J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
- Type: Hiking, Parks and Gardens, Zoos and Aquariums
- Time to Spend: Half Day to Full Day
|About these ratings|
Named after a political cartoonist and conservationist, the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge was originally meant to conserve the Sanibel Island mangrove forest. Now, the refuge (which occupies 6,300 acres of land or half the entire island) shelters those same mangroves, as well as animals like crocodiles, alligators and a countless number of birds. In fact, for herons, cuckoos and ospreys, this refuge is an important stop along their Southern migratory path.
You can hike or bike through one of the many refuge trails or along the four-and-a-half mile Wildlife Drive , which is also open for vehicles or to explore from an open-air tram. One TripAdvisor user describes this path/driveway as "BEAUTIFUL and breathtaking" but warns that there are no restrooms along the way. Other visitors preferred seeing the refuge from the water, however. According to one on Yahoo! Travel, "the evening trip in Tarpon Bay was my favorite activity. Having lived in Florida for all but 9 months of my life, this boat ride provided me with a 'refresher' course in the beauty of Florida."
The refuge's hours vary by month, but you will see the most wildlife if you visit between the months of November and April. It costs approximately $1 (per person) to enter on foot and $5 per car. The guided tram tour costs approximately $13 per person. Visit the official website for more information on pricing and hours.