The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on the northern shore of Florida's sleepy Sanibel Island. Named after a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, the 6,300-acre wetland swamp is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States and home to dozens of protected animal species.
The area's natural abundance of exotic birds makes for great bird-watching even for passing enthusiasts. Alligators, raccoons, and the American crocodile can also be spotted either near the refuge's short walking trail or from the guided tram. Guided kayak and canoe tours are also available, as is the Wildlife Drive, a scenic four-mile loop for cars that offers a great way to get close to some of Florida's wildlife while remaining at a respectful distance. Use common sense when visiting the refuge—wild animals should not be touched or disturbed.
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located at One Wildlife Drive on Sanibel Island and is open daily from 7am to 5:30pm. The visitor education center is open daily from 9am to 4pm, while the Wildlife Drive is closed on Friday. Admission costs $5 per vehicle.