• MustDo.com | J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo by Gary Jung.
  • MustDo.com | Kayak tours and rentals J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman.
  • MustDo.com | Wildlife exhibits at the Visitor Education Center, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald.
  • MustDo.com | Wildlife exhibits at the Visitor Education Center, Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald.
  • MustDo.com | Nature trail Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge Sanibel Island, Florida. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel Island

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States!

This 6,400-acre refuge is home to more than 270 types of birds, 35 species of mammals, and 60 different reptiles and amphibians and is world famous for its spectacular migratory bird population. Tours, hiking and biking trails, fishing, kayaking are some of the activities available at Ding Darling. Tours, hiking and biking trails, fishing, kayaking are some of the activities available at Ding Darling.

There are seasonal free Refuge programs and tours that run from January to April. Daily programs begin at 8:30 a.m. and include activities such as nature photography, beach walks, birding, and a variety of wildlife tours. Learn more about these free activities here.

J.N. “Ding” Darling Visitor Education Center

Education Center features interactive exhibits on refuge ecosystems, migratory flyways, the work of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, and a hands-on area for children and entry is free. There is also a wonderful gift shop with numerous field guides, nature books, children’s books, shirts, postcards, and more. Revenues from Ding Darling’s Nature Gift Store help fund programs at the Refuge. Restrooms are also available.

Admission to the Visitor & Education Center FREE and is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Everyday, except some holidays 

Holiday Closures: New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day. Open: on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, President’s Day.

COVID UPDATE: Beginning August 20, 2021 the Refuge Visitor Education Center will be closed on Friday and Sunday though September 30, 2021. Current hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Wildlife Drive

For those not wishing to take the tram tour (90-minutes), bike, or walk you can use the self-guided drive through tour by entering at mile marker two off San-Captiva Road. Wildlife Drive is 4-miles long and there are three trails; Indigo Trail which leads to the Wildlife Education Boardwalk (this trail is a 4-miles total), Shellmound Trail, and the Wulfert Keys Trail. Visitors have an opportunity to see a wide variety of water and shore birds especially during the winter months, marsh rabbits, alligators, raccoons and occasionally bobcats and otters. Be sure to keep your eye out for the QR iNature Trail Code signs for additional information on the trail if you have a QR code reader app on your smartphone.

Entrance fee is $10.00 – CASH only for cars, $1 hiker/biker (children under 15 free)–October 1, 2020 prices–. Fees apply to Wildlife and Indigo Trail. Wildlife Drive is closed on Fridays year-round and is open all holidays unless it falls on a Friday.

Wildlife Trail Hours:

Month Open Close
 January 7:00 a.m. 5:30 p.m.
February 7:00 a.m. 5:30 p.m.
March 7:00 a.m. (7:30 a.m. DST)* 6:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. DST)*
April 7:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
May 7:00 a.m. 7:30 p.m.
June 7:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
July 7:00 a.m. 8:00 p.m.
August 7:00 a.m. 7:30 p.m.
September 7:00 a.m. 7:00 p.m.
October 7:30 a.m. 6:30 p.m.
November 7:30 a.m. (7:00 a.m. ST)* 6:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. ST)*
December 7:00 a.m. 5:30 p.m.
* Daylight Savings Time (DST) * Standard Time (ST)

Read the blog article about Tips for Visiting J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge.

View visitor activities and events schedule.

J.N. Ding Darling Hours and Admission Information.