In January of 2015, we joined friends and absconded from the frozen tundras of Boston (them) and Chicago (us) to sunshiney Florida for some much-needed Vitamin D and warmth. For families especially, Sanibel Island is a great middle of winter (or anytime) getaway in that:

  1. it isn’t too far to travel with little kids (in this case a 4-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a not quite 2-year-old); it is just a short plane ride for east coasters and midwesterners alike. And secondly,
  2. it is affordable, particularly in the off-season. Both our plane tickets (~$180/pp) and condo rental (~ $600/per family for 5 nights in a 2 bedroom condo with a 2 minute walk to the beach) provided us with reasonable rates, as long as we could be flexible with timing. I like good deals.

Considering that we had spent the past 45-60 days bundling our children and ourselves into seemingly endless layers of fleece, wool, and down, then squeezing little heads, hands and feet into mittens and hats and scarves, snow boots and earmuffs, the opportunity to bask in some sunshine and lounge on the warm sand in a swimsuit was completely alluring. Also, this view.

I mean, check out this sunrise.

Sanibel Island is a very kid-friendly destination. Located along the gulf coast, the waters are calm, the waves aren’t overwhelming for little people, and the seashell hunting is some of the best in the US.

We sunned, we tanned, we suntanned. We rented bicycles and rode around the entire island, which is accessible and straightforward. You can and should tour the Ding Darling Nature Refuge by bike; this refuge is comprised of nearly the entire island and excellent for bird watching, alligator spotting, and just appreciating the scenery all around.  Another great spot to bike to is the Sanibel Lighthouse. The lighthouse itself is fun to see, but additionally it is great for dolphin watching. We were able to spot some from the shoreline.

Having a kitchen meant we could easily eat meals at the house, and only go out when we wanted to- a key component to kid-friendly travel. Additionally, this gave us an excuse to head to one of my favorite vacation stops- the local farmers market. The Sanibel Island Farmers Market is open Sundays from 8:00 A.M. – 1:00 P.M., and sells local produce, honey, bread, seafood, meats, cheeses, and more. When we did decide to eat out, we tried a few local spots with good Tripadvisor reviews. The Island Cow served what are probably the biggest ice cream sundaes I’ve ever seen. My banana split was most definitely a gallon’s worth. I have photo evidence.

This is a serious sundae.

I mean, wow.

But truly, what we wanted to do most was beach, beach, and more beach. And that is what we did. We played in the sand, we searched for shells, we drank fruity drinks and exalted in the sunrises and the sunsets. We ran on the beach, did yoga on the beach, swam in the gulf. And for 5 glorious days it felt like it wasn’t the middle of winter at all, since, on Sanibel Island, it really wasn’t.