Rainbow umbrellas dotted the sky like blooming flowers along the water’s edge, and babies happily crawled underneath with fistfuls of sand in hand. Each clan had their own space to spread out, whether they choose to eat a picnic lunch on the beach or splash in the gentle, warm surf of Sanibel Island.
Calm, tranquil beaches are sometimes hard to find in Florida. This can worry parents who are traveling with baby to this beautiful, sunny state. However, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, there are two small islands right by Fort Myers that welcome young families on a Floridian getaway—Sanibel and Captiva.
Make friends with the local wildlife
Animals in Sanibel are easy to spot and will make babies squeal in delight. Keep an eye out for white herons swooping and listen for the caw of other exotic birds. Gopher tortoises live in the bush near many vacation rentals, which are slow moving and can be seen by babies as they ramble by. If your baby is OK on the water, consider a mild boat ride with Captiva Cruises—this adventure is an easy afternoon jaunt to nearby Cabbage Key through the bay, with a very gentle ride and the chance to see wild dolphins leap alongside the vessel!
Take a drive to Captiva
There is only one road to take down to Captiva, Sanibel’s sandy neighbor that boasts an even more tranquil island feel and plenty of secluded beaches. Grab a rental in Fort Myers and take this lazy, scenic drive down to Captiva, passing by colorful vacation homes, flying pelicans and little boutique shops to poke around in. Lull your baby to sleep for nap-time during this drive and spend some time soaking up the sun and breeze with the windows down.
Have a baby-friendly meal in Florida
It can be daunting when in a new place and trying to choose a restaurant that will be least offended by a cranky baby. Sanibel is ideally suited for all families and situations, due to its laid-back atmosphere and friendly demeanor. Don’t worry about sandy feet or a giggling little one—restaurants on the island and well equipped to handle small appetites for families who are traveling with baby.
Grab pizza for the rest of the family at The Island Pizza Company and bring the baby too to gawk at the bright decorations and fun atmosphere for kids and adults. This is a take-out joint as well, so you have the option to bring a steaming pie back to your hotel or beach cottage.
Over on Captiva, the Bubble Room is a must for families with children who want to dine with their baby and keep everyone else entertained. It’s famous for its wild, beachy décor and eclectic menu—not to mention, the exterior is bright pink and easy to spot along the main road.
If you try Doc Ford’s early, many families with babies are abound and taking advantage of the rowdy crowd that easily drowns out any fussy child. Staff are used to babies and are happy to take care of large parties as well. With plenty of high chairs and massive, round tables to fit everyone, it is a great family-friendly spot. Mom and dad should sample a little of the rum menu as well, featuring many different varieties to wet your whistle.
Best times to enjoy Sanibel and Captiva are in the summer—it really isn’t too hot like you might expect, but instead pleasantly warm with intermittent showers to keep families cool. The crowds are sparse as well, making for a wonderfully relaxing environment and perhaps the perfect first vacation with everyone together and your new baby.
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Eileen, the images in this article are beautiful.
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