Kayaking Sanibel Florida
Fort Myers Area, Florida

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Sanibel Florida

Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island in Florida, was created in 1945 to protect areas for migratory birds. It is one of the country's most visited in the NWR complex as it is an easy bike ride from most Sanibel condos. This is a haven for kayakers and has multiple access and trails so you can kayak every day of your vacation and see something new.

Some days the water is a murky brown as they wrestle with water quality issues due to the release of fresh water from Lake Okeechobee via the Caloosahachee river. One biologist said to me that they always have too much fresh water or not enough in a marine estuary that requires perfect salinity to function. The people of Sanibel have a foundation with full time water quality monitoring and full time biologists that work monitoring water quality 24/7.

When you launch on the Sanibel Ding Darling NWR Nature trail, you are inside the protected mangroves. If the wind and chop permit, I like to paddle outside on Pine Island Sound as I love the expanse of open water.

Some days you can get a pretty good chop going from the Sea Breeze or the Southeast in the summertime.

The drop points on the Ding Darling NWR Wildlife drive can get pretty busy on weekends.

Local kayak fisherman from the Ft. Myers area like these waters plus you always have a vacation crowd as Sanibel Florida is a popular vacation spot with beach and nature lovers.

These are improved launch points with steps so it is easy to launch the kayak in the Ding Darling NWR but you have to pay the $5 per car entrance fee at the beginning of the drive and the wildlife drive is closed on Fridays to give the wildlife a day off.

Gina got a nice trout in Pine Island Sound on the outside. Luckily the wind was coming from the Southeast and we were able to get outside with some blocking from the mangroves in the park.

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617


(813) 868-0007

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Where to Stay

5206 E. Fowler Ave.
Tampa, FL 33617


(813) 868-0007

View Ding Darling Drop #1 in a larger map

View Ding Darling Drop #2 in a larger map

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View Sanibel Kayak Launch Points in a larger map

Tarpon Bay Unit - Ding Darling NWR
Sanibel Florida

If you look closely, you will see plenty of Egrets in the mangrove forest.

A large bull dolphin is fishing in the bay. Most of the time the bull dolphins are solitary and this one is chasing mullet in the shallows at Tarpon Bay in the Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island in Florida.

Baitfish are thick in May and this pelican is crashing in on some baitfish.

Here another pelican is gliding over the water searching for bait.

Off in the distance the sky is thick with pelicans searching for bait in the shallow bays of the Ding Darling NWR in Sanibel Island Florida.

After a paddle across the open waters of Tarpon Bay, you can head further into the Ding Darling NWR by cutting through about a mile from the dock.

In Tarpon Bay, you may have to watch out for motorized fishing boats but they are limited to slow speed in all of the bay.

The open water expanse of Pine Island Bay looking across to Pine Island. Sanibel along with Matlacha and Pine Island could make up a whole week of morning kayak paddles if you spend your afternoon on the beach.

This sign remninds the motor boats to slow down for Manatees and kayakers.

There are plenty of flats boats that come into the same areas as kayak paddlers and kayak fisherman so be careful. Some of them are respectful, but I have navigated plenty of boat wakes where you have to turn the nose of the kayak into the wake, especially if they back down to slow speed right near you and throw a big wake. Most of the flats boats are moving carefully so they don't scare the redfish and snook and many are run by professional guides but watch out on the weekends!

The mangroves grow huge in theis part of Florida.

Another view leaving Tarpon Bay and heading into Pine Island Sound in the Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island in Florida. This is a special kayaking estuary with many birds at low tide in the winter. We are visiting on a May weekend at high tide so you are able to view less birds than at other times.

If you just want to try some recreational kayaking when you are down in Sanibel, get the kids and rent some sit atops from Tarpon Bay Outfitters. There is a two mile loop trail that heads into the mangroves right near the Tarpon Bay Outfitters. This can be accomplished by even new paddlers or children of all ages. Remember to wear your personal flotation device and bring beach shoes and extra water in the summertime.

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Vacation Tour & Cruise --- (813) 868-0007
5206 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33617
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