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Sanibel Island's Hoppin' with Family-Friendly Dining Options



One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Fort Myers area is Sanibel Island. A relaxing family friendly island with lots of outdoor activities and sparkling beaches. Sanibel is also known for having outstanding dining.

If you have a large family or a restless one, dining at one of the many high-end establishments might not be ideal. Thankfully, the island has a plethora of restaurants that not only welcome, but also cater to the kids.

The Island Cow provides a comfortable atmosphere and has a menu that looks like a newspaper, full of almost any type of dish you can imagine and selections that will accommodate even the most hard to please member of your family.

At the Lazy Flamingo, kids meals come in flying disks, a perfect keepsake to use for entertainment on the beach later. And at the neighboring Bennett's Fresh Roast, a summer reading program rewards kids who pick up a book while they dine in.

While the Bubble Room is actually on Captiva. It is one of the area’s best known, themed restaurants with more memorabilia on the walls and in the shadow box tables than you could possible see in one visit.

Island casual is a common theme on Sanibel and at all of these 10Best family friendly restaurants. 


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Grandma Dot's Seaside Saloon
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


At a place called Grandma Dot's, you almost expect friendly service and delicious homemade food with that extra little touch of something special; you get it here. Owners call it a Seaside Saloon at the Sanibel Marina; locals call it scrumptious. The water, marina and impressive boats provide lots of scenery, making this restaurant a great setting for families, especially when waiting for a table. Open for lunch and dinner the menu includes light refreshing salads, peel and eat shrimp, mesquite grouper and lots of fresh seafood selections in a casual setting. Dot's is also very proud of their homemade chowder. A chocolate shell filled with fruit is the perfect way to wrap up a dinner here.




Traders set their standard high for great food, an appealing environment and professional service. The casual atmosphere coupled with gourmet food has made this a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Enjoy dining on everything from raw oysters to veal meatloaf in this large, industrial space that's not only filled with food, but also eclectic shopping. Coloring books and crayons are offered to keep the kids entertained. However, if you need to get up and walk around with them before your food arrives or if you are waiting for a table, you'll be happy to discover the excellent shop within; filled with artful goods from around the world, including jewelry, furnishings and other unique gifts.




There are three Doc Ford's in Southwest Florida, but Sanibel is home to the original. After more than 13 years in the same location, the restaurant moved to a beautiful new space in the fall of 2016. The restaurant's fame is not only found in the food, but also in the name. Doc Ford is a tropical crime fighting character in some 20 books written by author Randy Wayne White, a silent partner who can occasionally be found in the rum bar or entertaining fans with book signings. This upscale sports bar serves food with a Caribbean flare, the sauces are all made from scratch. Kids will love the fish fingers and adults, the award winning Yucatan Shrimp or plentiful paella. Be sure to save room for the Keylime Pie. The restaurant store is full of fun beach paraphernalia and a large selection of White's books.


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Sanibel Island
Blue Giraffe
Photo courtesy of Blue Giraffe

Located in the popular shopping destination of Periwinkle Place, Blue Giraffe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. Diners young and old love the colorful tables, hand painted by local artists. Kids especially, are taken in by the whimsical designs and the signature blue giraffes. The outdoor boardwalk is a great place to dine for fresh air or if your little one likes to run; the café inside is cute and cozy. Included in the menu is everything from sandwiches and gourmet burgers to pastas and grilled fish. The chowders are also quite popular with locals and tourists. And while a lot of seafood is served here, the landlubber options are numerous too.


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Sanibel Island
Lighthouse Café
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


The Lighthouse Café has been in business since the 60's, serving generations of families with fresh, feel good dishes. Photos of lighthouse from all over the world cover every inch of wall in this cozy den of a diner. It's not unusual to see the drinks of regulars arrive as soon as they are seated; the staff is known for treating customers like family. Breakfast is served all day, with the blueberry pancakes and French toast receiving national accolades. A proper lunch menu also includes the island's best grouper sandwich and other bistro-like dishes. Dinner is a seasonal, from the middle of December to the end of April and it is delicious. If you've got young ones, take advantage of the call ahead seating, it can literally save you hours.




The Lazy Flamingo has been a popular place for locals for more than two decades. This mostly seafood restaurant can also be found on Captiva, Pine Island and Fort Myers proper. Regardless of which location you visit, you'll find the same level of food and fun. The salads come in plastic, shell shaped bowls and the kid's meals are served in a 'flying disk' along with a collector's cup. There are lots of souvenirs for the adults to buy as well. Popular food includes the Flamingo Bread, anything grouper and the Pot: full of shellfish in a savory broth. The Dead Parrot Wings are not for the faint of heart, thankfully there is plenty of cold beer to wash them down with and a friendly game of ring toss to keep you entertained while you wait.


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First opening on Sanibel Island in the mid 80's, the popularity of this vintage burger joint has skyrocketed. Speakers at Cheeburger Cheeburger greet you with classic tunes from the 50's and 60's. It has an old fashioned, soda fountain vibe with bright colors and a feeling of fun. Families find it enjoyable to create their own burgers, shakes and dining combos. If you have someone in your party who always wants to 'hold' one ingredient or 'add' another, this is the perfect place to get exactly what you want without an attitude. If you're not a burger lover, the menu has large salads, made to order according to your wishes.


Bennett's Fresh Roast Sanibel
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch


Owned by a longtime, local radio personality C. David Bennett, islanders looking for a caffeine fix from these freshly roasted beans can't get enough. Bennett's donuts gained international attention on the Cooking Channel's Donut Showdown and they are addicting. You'll find other breakfast treats here along with homemade soups, sandwiches and salads for lunch. Bennett's loves the kids, both the two and four-legged kind. There is a small library of children's books and a summer reading program offering free donuts to young ones who read a book during their visit. On the dog friendly patio, man's best friend is given treats to make everyone in the family welcomed.


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Sanibel Island


With a slogan of "Udderly Great Food" how can you go wrong? When you drive up to "The Cow" as locals call it, it feels and looks like you're arriving at a friend's house for coffee, Starbucks; that's the brand they brew. The Cow is light and airy inside with lots of casual, outdoor seating as well. The menu looks like the morning paper and it reads delicious. It has everything from steak and eggs for breakfast to catfish Reubens for lunch and mama's meatloaf for dinner. There are a number of kid's selections as well and room outside for them to burn off a few calories. A great place to linger and fill your belly before hitting the beach.




If you're a kid at heart or have one yourself, the Bubble Room on Captiva Island shouldn't be missed. The 1940's Hollywood motif offers one of the area's most unique dining experiences. The menu carries out the theme with options like prime rib Weissmuller, Eddie Fisherman's grouper filet, and Henny Young-One boneless chicken breast. Kids are in awe of the amount of kitsch on the walls and in the shadow-box-style dining tables. Adding to the thousands of things to look at is a train that runs along the ceiling. An army of 'Bubble Scouts' provides great service and will taunt you with giant desserts that are to-die-for. If you didn't save room, grab one to go. This is not the most affordable family restaurant but you'll be more than satisfied with the big portions and big fun.


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Meet Gina Birch

Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for more than 20 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality. She also writes for a number...  More About Gina

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