tortillas served with Mexican rice and beans.
2761 W Gulf Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
Winner of TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, The Sandbar is a refined yet casual steakhouse, seafood restaurant, and wine bar in Sanibel Island’s hotel zone along Tarpon Bay Beach.
Its no-frills, straightforward offerings of fine steaks, seafood, sandwiches, and specialty entrees at affordable prices make it a favorite spot for tourists looking to escape the confines of their all-inclusive resorts.
The Sandbar has a robust wine list, featuring bottles from all areas of the globe. I enjoyed the fresh mussels in garlic butter and white wine to start.
For the main dish, I recommend the Shrimp Scampi, with locally caught gulf shrimp, garlic, white wine, and fresh herbs over linguine.
1244 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957
Cielo Restaurant is fine dining at its finest, offering stunning plates of New American cuisine from award-winning Executive Chef Melissa Akin whose storied career has been featured in Gulfshore Life Magazine and Bon Appetit.
Located along Periwinkle Way parallel to The Dunes Golf and Tennis Club, Cielo Restaurant is a cozy yet upscale space in which to enjoy an innovative multi-course meal and cocktail from a nationally acclaimed chef and mixologist duo.
All seafood is locally and sustainably sourced and has won the Best Seafood and Taste of the Taste Award for various years.
I recommend starting with the calamari fritti with sweet chili aioli, cashews, and mango coulis. I went for a turf specialty for the main course and ordered the Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast with confit duck leg, duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes, espresso-cherry demi, and pickled cherries.
The wonderful restaurants in Sanibel Island offer customers the freshest seafood prepared with a range of tropical and global flavors.
Beachside dining is also popular in Sanibel Island. If you’re planning on dining at a waterfront restaurant in the area, check out this list.
Whether you’re looking for an upscale multi-course meal or a casual patio beer and fried fish sandwich, you’ll find the best options on my list of bistros, bars, and eateries.