J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island

Considered Florida's prime bird-watching area, J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge protects one of the nation's largest mangrove ecosystems. Named after cartoonist "Ding" Darling, an important figure in the conservationist movement of the 1930s, the refuge provides a temporary home for migratory bird populations and attracts almost a million annual visitors with its "wildlife drive," a windy road through the mangrove forest and the tidal flats. You can watch thousands of birds from the comfort of your car, or drop into the visitor center to see interactive exhibits about great egrets, wood storks, blue herons, white pelicans, cormorants, ospreys, and bald eagles. The center also includes a bookstore that sells nature books and field guides. By using our Sanibel Island trip builder app , you can arrange your visit to J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and other attractions in Sanibel Island.
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J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge Reviews
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5,094 reviews
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  • this was a nice place to see fresh-water nature. It's great if you have mobility issues, as you can drive your car right up to the birding areas without getting scolded by rangers  more »
  • We had a terrific tram tour guide, who was so knowledgeable about the bird life, plant, and general habitat along the JN Ding Darling wildlife drive. I would definitely recommend taking the tram tour ...  more »
  • This place is a gem if you love bird watching and casual hiking and kayaking! What a beautiful place!  more »
Google
  • Taking the tram was a nice way to quickly see the park. The tour guide provided a fair bit of information about the wildlife we saw, such as the migratory patterns of the birds and how the estuary is a natural fish hatchery. He was knowledgeable about the questions people asked. The tour was 90 minutes long and it went by extremely quickly. Driving or biking through the park and spending more time at each stop would be nice as well. There are a few places you can get out and walk on boardwalks or trails.
  • Absolutely beautiful! $5 per car provides all day access. My family and I used to come here on family vacations, so we revisited recently. It was incredible the amount of wildlife you can see in only an hour or two. There were helpful guides along the way who answered our questions. Great visitors and education center that tells the history of Ding Darling. Will be going back again soon!
  • Take the 9:30 car tour with Joanne! Fantastic and knowledgeable guide. She makes four or five stops as opposed to the Tram, which only makes one stop. Tons of pretty birds. You can self-tour with a mobile app as well. There are employees scattered around the park willing to chat with you too.
  • We went on a Friday so we had to walk but it was an easy walk and we saw a variety of seabirds. The best part was the Bailey Tract where we saw birds, turtles and gators.very nice place but very rustic which is good.
  • Best place ever to see alligators in the wild, up close and personal. This is beautiful, unspoiled island scenery. The birding opportunities are wonderful as well. Be sure to bring mosquito repellent, you will definitely need it.

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