If you’re a wildlife lover, or appreciate unique and scenic environments, it’s well worth it to pay a visit to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. This wildlife refuge is named for conservationist who blocked development of the land back in the 1940s, when an executive order created the refuge, which includes thousands of acres of mangrove forests and wetlands that over 245 species of birds call home. Today, it’s a thriving feature of the island, and includes many ways for visitors to engage with nature and the protected land. If you’re ready for a visit to this local gem, read on below!
Stop by the Visitor and Education Center
This is a smart place to start, as you can speak with local employees and get a lay of the land. There’s also a gift shop that sells resources such as field guides and wildlife watching books, along with souvenirs like t-shirts, books, postcards, and other items to commemorate your visit. The center hours are 9 AM to 4 PM, closed on Sundays and federal holidays. You’ll find it located on Sanibel-Captiva Road just west of Tarpon Bay Road.
Discover Wildlife Drive
Wildlife Drive is a 4-mile road that goes through the refuge, and you’re welcome to either drive, hike, or bike it, which allows for a world of opportunity. You can access other hiking trails from the road, and see a variety of waterbirds, raccoons, alligators, and even more! It costs a slight fee to get onto the road, which helps with the conservation of the refuge. You can also purchase a tram ride with a guided 90-minute tour of the Wildlife Drive from a naturalist.
Kayak or Canoe the Refuge
This is another rewarding way to explore the refuge, and guests will find there are two kayak and canoe launch sites you can access from Wildlife Drive. Guided tours are available from Tarpon Bay Explorers. There are also tours offered by boat, where you can explore Tarpon Bay, and round off your visit with a stop at the aquarium and touch-tanks.
Endless Activities when You Visit the Refuge
From local fishing in natural waters to bird watching that can be logged by visitors in a birdwatching app, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge has many things to do in Sanibel that can be enjoyed by visitors of all interests and ages. If you’re ready to start planning your trip to the area, give our expert reservation team a call today!