cape coral to sanibel island by boat

Cape Coral to Sanibel Island: Navigating by Boat

Written by Boatsetter Team
February 3, 2022

Located on the north side of the Caloosahatchee River, Cape Coral, FL is the sister city to Fort Myers. The southern stretch of the river runs past Cape Coral into Lake Okeechobee and the Atlantic Ocean. On the western boundary of Cape Coral is the Matlacha Pass and its wildlife preserve. This waterway runs between the mainland and Pine Island, which is very shallow and home to many marine life species.

When traveling from Cape Coral to Sanibel Island by boat, your initial starting location will determine your total travel time. Likewise, there are two routes to choose from, one following the Pine Island Pass, or one through the Gulf of Mexico.

Whether you want to fish, swim, walk the beach in search of shells, or gather sand dollars and starfish, the best way to see Sanibel Island is by water.

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How far is Cape Coral from Sanibel Island by boat?

The total distance and travel time between Sanibel Island and Cape Coral depends on your starting point. On average, it could take boaters about 20-30 minutes to go between Cape Coral and Sanibel Island by boat. Downtown Cape Coral to Sanibel Island, for example, is about 14 miles, depending on your route; however, boaters must cross the ‘miserable mile‘ in the middle of that route. 

how far is cape coral from sanibel island

This area of the Caloosahatchee is where manatees make their homes in the shallow, grassy, warm waters. They are a hazard to boaters, and boaters are a hazard to them, so the speed limit in these areas is SLOW and strictly enforced. This area also tends to be a busy stretch of waterway. The Caloosahatchee River, via locks, will take you to Lake Okeechobee and out the other side to the Atlantic. 

Much of the traffic is caused by the large number of boats coming and going through this pass between ocean and river, which adds to the congestion that occurs along the ‘miserable mile.’ Once you are clear of the river, the trip is about five miles if you are passing under the causeway to the Sanibel Lighthouse, which is on the southern end of the island.

Can You Dock a Boat on Sanibel Island?

Sanibel Marina is a popular place in the area to dock your boat. The Marina offers bathrooms, showers, a public beach, and famous Grandma Dots restaurant.

If you are on the Captiva end of Sanibel Island, there is dockage available at the Tween Waters Inn, where they have 41 boat slips and dining. The Tween Waters Resort & Spa was established in 1931 offers fine dining, beach access, and many other family-friendly activities. 

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Can You Beach Your Boat on Sanibel Island?

Boats cannot be beached anywhere on the Gulf side of Sanibel Island. Therefore, if you are anchoring at one of the island’s beaches, you need to be at least 200 feet from shore. If the beach is designated as a swimming beach, the distance becomes 500 feet.

can you beach your boat on sanibel island

A few locations on the Pine Island side of Sanibel Island are suitable for beaching a boat; however, much of the land there is a part of wildlife refuge or considered private property. The water is also very shallow, so if you do beach your boat be sure to keep an eye on the tide (or you may be sitting for a while before the tide turns and floats you out again).

Remember to Stay in the Channels & Obey the Speed Limits.

The Caloosahatchee River is the winter home to manatees and other marine animals above and below the water. It is also home to many people who call this area of Florida their winter home. Obeying posted speed limits and no wake zones, staying in the channels, and safely operating your boat will get you out on the water and back again, safely.

Although smaller boats are often seen out beyond Pine Island, if you spend your day working your way from beach to the beach, a 20 to 30-foot boat would be more ideal for these conditions. On the other hand, if you plan to spend your time on the backside of Sanibel Island, a smaller boat would work well for the shallow waters of Pine Island Bay.

Plan Your Trip to Sanibel Island Today

Ready to explore Sanibel Island by boat? With Boatsetter, you can rent pontoons, sailboats, fishing boats, catamarans, and many other types of boats in the Cape Coral area

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