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Latest update: January 2020

Sanibel Island Bike Trails

Top 10 Florida Biking

Sanibel Island is a popular destination with 15 miles of beaches famous for shelling, abundant nature (over half the island is set aside as wildlife refuges), fishing and other activities. Traffic can crawl, but the good news is you can reach almost anywhere on Sanibel Island by bike! There are 25 miles of paved, shared-use paths and trails. They run east-west and north-south, leading to the lighthouse, beaches, restaurants, shopping, residential areas, and resorts. There are many bicycle racks to make parking easy. Cyclists also can ride Wildlife Drive, a 4.3-mile paved road through the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. (Detailed map and photos below.)

Bike Florida, Sanibel Island

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Sanibel Island Bike Trails


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Location: Lee County
Mileage: About 25 miles
Surface: Asphalt, 4-10'
Nearby points of interest: J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Captiva Island, Bailey Matthews Shell Museum, Fort Myers, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter home sites

BIKING AT SANIBEL ISLAND... Comments and Photos

Parking a car on Sanibel Island can be problematic. Public parking is based on an hourly fee 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 and ride along the wide shoulder to the Island, or at the Sanibel-Captiva Visitor's Center (pick up a free bike path map), or at Roadside City Park, or the Ding Darling Visitor Center. The paths cross roads and driveways (NO traffic lights), be aware of traffic. They are generally narrow (6-8' is most common) and there are many bikers, so practice good riding etiquette.

Sanibel Island Biking Loop

Below we map out a loop route around Sanibel Island. Starting from the Causeway and Visitor Center, we proceed to Periwinkle Way and Sanibel-Captiva Road and go WEST to Captiva Island. Then, we turn EAST along West Gulf, Middle Gulf and East Gulf Roads to the Sanibel Lighthouse, and finally back WEST on Periwinkle Way to the Causeway.


Westbound - Causeway to Captiva Island - 12 miles

From the Causeway south to Periwinkle Way, and west to Tarpon Bay Road. Then north to Sanibel-Captiva Road, and continuing west to Captiva Island.

 

Causeway to Periwinkle Way

The only way onto Sanibel is over the Causeway (toll), there's a wide shoulder to ride on and we saw several bikers, but we drove over. A shared-use path along Causeway Blvd. leads 1/2 mile from the Causeway to Periwinkle Way, passing the Visitor Center. There are only a limited number of spots available for long-term parking at the Visitor Center - if none are available, try Roadside City Park, one mile west along Periwinkle Way.


Periwinkle Way to Tarpon Bay Road

Along Periwinkle Way going west from Causeway Blvd., the path crosses over to the south side of Periwinkle (Roadside City Park is on the north, use the crosswalk). Restaurants and shops along Periwinkle are easily accessible by bike with many crosswalks and business crossings - watch for traffic. The path runs next to the road, set back in some sections. There are some shady sections, but mostly unshaded; benches are provided. Periwinkle ends on the west at Tarpon Bay Road, ride north to Sanibel-Captiva Road.


Tarpon Bay Rd. to Sanibel-Captiva Rd. to Captiva Island

From the end of Periwinkle, Tarpon Bay Road runs north about 4/10 mile to Sanibel Captiva Road (San-Cap). San-Cap is more remote, running west to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge (2 miles) and Captiva Island (7.5 miles). The path is along the roadway with little shade. (Note: an alternative is to bike Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling - it exits back onto San-Cap, see details below.) The path ends at Blind Pass Bridge (Blind Pass Beach is also excellent for shelling). The Wulfert neighborhood near the bridge has restaurants, accommodations, shops.

You can ride over the short bridge to Captiva Island. On the Captiva side of the bridge, Turner Beach has restrooms and outdoor shower. Captiva Island has bike lanes but no off-road paths; the roads are busy, narrow and twisting, and while many do, we don't recommend bicycling on Captiva.

 

 
 

Eastbound - Captiva Island to Sanibel Lighthouse - 13 miles

Our route now returns east from Captiva Island along San-Cap, past Bowman's Beach to Rabbit Road Trail, and south to West Gulf Drive. Continue east on West Gulf Dr., Casa Ybel Rd., Middle Gulf Dr., East Gulf Dr. and Periwinkle Way to Sanibel Lighthouse. The path here is roadside, there are a few turns but mostly the roads just merge into each other and you don't even know the name changed!. There are several Gulf beach access points, at Tarpon Bay Beach, Gulfside City Park Beach, and Lighthouse Beach. While most commercial activity is along Periwinkle Way, this route has most of the accommodations. (Note: This route on the south side of the island is an excellent alternative, if driving, to the traffic jams on Periwinkle Way.)

 

San-Cap to Bowman's Beach Recreational Trail

Returning east from Captiva Island 2.25 miles along San-Cap, just past Wulfert Road (the west end of Wildlife Drive) is a spur to Bowman's Beach, a prime shelling spot. Bowman's Beach Park Recreational Trail runs south about 4/10 mile to the park - paid parking, restrooms, outdoor shower, picnic.


Rabbit Road Trail - A North-South Connector

Continuing east on San-Cap and located about 4/10 mile past the main entrance to Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Rabbit Road Trail is a short but scenic 8/10 mile connecting San-Cap at the north to West Gulf Drive at the south. It mostly parallels a canal separating the trail from the road. Approaching West Gulf Drive, the trail runs on-road along Surf Sound Ct. for a short distance.


West Gulf Dr. - Rabbit Road to Tarpon Bay Rd. - South to Beach

Starting at Rabbit Road and going east on West Gulf Drive, the roadside path passes many residences and accommodations. Here it runs along the roadside, about 2 miles to Tarpon Bay Road. The beach is to the south - restrooms, outdoor showers, and bike racks. For parking, go north on Tarpon Bay Rd.


Tarpon Bay Road North - Parking, Bailey Tract

At Tarpon Bay Road, the parking area is to the north (parking fee, bikes are free; restrooms, outdoor shower, bike racks). Tarpon Bay Road is a north-south connector, from here it runs north about a mile to Periwinkle Way. Halfway along the way is Bailey Tract, a freshwater marsh where dikes were built to attract birds. Several routes are mapped out on the dikes, for about 3 miles of unpaved eco-biking.


Casa Ybel Road and Cemetery Route

West Gulf soon becomes Casa Ybel Road. At Algiers Lane, the path crosses from the north to south side of the road. Here are 2 choices: (1) follow Casa Ybel to its end at Periwinkle Way (about 1.5 miles), or (2) our preferred route, follow the path south on Algiers toward Gulfside City Park Beach (fee parking, restrooms, picnic, boardwalk, outdoor shower). After about 2/10 mile (before reaching the park), the path turns off to the left. Continue another 2/10 mile to the historic Sanibel Cemetery - records are spotty, but the earliest marked graves date to the 1880's. Past the cemetery, it's less than 1/10 mile to Middle Gulf Road.


Middle Gulf and East Gulf Drives

This section features no major sights but many resorts and condominiums. There are some turns along this route, watch for the directional signs. After 1.5 miles along Middle Gulf is another north-south connector, Donax Street, which runs about 1/2 mile to Periwinkle Way near Roadside City Park. Middle Gulf ends at Nerita St. and runs north a couple of blocks to the start of East Gulf Drive. Yet another north-south connector is at Lindgren Blvd., which leads back to Causeway Blvd. (about a half mile). East Gulf ends at Periwinkle Way in 1.5 miles, then Periwinkle Way arrives at Lighthouse Beach Park in another 1/2 mile.


Sanibel Lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach

Sanibel Lighthouse is located at the end of the island in Lighthouse Beach Park. The park covers 32 acres including the lighthouse, fishing pier and two beach areas - south (Gulf) and north (Bay). As you enter the park, the bike path turns right and ends at the south (Gulfside) beach parking lot. To go to the Lighthouse, go left on Periwinkle Way (there's no bike path, ride on the roadway). This takes you to the north (Bayside) beach, fishing pier and Lighthouse.

The Sanibel Lighthouse (also known as the Point Ybel Light) has been in service since 1884, marking the entrance to San Carlos Bay. Some are disappointed - this is an iron skeleton tower, there's a central stairwell but visitors are not allowed. The fishing pier is on the Bay side near the Lighhouse. Paid parking is available at both the north and south beach parks, along with bike racks, restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic pavilions.

 

 

Westbound - Sanibel Lighthouse Return to Causeway - 2 miles

Our route now runs west along Periwinkle Way to Causeway Blvd. to the Causeway and a loop back to the Visitor Center.

 

Lighthouse Return to Causeway

Returning west from the Lighthouse to the Causeway is an easy ride past homes and light commercial areas. Over a couple of boardwalks at canals. Mostly unshaded. At Causeway Blvd. is a busy intersection with a crossing guard directing traffic (again, no traffic lights on Sanibel).


Causeway Blvd. Loop

From Periwinkle, a path goes north on the east side of Causeway Blvd. You can bike back to the mainland on the shoulder across the Causeway, but the path continues to the right, parallel to the Causeway. It passes the Sanibel boat ramp and goes under the causeway, then turns south on the west side of Causeway Blvd. to return to the Visitor Center.

J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge

Wildlife Drive is 4.3 miles one-way starting from the Visitor & Education Center. A short on-road route (0.4 mile) at the end of the Drive leads to  San-Cap Road, return on the path along San-Cap for an 8 mile loop. A fee applies to enter the Drive, the Visitor & Education Center (interactive exhibits and bookstore) is free. Bikers share the Drive with pedestrians, cars, and a tram but with a 15 mile speed limit and everyone stopping to take in the views, there are few conflicts. The drive has been paved since our last visit, for a much more comfortable ride! Note: The Drive is closed on Fridays.

San-Cap East Entrance to Observation Tower

The first 2 miles to the Observation Tower are most scenic, surrounded by water and associated wildlife. Shortly before the tower, bikers and walkers can turn onto paved Cross Dike to hard-packed Indigo Trail back to the entrance, shortening the round-trip to 3.7 miles. The restroom at Cross Dike is a welcome amenity.


Observation Tower to San-Cap West Exit

Continuing west from the observation tower, the Drive is a bit less open with more mangrove. There are 3 paddlecraft launch spots along the Drive, we saw some kayakers. The Wulfert Trail runs along a powerline 1/4 mile to a view of the Wulfert Keys. At the end of the Drive is a walking trail to Calusa shell mounds. The Drive ends, continue on Sanctuary Road to Wulfert Road and back to San-Cap. Return east along San-Cap to the Ding Darling main entrance, or continue west to Captiva Island.

 

Also visit us here: Paddling at Sanibel Island

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