Guidebook 6,400 acres of abundant wildlife

Fort Myers and Sanibel

6,400 acres of abundant wildlife

The rangers insist it’s a “refuge” not a park, says Maryellen Kennedy Ducket at National Geographic. That means the primary mission of the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, located on touristy Sanibel Island, is to “protect the abundant wildlife within its 6,400 acres,” not to cater to visitors. But, she writes, “there’s plenty for humans to see and do, such as watching and reporting on the 245 species of birds that come through the pristine mangrove estuary each year.” Or “see American alligators year-round, as well as the dolphins and Florida manatees that can be observed during the summer months.” Heading out on one of the refuge’s “serene, mangrove-lined kayaking trails” is a peaceful way to pass an afternoon, says Kristin Arneson at Travel and Leisure, “but for those who are tight on time or traveling with small children, it's also possible to drive through four miles of the refuge, as well as hike and bike it.”

It’s a “bird lover’s dream,” notes Bill Hilts Jr in The Buffalo News -- “the spot I saw my first Roseate spoonbill and wood stork many years ago.” And go early, he advises, “when they open at 7 a.m.” Named after famous Des Moines Register cartoonist and conservationist J. N. "Ding" Darling, it’s home to many endangered and threatened species who “find solace in the refuge as well,” explains 10 Best, so “while you have wide access, it's important to remember that this is their turf.”

Fort Myers and Sanibel
  • Guidebook