We take a trip through the refuge on every visit to the area and are always rewarded with beautiful, tranquil scenery. Go canoeing through the mangroves on a marked trail and bring you fishing gear/camera.
We'd passed this refuge a few times... on our way to Captiva or something. It's something to drive through if you haven't yet seen many alligators. We'd just been to the Everglades (Speedy Johnsons airboat rides) and had seen sooo many wild gators that there really wasn't much in that area that could impress us. The birds are beautiful and exotic, but we see these in our own yard regularly. BUT if you're new to the southern wildlife, it's a fun, natural and pretty, 5 mile drive... definitely do it if you've got time to spare. Maybe not if you've got limited time.
Website: j.n. "ding" darling
Center of Education - exhibits, orientation video, book sales, information desk. Open 9 am to 5 pm daily from November through April; May through October hours are from 9 am to 4 pm every day.
Wildlife Drive - five miles; one-way drive with interpretive signs. observation tower and pavilion. Open to pedestrians and bicyclists sunrise to sunset every day except Friday. The front gate opens to vehicles 1 hour after sunrise and closes 1/2 hour before sunset. $5.00 entrance fee, closed Fridays .
A few facts:
1. In the early 1940's, when "Ding" Darling learned that the State of Florida was nearing agreement to sell 2,200 acres of Sanibel's mangrove wetlands to developers for $0.50/acre, Darling arranged for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to lease the threatened land to form the Sanibel Island National Wildlife Refuge
2. Named one of the top 10 ten birding spots in this nation.
3. Nearly 1 million visitors annually
4. Encompasses over 5,200 acres
Take the drive or bike through the five mile long senic drive. There's many pull-over areas to photograph or fish but no swimming...unless of course you're not afraid of large unpredictable reptiles.