Sanibel's Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge


Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals | Sanibel Shelling | Sanibel Day Cruises | Sanibel Restaurants | Sanibel Sunsets & Sunrises

Sanibel Overview | Sanibel Public Beaches | Getting Married on Sanibel | Birding on Sanibel | Fishing on Sanibel

Visiting Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
 

Ding Darling is one of Florida's most famous wildlife refuges. I drove by it many times while doing beach research for my book about southwest Florida beaches. I finally got to see the refuge during our Sanibel honeymoon.

We chose to enjoy the refuge on our bikes and by kayak. After touring the Wildlife Drive and the Cross Dike Trail on bike, we stopped in the Education center and watched a movie about the refuge, browsed the exhibits, and purchased a book from their excellent book store.

We came back another day and rented a tandem kayak from Tarpon Bay Explorers, which is the vendor that operates in the refuge. Since it was so hot, we kayaked on Commodore Trail which is a mostly shaded mangrove tunnel. We fought a rather significant tidal current on the first half of the trip, but on the way back we only had to steer. The current carried us back.

The refuge is 6,400 acres and with 230 species of birds is one of the top ten birding destinations in the world (mostly during the winter months). But no matter what time of year you visit, the wildlife is so abundant that you hardly have to even look for it.

Even though we didn't, I recommend that you take the guided tram tour. You'll learn a lot about the wildlife on the reserve. We overheard one of the guides talking to a visitor and learned a lot. The guides really have an intimate knowledge of the refuge's birds and wildlife.

The Education Center is free to enter and has a shaded parking area. To drive on the wildlife drive you have to pay a small fee. It's worth it to help support such a wonderful preserve right on the coast.

Ding Darling Refuge Wildlife Drive

Wildlife Drive takes you on a scenic tour through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is closed to the public on Fridays, to give the wildlife a break from constant onlookers.

 

The refuge offers many scenes like this. Low tide is a banquet for wading birds, shore birds and floating birds.

Riding bikes through Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island.

All along Wildlife Drive people stop to watch the birds.

Tidal flats surrounded by thick mangroves are prime birding spots, especially in the early morning. There are lots of birds in this photo, but they are too distant to see.

Here I am on the Indigo Trail, about 2 miles from the Education Center. We had a great ride.

The Education Center at Ding Darling Refuge is well worth exploring, and the book store is awesome.

We rented a kayak here from Tarpon Bay Explorers. It was a Perception Acadia and can be used either as a single or as a tandem. We found it to be an excellent boat overall. We used it as a tandem and I found that I had to take extra care to synchronize our paddling strokes so my paddle wouldn't hit my wife's paddle. The boats are just a bit small to be tandems, but it wasn't a problem for the limited distances we were traveling.

Commodore Creek is well marked and is an easy paddle. If the tide is moving you will be going against the current for half the trip. This will be challenging for first time paddlers who have difficulty steering. We could have stayed out in the more open waters of Tarpon Bay, but the sun was mercilessly hot and we're good at handling a kayak, so we went for the very shady Commodore Creek trail. It took us about an hour going out (against the current), and about 20 minutes coming back with the current.

Kayaking on Commodore Creek off Tarpon Bay, Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL

Tall mangroves shade the waters of Commodore Creek in Ding Darling Refuge.

Kayaking on Sanibel Island

While paddling on the creek we saw many herons and ibises in the mangroves and four Pileated Woodpeckers.

Copyright: David McRee, BeachHunter.net

Honeymoon Island | Caladesi Island | Clearwater Beach | Sand Key Beaches | Indian Rocks BeachRedington Beaches | Madeira Beach
 Treasure Island | St. Pete Beach | Ft. Desoto Park | Egmont Key | Anna Maria | Longboat Key | Lido Key | Siesta Key | Casey Key
  Venice | Manasota Key | Palm Island | Boca Grande | Cayo Costa | Sanibel / Captiva | Ft. Myers Beach | Bonita Beach Vanderbilt Beach
Naples | Marco Island | Pine IslandSunsets | Atlantic Beaches | Panhandle Beaches


Sanibel Island Vacation Rentals | Sanibel Shelling | Sanibel Day Cruises | Sanibel Restaurants | Sanibel Sunsets & Sunrises

Sanibel Overview | Sanibel Public Beaches | Getting Married on Sanibel | Birding on Sanibel | Fishing on Sanibel

Visiting Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
 

Visiting Sanibel Island's Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Ding Darling is one of Florida's most famous wildlife refuges. I drove by it many times while doing beach research for my book about southwest Florida beaches. I finally got to see the refuge during our Sanibel honeymoon.

We chose to enjoy the refuge on our bikes and by kayak. After touring the Wildlife Drive and the Cross Dike Trail on bike, we stopped in the Education center and watched a movie about the refuge, browsed the exhibits, and purchased a book from their excellent book store.

We came back another day and rented a tandem kayak from Tarpon Bay Explorers, which is the vendor that operates in the refuge. Since it was so hot, we kayaked on Commodore Trail which is a mostly shaded mangrove tunnel. We fought a rather significant tidal current on the first half of the trip, but on the way back we only had to steer. The current carried us back.

The refuge is 6,400 acres and with 230 species of birds is one of the top ten birding destinations in the world (mostly during the winter months). But no matter what time of year you visit, the wildlife is so abundant that you hardly have to even look for it.

Even though we didn't, I recommend that you take the guided tram tour. You'll learn a lot about the wildlife on the reserve. We overheard one of the guides talking to a visitor and learned a lot. The guides really have an intimate knowledge of the refuge's birds and wildlife.

The Education Center is free to enter and has a shaded parking area. To drive on the wildlife drive you have to pay a small fee. It's worth it to help support such a wonderful preserve right on the coast.

Ding Darling Refuge Wildlife Drive

Wildlife Drive takes you on a scenic tour through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is closed to the public on Fridays, to give the wildlife a break from constant onlookers.

Bicycles are a great way to see the Ding Darling refuge.

The refuge offers many scenes like this. Low tide is a banquet for wading birds, shore birds and floating birds.

Riding bikes through Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island.

All along Wildlife Drive people stop to watch the birds.

Tidal flats surrounded by thick mangroves are prime birding spots, especially in the early morning. There are lots of birds in this photo, but they are too distant to see.

Here I am on the Indigo Trail, about 2 miles from the Education Center. We had a great ride.

The Education Center at Ding Darling Refuge is well worth exploring, and the book store is awesome.

We rented a kayak here from Tarpon Bay Explorers. It was a Perception Acadia and can be used either as a single or as a tandem. We found it to be an excellent boat overall. We used it as a tandem and I found that I had to take extra care to synchronize our paddling strokes so my paddle wouldn't hit my wife's paddle. The boats are just a bit small to be tandems, but it wasn't a problem for the limited distances we were traveling.

Commodore Creek is well marked and is an easy paddle. If the tide is moving you will be going against the current for half the trip. This will be challenging for first time paddlers who have difficulty steering. We could have stayed out in the more open waters of Tarpon Bay, but the sun was mercilessly hot and we're good at handling a kayak, so we went for the very shady Commodore Creek trail. It took us about an hour going out (against the current), and about 20 minutes coming back with the current.

Kayaking on Commodore Creek off Tarpon Bay, Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island, FL

Tall mangroves shade the waters of Commodore Creek in Ding Darling Refuge.

Kayaking on Sanibel Island

While paddling on the creek we saw many herons and ibises in the mangroves and four Pileated Woodpeckers.

 

 
FLORIDA BEACHES BOOK

To find out all the important details about all the beaches on the lower Gulf Coast of Florida, consider purchasing my book: Florida Beaches - Finding Your Paradise on the Lower Gulf Coast. It covers all the beaches from Dunedin to Marco Island, more than 96 named beaches. It has 176 pages, 25 maps, and 48 black and white photographs. If you are going to be on Sanibel, you can buy a copy of this book at MacIntosh Books on the Island. Stop by and browse, you'll love it!


It's FREE for download now!

How to Be Safe From Sharks, Jellyfish, Stingrays, Rip Currents and other Scary Things on Florida Beaches and Coastal Waters. My new ebook tells you what you need to know to have a safe and fun stay on the Florida Islands and Beaches. Click the blue book cover at left to find out more information about what's in the book and to download to your computer. If you are a first-time visitor to the Florida Beaches, this book is a MUST! 70 pages with color photos and illustrations. Where else will you get this information?

 

Back to Index of Beaches