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Reported: Jan. 2011

Top 10...  Sanibel Island Bike Trails

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Sanibel Island features 22 miles of paved trails, including the Rabbit Road Trail, Dixie Beach Road, Middle Gulf Cemetery Route, and Bailey Road-Dunes Circle. Cyclists also can ride Wildlife Drive, a 4.3-mile limestone road through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Stop at the Sanibel Visitors Center and pick up a biking brochure. Trails lead to the lighthouse, beaches, restaurants, and shopping. A bike trail runs along Periwinkle Way, the main road, making restaurants and shops easily accessible by bike. There are many bicycle racks to make parking easy. (Detailed map and photos below.)

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End Points: Sanibel’s network of trails covers the entire island
Mileage: About 22 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 6' - 8'
Location: Lee County (See detailed map, left)
Nearby Points of Interest: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Captiva Island, Ft. Myers, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter home sites

THE BEST TRAIL SECTIONS TO RIDE... and additional comments by MUDFISH

Over 22 miles of paved bike trails crisscross Sanibel Island. The "best sections" really depend on what other recreational activities are of interest to you. Here are some tips.

Sanibel Tip #1 - Parking a car on Sanibel Island can be problematic. Public parking is $2 per hour and on a busy weekend, a parking spot can be almost impossible to find. But with a bicycle, it's no problem! You can park for free along the causeway, or 0.3 miles from the end of the causeway at the Visitor's Center (free bike trail maps). This also places you conveniently near the center of the island.

Sanibel Tip #2 - The beach access at the end of Tarpon Bay Road is the only one with both restrooms, and inside showers(!), open 7AM to 6PM.  From the causeway, turn right (west) on Periwinkle Way, go straight until this trail ends and turn left (south) on Tarpon Bay. The beach access is at the end, 0.7 miles from Periwinkle. Alternatively from Periwinkle, you can turn left on Casa Ybel (before Tarpon Bay), which runs south, then west and intersects with W. Gulf Dr. Then turn right, ride to the intersection of Tarpon Bay and you're at the beach access. Check your trail map - there a short loop off Casa Ybel which takes you past an historic cemetery.

Sanibel Tip #3 - Bird lovers will want to ride J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge (Wildlife Dr. pictured below). The first 2 miles are the most scenic and there is usually an enthusiastic, uniformed volunteer by the impoundment to help you identify bird species and answer questions.  The ride here is on a rough, bumpy limestone road, so you may want to take the relatively smooth, hard-packed Indigo Trail (2 mi on left) back to the entrance. (At this point, you've seen the best part of the drive.) The Refuge is closed on Fridays.

Sanibel Tip #4 - Sanibel is famous for shelling. Some of the best shelling is along Bowman's Beach, the island's most remote. It's about a 0.25 mile walk from the parking lot across a wooden bridge to the beach (outside shower). To reach Bowman's beach, ride west aside Sanibel-Captiva Road (locally referred to as "San-Cap"). At mile marker 4.8 (markers on the road), cross San-Cap and take Bowman's Beach Road south for .1 mile to the parking lot. Once at the beach, turn right (west) and you have about 2 miles of pristine shoreline, separated from the main Island by a narrow freshwater bay. Note: The beach parking lot is near the far west end of the Island, about 8.4 miles from the Visitor's Center. There is usually plenty of parking here later in the afternoon, so you may want to move your car here later, because this is a great place to watch the sunset. To learn about the shells you can find here, check out the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum (along San-Cap Rd., closes at 5pm).

BOBCAT'S PHOTO GALLERY along the Sanibel Island Bike Trails
(tap or hover over photo for a  larger view)

Periwinkle Way and Sanibel-Capitiva Rd.
A trail spur leads from the causeway to Periwinkle. Between here and Ding Darling (west) is next to the road. Like most trails, no shade, so bring water! Lighthouse is at the east end.
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The causeway (toll) Sanibel Lighthouse
Middle Gulf Dr. / Casa Ybel Rd. / West Gulf Dr.
Trails on Sanibel mostly follow roadways. This ride has several beach access points.
Off Middle Gulf Dr. to Casa Ybel, there's a natural area and spur passing the old cemetery.
Sanibel Bike TrailSanibel Bike Trail Sanibel Bike Trail along roadSanibel Bike Trail along road Strolling SanibelStrolling Sanibel Sanibel Island bike trailsSanibel Island bike trails
Biking Sanibel IslandBiking Sanibel Island Biking Sanibel IslandBiking Sanibel Island Biking Sanibel IslandBiking Sanibel Island Biking Sanibel IslandBiking Sanibel Island
The historical
Captiva has bike lanes,
but no off-road trails.
Ride to the beach
Rabbit Road Trail
Short but scenic .8 mile trail between W. Gulf Dr. and Sanibel-Captiva Rd.,
about .4 miles east of Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.
Rabbit Road Bike TrailRabbit Road Bike Trail Bridge, Rabbit RoadBridge, Rabbit Road Biking Rabbit RoadBridge, Rabbit Road Sanibel alligatorSanibel alligator
Gator in the pond
J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge
Wildlife Drive is 4.3 miles one-way on bumpy pavement, but after a curved 2 miles, bikes can take the smoother, hard-packed Indigo Trail back to the entrance (3.7 miles round-trip). Visit the Education Center for interactive exhibits and bookstore.
Entrance fees are $5 per vehicle and $1 per walker/bike. The drive is closed on Fridays.
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      Indigo Trail
Ft. Myers Beach
Nearby, wide Ft. Myers Beach is ride-able at low tide.
In Ft. Myers, check-out the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter home sites.
Ft. Myers BeachFt. Myers Beach Ft. Myers BeachFt. Myers Beach Ft. Myers BeachFt. Myers Beach Ft. Myers BeachFt. Myers Beach

Also visit us here: Paddling at Sanibel Island

More Information on Sanibel Island (opens in a new window):

- Sanibel Island Chamber of Commerce - Biking on Sanibel Island
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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"Ding" Darling Wildlife Society