J.n. Darling National Wildlife RefugeCurrently Closed
Jay Norwood Darling was a popular cartoonist with a passion for the environment. The double Pulitzer Prize winner was appointed head of the U.S Biological Survey and the National Wildlife Federation but his most valiant effort took place in 1945.
On the subtropical barrier island of Sanibel, lies the beautiful, luscious J.N (Ding) Darling National Wildlife Refuge. In 1945, this was a parcel of land which the government intended to sell to developers. At Darling’s behest, President Truman turned the area into a wildlife refuge, thus protecting the 6,400 acres of mangrove that thrive in the area.
- Submerged seagrass beds, cordgrass marshes and West Indian Hardwood Hammocks will delight plant lovers.
- Over 245 birds visit the refuge throughout the year, including different species of flamingos, pelicans, ducks, vultures, kites, hawks and falcons.
- There are 35 species of mammals, such as bobcats, rabbits, racoons and otters.
- The reptiles that have made this place their home are fascinating. You’ll find the American Crocodile, the American Alligator, turtles, tortoises, a variety of snakes and lizards. You’ll also meet frogs, and different kinds of fish.
- There are a few endangered species of animals that pass by, such as the loggerhead sea turtle, the small tooth saw fish, the West Indian manatee and the wood stork.
- The best place to start your journey is the visitor and information centre, which is wheelchair accessible.
- The best time to visit is during low tide.
- Take plenty of water, sunscreen, hats and comfortable walking shoes.
- Dogs are allowed on the Wildlife Drive, Indigo Trail and Bailey Tract but they have to be kept on the leash no longer than 6 feet.
- Wildlife Drive: Admission: $5 per vehicle, $1 per pedestrian, $1 per bicycle.
- Indigo Trail Admission: $1 per pedestrian, $1 per bicycle (no vehicles).
- Bailey Tract Admission: FREE, pedestrian and bicycles only.
- Doc Ford’s Sanibel Bar and Grill (Sports bar, Caribbean)
- Sunset Grill Incorporated (Seafood)
- Mad Hatter Restaurant (High End, Seafood)
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95% of people who visit Sanibel include J.n. Darling National Wildlife Refuge in their plan
09 AM - 10 AM
81.13% of people start their J.n. Darling National Wildlife Refuge visit around 09 AM - 10 AM
People usually take around 3 Hrs to see J.n. Darling National Wildlife Refuge
95% of people prefer to travel by car while visiting J.n. Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Very nice place for watching marine and freshwater birds and other Florida wildlife, but be prepared for mosquitoes in the summer time. They are particularly abundant along the lush trails, limiting how much one can truly enjoy this park. I recommend visiting the park very early in the morning or later in the evening for the nicest opportunities for bird watching.
Awesome Park & Scenic Drive. It was too hot to walk the two miles - but the drive through is amazing as well. Amazing views along the stops. We saw birds , crabs , fish etc. We want to come back during winter or fall to see more animals.
Great free little museum at the entrance with lots of hands on and engaging activities for all ages. The volunteers were super nice and informative and allow you to borrow binoculars for free! To drive through the refuge it was only $5 a car load. There were many look out spots in to see the water and birds. You may want to take a look at the low tide times to see when the best time is to visit
The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a staple of every trip to Sanibel Island, FL. Whether on foot, boat or car, the refuge can accommodate you however you travel. The information center is chocked full of interesting taxidermy figures and facts about the various animals, insects and plants that can be found in the area. It’s essentially a mini-museum. Bring the whole family - You won’t regret it!
We visited on our honeymoon, and had a great visit. This time we were back again with a seven-month-old baby. The bathroom facilities are excellent. The Visitor Center was very baby friendly. There was a diaper changing station in the bathroom, and everything was very wheelchair / stroller accessible. Great place for young kids. We paid a dollar each to do a little hiking. We saw some nests with baby birds near an observation tower. We chose to only hike half a mile head back (pushing the stroller.) The hike is not very shaded, so I would only recommend going early in the morning, especially if you have kids. Very fun experience both times.