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J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a 6,400-acre refuge that is home to 245 different species of birds, more than 50 types of reptiles, and 32 different kinds of mammals, including manatees. The refuge is a diverse ecosystem with habitats including mangrove forest, freshwater marshes, swamps, open water, tidal flats, mudflats, and seagrass beds. It is a part of the largest mangrove ecosystem in the U.S.

This preserve was first protected in 1945 as the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge and later renamed in 1967 after Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling. 

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge features opportunities for bird-watching, bike and hike trails, a four-mile scenic drive, and more. Along with native wildlife species, you'll see local flora like seagrape, wax and salt myrtles, red mangrove, cabbage and sabal palms, and other native plants. See alligators, manatees, bobcats, river otters, and more

manatee in the river

J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge Information

Interpretative tram tours of the sanctuary are scheduled through Tarpon Bay Explorers; reservations required at 239-472-8900.

Hours: Wildlife Drive is open Saturday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to a half-hour before sunset. Low tide, when birds feed, is the ideal time to visit. The Education Center is open daily 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from November through April, and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. May through October. 

Cost: Fees are $5 per car and $1 per cyclist or pedestrian; ages 15 and younger bike and walk free. 

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Plan your next vacation for Sanibel Island along the Gulf Coast of Southwest Florida. Discover pristine wildlife, quiet beaches, and so much more on this small island. Book one of our Sanibel Island vacation rentals and start planning a relaxing and exciting adventure. 

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