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JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

HomeActivities & AttractionsThings To DoJN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Make your next escape to the year-round sun and warmth with a visit to Florida. Many people flock to the beaches and waters of the Gulf for water and nature experiences like no other. Take in a little education and environmentalism with your water experience when you visit JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is open 9 a.m. -4 p.m. daily at 1 Wildlife Drive in Sanibel. The refuge is closed on all federal holidays. The refuge can also be reached by calling 239-472-1100. Make sure to bring your camera!

Visitor & Education Center

The JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge center is open during refuge hours and is free to everyone. The completely accessible center features a myriad of education displays, videos, and interactive programs. There are also tide charts available in the center, so you can plan your trip during low tide –the best time to visit for a full experience.

Wildlife Drive

The four-mile, one-way road is a slow cruise at 15 miles per hour. That’s because it’s used by pedestrians and bicyclists as well as cars. Pull over to the right of the road and get out to wander trails, overlooks, or get a better view from the observation tower. Leave the driving to someone else when you sign up with Tarpon Bay Explorers for a 90-minute guided tram tour. The drive is open every day (including holidays) but Fridays, dawn to dusk. Official times are available on the hours of operation page on their website.


There are multiple trails to explore when you wander away from Wildlife Drive. Indigo Trail –including the Wildlife and Education Boardwalk, Wulfert Keys Trail, and Calusa Shell Mound Trail are all accessible from Wildlife Drive. Spot alligators, night-herons, white ibis, manatee, nesting birds, and more depending on the trail you choose. Bailey Tract is located off Tarpon Bay Road is a 100-acre parcel that is an interior wetland where freshwater plants and wildlife are the stars.

Water Activities

Non-motorized boating as well as fishing is allowed on refuge grounds in designated areas throughout the property. The visitor center has a brochure with details of restricted areas.

Birding at the Sanibel Wildlife Refuge

The Sanibel Wildlife Refuge is part of the country’s largest mangrove ecosystem. That makes it a perfect place for birds to feed, nest, and roost, meaning over 245 species of birds visit the grounds.

Take Refuge in Cape Coral

From a cozy studio for a small family, to a spacious four-bedroom for a larger group, Cape Coral 4 Vacations has a vacation rental that’s perfect for you on your next Florida adventure. Step in and feel the stresses and worries of home melt away, knowing all your needs will be met. Enjoy preparing a meal in the fully equipped kitchen. Stretch out with some popcorn and your favorite show or movie. There are multiple private spaces like patios, balconies, and even your own bedroom. Choose our Cape Coral seasonal rentals with flat screen TVs, stainless steel appliances, a wet bar, plush furnishings, and more.

Contact us today to start planning a Cape Coral adventure to remember for years to come!