Sarasota & Sanibel: Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast & Islands

Explore Sarasota and Sanibel Island on foot and by boat as you discover nature trails, wildlife refuges, a historic lighthouse and a private island club made famous in the roaring ‘20s.
Rating (5)
Program No. 23571RJ
8 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Sarasota and Sanibel Island are home to human and natural history unlike anyplace else in the United States. Join our local experts and naturalists to learn about a side of the Florida Gulf coast and islands that outsiders seldom get to experience. From estuary ecosystems where herons, egrets, dolphins and manatees are king to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a birder’s paradise, follow nature trails that wind along the shoreline through several Florida ecosystems. Explore some of Florida’s early history, as you trace the De Soto expedition of 1539. Join a U.S. Coast Guard certified boat captain and a biologist to experience Sarasota and its wildlife from the water. And explore the private island club where the wealthy and influential once summered, from Rockefeller to Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Visit the 1890 Port Boca Grande Lighthouse on Gasparilla Island, and spend a day on Useppa Island, the former private get-away for industry giants and visionaries like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
  • On Sanibel Island, go shelling with an expert conchologist who will help you identify conchs, cockles, scallops and whelks.
  • Explore Emerson Point, home to the largest temple mound in the Tampa Bay area, to learn about the Safety Harbor culture who lived here 1,000 years ago.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Gift from the Sea
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
While on vacation on Florida's Captiva Island in the early 1950s, Lindbergh wrote this essay-style work taking shells on the beach for inspiration, and reflecting on the lives of Americans, particularly American women, in the mid-twentieth century. She shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment during her visit. Over a quarter of a century after its first publication, the great and simple wisdom in this book continues to influence women's lives.
Historic Sanibel and Captiva Islands: Tales of Paradise
by Jeri Magg
The story of Sanibel and Captiva Islands stretches back over three hundred years, to a time when natives roamed the islands and Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first met and tried to subdue the Calusa Indians in San Carlos Bay in 1513. The next few centuries were flooded with pioneers, fishermen and clergymen in their quest to tame the wilderness in search of a better life. Discover how anthropologist Frank Cushing visited pioneer Sam Ellis in 1895 after the farmer discovered bones on his homestead and how President Theodore Roosevelt's men saved a little girl from drowning when he lived on a houseboat in Captiva to study local marine life. Join local history columnist Jeri Magg as she recounts the storied history of these little slices of paradise.
Florida's Seashells- A Beachcombers Guide
by Blair and Dawn Witherengton
A guide to Florida seashells, including species common to the south eastern United States and the Caribbean. 252 species of seashells, with a color photo of each, as beachcombers are most likely to find them.
Images of America Sanibel Island
by Yvonne Hill, Marguerite Jordan
In collaboration with the Lee County Black History Society. The pioneers were a contrasting group of individuals, comprised of diverse ethnic origins and cultures, yet all seemed to share a common goal of using hard work, resourcefulness, and determination to make the island their home. Their efforts and sacrifices greatly contributed to the growth and rich history of Sanibel as we know it today

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