This post was written before Sanibel, Captiva, and parts of the surrounding area were absolutely blasted by Hurricane Ian in September 2022. While the intention is to rebuild, the causeway has been fixed, and the island is expected to begin opening to tourism in January 2023, things are not “back to normal” and likely won’t be for a long time. If you’re planning to visit the area, make sure to do plenty of research to find out what’s open, what’s available and what’s just not even there anymore.
Sanibel isn’t necessarily a shopping island, but it’s not, not a shopping island. Actually, of all the islands I’ve visited in Florida this year (and there were a lot), Sanibel has by far the best shopping options and I didn’t even go everywhere.
So what kind of shopping is there on Sanibel? Well, Sanibel is where the original Chico’s started (you know- the place your great aunt Cecil gets all her billowy clothes), and they have an Eileen Fisher flagship store that looks like it belongs on Rodeo Drive instead of a sleepy island in Florida. So there’s definitely that vibe. But there’s places that appeal to my “younger” taste as well.
This isn’t a directory for every shop on Sanibel, this is just a quick round up of places I went and liked. So if it seems like we could be shopping buddies, here’s where to start with shopping on Sanibel:
The holy grail of beachtown bookstores, this place is a maze of stacks featuring everything you could ever want to read. If you only have time to hit one shop on Sanibel, make it Gene’s. Actually, you’re going to need two stops because Gene’s has gotten so big that it’s actually two separate locations now.
Because this is my job, I do a little research (or a lot of research) before a trip. Figuring out where to stay, the best things to do, and don’t miss restaurants seems pretty obvious. But would you believe me if I told you that finding out whether there’s an indie bookstore nearby is usually at the top of the list? Well I was not surprised to find that an island as great as Sanibel had a bookstore, but I was still pretty impressed when I showed up.
I mentioned before that there are actually TWO Gene’s Bookstores. Because of Sanibel’s strict building regulations, they couldn’t add any more space to their original location so they opened a second location across the street.
Gene’s Books houses most of the fiction (American lit, British lit, world lit) with one of the most extensive mystery selections you’ll find anywhere in three separate “cottages,” while Gene’s II houses the non-fiction and history, sci-fi and fantasy, and kids and young adults. But really, no matter what you’re looking for, you need to go to both.
Gene’s has three separate cottages (the cute colorful ones) and Gene’s II is the location with the book balcony (that’s what I’ve been calling it-I guess it’s just a second floor, but it seems more dramatic) and baby grand piano.
Trust me, I go to a LOT of bookstores and this is a GEM. I mean…it was featured in Southern Living magazine earlier this year so that really tells you everything you need to know.
Here’s what will knock your socks off…because of the volume they sell and their years in business (connections), I would say the majority of books you’ll find here are cheaper than Amazon prices. It’s incredible. I’m used to indie bookstores sometimes costing 2X more, but this place is a bargain!!
So either go armed with a list, get caught up in wandering the stacks, or let their well curated sections inspire you.
RELATED: The Best Shelling Beaches on Sanibel
She Sells Sea Shells
This place is a Sanibel institution and my favorite kind of shop. I love searching for shells, and buying them at a store seems a little bit like cheating, except it’s not when it’s at a place like this.
This place is just pure old Florida. I love the outside of the building and the sign so much (and that junonia mailbox!!) and the treasures inside are endless. There are sections with shells that come right from Sanibel and I can’t help drooling over the junonia that are kept nice and secure in a locked case (if you find one of those babies, it could pay for your trip!).
The Village Shops
There are quite a few shopping centers on Sanibel, and most of them seem a little dated, but I think the Village Shops is a little gem. I was initially drawn in by MacIntosh Books (can’t resist a good bookstore!), but this little shopping center had quite a few great boutiques.
Coco y Cabana had some great brands like LoveShackFancy and Stoney Clover.
Why Knot is the place to go for cozy clothes. I’ll admit, the intended audience probably skews a little older, but they had some Free People so obviously they know what they’re doing. Plus, there’s a shop dog. Enough said.
Priscilla’s of Sanibel is a great boutique that only stocks women owned brands. I got a new Oliver Thomas tennis bag so that was pretty exciting.
There are endless beach stops on Sanibel, but my favorite is EmOcean. It’s next door to the Lighthouse Cafe so it’s a great spot to kill some time waiting for your table during the breakfast rush. They have EVERYTHING beach related. Sanibel logo wear, toys, beach gear, souvenirs, seriously…everything. And good quality stuff too. Sun Bum, Southern Tides, etc.
More posts about the area:
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