Sanibel Island is more than just sand and seashells. There are plenty of family-friendly activities, such as hiking, visiting local historic sites, and watching sea turtles nest. One of the best things to do on Sanibel together (and a great way to get around) is biking.
There are nearly 25 miles of paved bike trails (also friendly to runners) that are smooth and well-marked, perfect for all experience levels. Here are some of the best.
J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge is a popular spot for birdwatchers, as its 6,400-acre grounds are known to see up to 245 unique bird species. Especially during migratory seasons, the area is a birding hotspot. Other animal species such as alligators can also be seen, and there is also a free education center for more information. For cyclists, the best approach is to ride the refuge’s four-mile Wildlife Drive loop, which is open every day except Friday. Each bicyclist must pay $1 for admission.
Sanibel Captiva Road
Interested in seashells? If so, Sanibel Captiva Road, located on the western side of the island, is the perfect place for a bike ride. Along the way, you can stop at the Bailey-Matthew National Shell Museum where you will learn about seashells and how they are made by mollusks. The museum is located at 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the eastern half of the island, you’ll find the Sanibel Lighthouse, surrounded by a maze of endless bicycle trails. The lighthouse makes a perfect pitstop to relax and enjoy the views, without having to worry about finding parking. The area is another favorite birding destination, so keep your eyes peeled for wading birds and other species. The lighthouse is located at 112 Periwinkle Way in Sanibel, Florida.
Continue on from the lighthouse, and you’ll find many other charming sights and sounds along the same road. The road is infamous for congestion; however, this is not a problem for bicycles at all. The bike path is separated from the street, which means you will be able to speed past all the slow-moving cars and head straight to the shops and restaurants. This is the heart of town where you’ll find the best shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
Middle Gulf Cemetery Bike Trail
To gain a unique perspective on local history, visit the Middle Gulf Cemetery, where some of the island’s original settlers are buried. There are approximately 26 unique internments, representing brave pioneers each with his or her own fascinating story. The cemetery is only accessible by bike: Follow the bike path off Algiers Lane, which will take you straight to your destination.
Connecting the island to Florida mainland is the Sanibel Causeway, which spans three miles from end to end. Typically, cars must pay a $6 to cross, but the passage is free to cyclists. Riding over the water, you’ll take in the fresh Gulf breezes and have plenty of opportunity to marvel at the view. Once on the island, continue following the causeway to popular island parks.
As fair warning to all riders, there are several steep inclines that are not suitable to all riders. Experienced riders might tackle the 6-mile round-trip without difficulty, but those with less expertise are advised to walk to the top with their bikes and coast down the rest of the way.
This remote beach is a local favorite unknown to most tourists. It is located mid-island and is an easy place to reach by bike. There you can rest, wander, and go seashell hunting. Be sure to bring a bag to carry home your treasures! Beach amenities include restrooms, grills, and picnic pavilions, so you even might consider eating here with company. Visit Bowman’s Beach 1700 Bowman’s Beach Road.