The narrow winding roads around the delightful sandy island of Sanibel can get busy in the peak winter season. Parking can be scarce and pretty costly at $4 per hour. Residents and visitors have come up with a great solution – bicycles! The island has several excellent bike rental shops and there are miles of shared-user bicycle trails for families to cycle safely around the island on these relatively flat traffic-free trails.
Bike Trails on Sanibel Island
If you are renting a bicycle on Sanibel Island your supplier should be able to provide you with a useful map of cycle paths. If not, the Sanibel-Captiva Island Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center at the Sanibel end of the causeway is a great place to pick up free trail maps.
Altogether there are over 22 miles of bike trails crisscrossing Sanibel and as the island is only 12 miles long and 3 miles wide at its maximum point, that’s pretty good coverage!
The main cycle path runs parallel to Periwinkle Way, the main road, making it easy to reach small shopping plazas, restaurants, museums and the J. N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge as well as connecting with beaches and the lighthouse in the far easterly point of the island.
At the other end of Sanibel, a small bridge connects Sanibel to Captiva Island which is even smaller and quieter than Sanibel. The bike path ends just before the bridge at Blind Pass. Captiva Island has bike lanes but no off-road trails and is perfect for gentle rides for all ages. Beaches can be found at either end of the island for a refreshing dip before returning home.
Not all the cycle trails provide shade, so wear a hat and sunglasses and carry water with you to avoid heatstroke or dehydration. Ride in single file and obey the rules of the road. Bikes are not allowed on the beach at Sanibel and riders under 16 must wear a helmet.
Places to Visit by Bike on Sanibel
It is easy to reach the beach access on Tarpon Bay Road by bicycle. From the causeway, turn right (west) on Periwinkle Way. When the trail ends, turn left (south) and cycle about 0.7 miles to reach beautiful Tarpon Bay beach.
Another cycle route from Periwinkle Way is south down Casa Ybel Road. Turn left into Middle Gulf Drive and head east to see the historical cemetery on Sanibel. If you continue on the road it eventually rejoins Periwinkle Way.
From Periwinkle Way turn down Dixie Beach Road near the Heart of the Islands shops. After 1.5 miles you arrive at San Carlos Bay. Turn right and cycle along admiring the beautiful waterfront homes.
Just off Sanibel-Captiva Road is the entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. Cyclists can follow the Wildlife Drive through this extensive wildlife refuge which is home to many ducks, waterbirds, turtles and fish in the freshwater pools and saltwater bayous. Fees are $1 per biker (under 15 years are free) with your own bicycle. The trails are shared with walkers and vehicles so care should be taken and the one-way system must be strictly observed.
From the entrance, the ride along Wildlife Drive is an 8-mile loop, returning along the main bike path on the Sanibel-Captiva Road, skirting the refuge. A shorter 3.7-mile ride is possible by riding out along Wildlife Drive and returning on the hard-packed Indigo Trail. Expect to see night herons, alligators, egrets, ospreys, eagles, ibis and alligators as you cycle at a leisurely pace through the park.
If you fancy a longer ride, cycle over the causeway and head south to Fort Myers Beach. The sand is so flat and firm that it is easy to ride along at low tide for miles.
Bike Rentals On Sanibel Island can be found at:
Billy’s Rentals at 1470 Periwinkle Way
Billy’s Bike Shop and Segway at 1509 Periwinkle Way
Finnimore’s Cycle Shop on 2353 Periwinkle Way