Cape Coral and Southwest Florida Feature Stories

Island Inn on Sanibel

Island Inn - Sanibel

For over 115 years, Gulf of Mexico breezes have been gently caressing visitors to the Island Inn on Sanibel.

Established in 1895 by Sanibel Pioneers, the Matthews Family, the Island Inn’s Gulf-front location is rooted firmly in the storied history of this celebrated barrier island...even as passing time continues to gift modern functionality and amenities towards the overall guest experience.



The Island Inn has aged slowly and gracefully. The clientele and number of buildings on the property expanded as Sanibel grew its premier and unspoiled vacation destination reputation. In the 1950’s, after generations of passing Island Inn management through the family, the Matthews eventually decided to transfer ownership to the shareholders through a sale structured to preserve the historic uniqueness of the Inn. These shareholders were longtime guests and local friends of the Matthews family, and they held the reigns tightly, upholding the vision and reverence originally responsible for the enduring culture of this cherished landmark.

For fifty years, the Island Inn functioned almost like a private club, generally catering to the shareholders and their immediate circles. It wasn’t until the early years of the new millennium when the multi-generational visitor base noticeably dwindled, necessitating a change in course for the now-historic property. Evolving vacation practices and the burgeoning competition for Sanibel tourism dollars found the Sanibel Inn finally opening the doors to its exclusive paradise for all to enjoy.

The need for additional sophistication became apparent as the Island Inn found itself missing a visible online marketing footprint, years into the Internet era. A new perspective, with fresh marketing and management acumen was brought on board in 2010, in the form of Chris Davison, current Vice President of Operations at the Island Inn. Chris worked with the existing team to breathe new life and style into the aging Inn, restoring it to its rightful place among the top tier of Sanibel lodging options. The blending of contemporary business strategies with the Inn’s unmistakable assets has proven a match made in heaven...on earth...Sanibel, that is.

Now, this authentic, Old Florida hostelry continues to preserve all the charm and warm southern hospitality of a bygone era, in a relaxed and family-friendly island atmosphere enhanced with all the modern conveniences savvy travelers have grown to appreciate.

The Island Inn’s amazingly spacious ten acre property houses a modest 49 lodging options split across multiple hotel lodges and cottages. There is a Gulf-front pool. There is even a full service, fine dining restaurant on site - and within sight of the water. Traditions on the Beach is run by well known Sanibel restaurateur, Andrea Mucciga -- the previous owner of Island favorites Dolce Vita, Riviera and Bellini’s.

The accommodations, themselves, are bright and comfortable...soothing and tranquil Island getaways with flat screen TV’s, DVD players and free WiFi access...all surrounded by tropical landscaping, salt air and the somnolent sound of ceaseless surf.

Sanibel’s shell-strewn shorelines are the stuff of legend. Beachcombers and birdwatchers are aways astonished by the natural splendor and teeming vitality of the Island’s pristine beaches.

There’s nowhere else on Earth where witnessing the slow, repeating cycle of passing time can command your full attention the way it does at Island Inn on Sanibel. A sunset is always followed by the soft glow of lights, delectable food and live entertainment at Tradition’s restaurant...and unbroken sleep always delivers another glorious dawn.

Pre-sunrise strolls across the night-cooled sand unveil a sublime and peaceful facet of the Sanibel experience, one unknown to the slumbering multitudes. The crisp morning air invigorates and revitalizes those disciplined enough to rise and meet it. The first footprints in the sand. The first glimmer of dazzling sun breaking the horizon. The first realization of how fleeting those magic light moments are before they morph into the communal consciousness of mid-morning.

Yesterday’s weathered sandcastles serve as temporary landmarks to the morning joggers and shellers...they catch the rising sun dramatically, offering the only tangible clues that people visited this beach before, as they will visit it again today.

Before long, shorebirds are feeding at the tide line, the sun rises higher, a perfect beach day becomes an unhurried blur and the sun begins its steady descent towards the water in the west.

The successful completion of another day smears blended watercolors across the wide skies and long shadows along the sand. Mindful couples assemble on the beaches, marking the passage of time and the turn of our planet away from its solitary star.

As the golden mass melts into the Gulf of Mexico, beginning the end of another daily cycle, an epiphany is born...I’ve just been one tiny piece of a centuries old tradition at the Island Inn on Sanibel...and I can’t wait to do it again.

Island Inn -

-- photography, video and writing by Eric Taubert

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