One of Florida’s most charming and popular barrier islands, Sanibel Island has a long history of drawing people to her shores to find spectacular seashells. Oriented east-west instead of north-south, the island is legendary for its bounty of shells. It is legendary, too, for Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1945 at the urging of nationally-renowned cartoonist J.N. “Ding” Darling to protect a large portion of the island from development.
Nearby: Cape Coral, Charlotte Harbor, Estero, Fort Myers, Pine Island
Trails and Parks on Sanibel and Captiva Islands
- Beach walk at Blind Pass- Where's the best place on Sanibel to look for sea shells? It all depends on recent currents and storm deposits. We found a bountiful shell bank at Blind Pass Beach, where Sanibel and Captiva meet.
- Ding Darling Bailey Tract- One of the lesser-known trails at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at the Bailey Tract, off Tarpon Bay Road. Loop around impoundments with great birding.
- Ding Darling Calusa Shell Mound Trail- A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk near the end of Wildlife Drive in Ding Darling NWR, the Calusa Shell Mound Trail provides a peek into the ancient history of Sanibel Island.
- Ding Darling Cross Dike Trail- Connecting Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail, the Cross Dike Trail at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is an easy paved walk between two impoundments.
- Ding Darling Indigo Trail- At Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island, the Indigo Trail is the easiest trail to access from the visitor center and the most popular, with up to 4 miles round-trip.
- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge- Preserving more than half of Sanibel Island for the sake of its bird life, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top places in the United States to view rare bird species.
- Ding Darling Red Mangrove Overlook- The shortest walk in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Red Mangrove Overlook provides a fine perspective for birding - and watching mangrove crabs up close.
- Ding Darling Wulfert Keys Trail- Does a crocodile smile? You might find out with a walk down the Wulfert Keys Trail, which follows a mangrove-lined canal at Ding Darling NWR to the edge of Hardworking Bay.