Sanibel Island sits along the southwest coast of Florida and is world-renowned for its white beaches and shelling, The island also boasts over 22 miles of paved bike trails, making bicycles a practical and enjoyable way to get around. Many visitors plan trips with their bicycles, and bike rentals are numerous.
About 11 miles in length and averaging about 2 miles in width, on balmy winter days, it often seems there more people riding bikes than there are in cars. Here are 4 suggestions for visitors who plan on discovering Sanibel by bicycle.
On pleasant days during the winter season, finding a public parking spot can be a problem. Even when a spot can be found, parking is $2 per hour. However, this is no problem if you are renting a bike, as most rental shops have ample parking available for customers. If you bring your own bicycle, you can usually find plenty of free parking along the causeway. Or, you can check for a free open parking spot at the Sanibel Visitor’s Center, on the right about 200 yards past the end of the causeway. Here you can also pick-up a free bike trail map.
There are many beach access points on Sanibel Island. However, only one offers public restrooms and showers. This one is located at the intersection of West Gulf Drive and Tarpon Bay Road. To reach these facilities by bicycle, ride south from the causeway for about one-half mile to Periwinkle Way. Turn right (west) on the path that runs parallel Periwinkle Way, go straight until this trail ends at Tarpon Bay Road. Turn left (south) and the beach access is at the end, about 0.7 miles from Periwinkle. Near this point, there a short trail section off Casa Ybel that leads to an historic cemetery.
Nature lovers will enjoy riding a portion of Wildlife Drive through the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge. From the entrance of the Refuge, the first 2 miles are the most scenic, with opportunities to view a wide variety of wading birds. The road is rough limestone, which is not ideal for biking. So instead of riding the entire 5 mile length of the Drive, you may consider taking the smoother, hard-packed Indigo Trail (2 mi on left) back to the entrance. Be aware that the Wildlife Refuge is closed on Fridays.
An east-west orientation makes Sanibel a unique Florida barrier island. This orientation creates ideal conditions for clean white beaches with an abundance of seashells. Bikers would be remiss if they didn’t take time to walk the beach and collect some shells. To learn about the shells you can find on here, stop by the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum along Sanibel-Captiva Road (known to locals as San-Cap Road).
One of the best areas for shelling is Bowman’s Beach, near the western-most portion of the island. To get to Bowman’s Beach, bikers can take the bike path that parallels Sanibel-Captiva Road. At mile marker 4.8 (markers on road), turn south on Bowman’s Beach Road and ride about two hundred yards to the parking lot at the end of the road. This is one of the more remote areas of the island, about 8.5 miles from the Visitor’s Center. Due to this distance and because there is usually plenty of parking here in the late afternoon, bikers may consider driving their car here as the day winds down. Not only is the shelling outstanding, but this is also a great location the catch the sunset.