Sanibel Island is oriented in a largely east-west direction, the east end closest to the coast of Florida and the west end curving northwestward toward the sister island of Captiva.  In general, the island is most settled on its eastern side and becomes more open/ conservation land as you go west.

As you enter the island from the Sanibel Bridge you come into the East End; the very eastern tip of the island is to your left about a five minute drive.  In this area you will find the Lighthouse, its public beach and the Public Fishing Pier.  This part of the island is the most town-like with the largest concentration of residential houses and condos along numerous canals.  The Dunes Golf Course is located here.  There is a small shopping center that has the Lighthouse Cafe and an ice cream shop.   Some of the accommodations in the area include Tarpon Tale Inn, Sanibel Arms, Sanibel Arms West, Sanibel Moorings, Song of the Sea, Sanibel Inn, Tortuga Beach and Loggerhead Cay.

As you move west, you have two parallel road systems; Periwinkle Way which runs down the center of the island and Middle & West Gulf Drives along the gulf coast.

Periwinkle Way, a beautifully landscaped street is the main commercial road on Sanibel and has the majority of shopping areas and restaurants along or adjacent to its path.  Both supermarkets as well as the theaters are accessed here. Towards the west end are the city offices and the area of Old Sanibel.

The Middle Gulf Drive area has a bit less density than the east end and is the site of the Beachview Golf Course and Gulfside City Park.  This area is exclusively residential with private homes and condos. Here you will find (east to west) the Holiday Inn, Sanibel Siesta, Compass Point, Sundial, Sanddollar and Ocean's Reach.

Further west the Gulf Drive becomes West Gulf Drive.  At this point, the island becomes mostly undeveloped conservation land in it's center with development mostly along the coast or the main roads. It is a low density residential area with a number of condo complexes and a few hotel/inns along the coast.  Nearby is the Bailey Tract part of the Ding Darling Refuge and Tarpon Beach.  Here you will find (east to west) Casa Ybel, Sanibel Cottages, Pointe Santo, Tarpon Beach, Sea Shells, Waterside Inn, Breakers West, Sayana, Island Inn and the West Wind Inn.  Doc Fords is found on the western side of this area up towards Ding Darling (see below).

At this point, the Gulf Drive ends and all points west (West End) are accessed by the Sanibel-Captiva (SanCap) Road which begins about where Periwinkle ends.  This long road is mostly along undeveloped conservation land and is the site of Ding Darling, C.R.O.W., the Shell Museum, the public school and recreation center.  The road ends in "Santiva", a small development at the west point of Sanibel just at the bridge to Captiva. 

This mostly undeveloped area has The Sanctuary Golf Course, Bowman's Beach and Turner Beach.  Blind Pass Condominiums are found in this area.