Sanibel-Captiva & Fort Myers Beach, FL  - Vacation Travel Guide

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Sanibel-Captiva & Fort Myers Beach Area Features

Cycling Sanibel Island

  By: Kristie Seaman Anders

Vacations are a time to leave the hurried life behind. Strolling the beach, taking time to watch a sunrise or sunset and sitting by the water are relaxing. Another way to slow down is to explore the islands by bicycle.

Biking is a way of life for many islanders. Bicycle on Sanibel and your biggest hills will be the bridges that span canals and the Sanibel River. The challenges are few, and the rewards are great when riding about on some of the 22 miles of paved bicycle paths on Sanibel. Captiva, too, can be lovely, but the paths fade to public roadways in many sections of Captiva Drive, and safety of the inexperienced might want to be considered.

Bicycles with cabooses, bicycles made for two, little tike bikes and one-speed, wide-tire bikes with coaster brakes... bicycles here come in all sorts of sizes and shapes.  There are almost as many places to rent bikes as there are routes to explore.

If riders decide to use the public roadways, it should be noted that in Florida bicycles are considered vehicles and subject to the same rules of the roads as vehicles. Hand signals should be used when turning; headsets are not allowed; lights must be used at night, and bicyclists under sixteen must wear helmets.

On the bike paths, riders should yield to pedestrians and demonstrate courtesy when overtaking other cyclists. An audible signal should be used to alert people on foot, and passing should be done to the left. In marked crosswalks, bicyclists have the same rights as pedestrians. Treating each other with respect keeps everyone safe and enhances the vacation experience.

For a wild adventure, be sure to head down to the bay end of Tarpon Bay Road to witness a spectacular panoramic view of the bay. While there, you may want to consider cooling down on a sea life and nature cruise, giving your legs a rest while paddling a canoe or kayak or checking out the critters in the Touch Tanks. Bike rentals are also available at the Tarpon Bay Explorers facility. Then head up the Sanibel-Captiva Road bike path to the main entrance of the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Wildlife Drive is well-used by automobiles, walkers and cyclists. The Education Center is worth a visit and opens daily at 9am. A handy map, orientation video, helpful volunteers, outstanding exhibits, restrooms and drinking fountains are some of the many reasons to stop. Admission to Wildlife Drive is one dollar per person for walkers and bikers.

The drive itself is four miles in length; keep in mind it is an additional 3.5 miles back to the Education Center via the Sanibel-Captiva Road. The surface of the drive is paved, making bicycling easy. The road is one-way for all traffic, bicycles included. The drive is open from sunrise  to sunset, Sat.-Thurs.

Consider taking time to stop by three other nature-oriented facilities that are just off the Sanibel-Captiva Road. Near the refuge and Sanibel school is the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). With good timing on a bike trip, cyclists may want to participate in the 11am educational program offered there.

A mile down the road from CROW, closer to Tarpon Bay Road, is the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. SCCF has a nature center, butterfly house and native plant nursery. Quite close by is the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Both have educational programs that may lead to a second visit or more. After the Shell Museum, don’t miss that panoramic view at the bay end of Tarpon Bay Road.

Another little side road, lacking a separate bike path, becomes the culture loop. Off Palm Ridge Road, across from the fire station, is Dunlop Road. It leads to a beehive of activity that includes the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village, the studios and performing arts center for the Barrier Island Group for the Arts, City Hall and the Sanibel Public Library. This is also the location of the Sanibel Island Farmers Market every Sunday, Nov.-Apr., 8am-1pm.

A triangular route wraps around the east end of the island, encompassing East Gulf Drive, Lindgren/Causeway Blvd. and Periwinkle Way, with a little extension to the lighthouse. Beach condos and motels line East Gulf. Lindgren is residential. Periwinkle to East Gulf Drive is primarily residential, but beyond East Gulf there are little shops and eateries.

To the east beyond the intersection of East Gulf on Periwinkle, the road splits in two at its end. The road veering left passes by a small parking lot that looks out onto San Carlos Bay and then curves, leading to a parking lot at the fishing pier and the Sanibel Lighthouse. The right fork on Periwinkle leads to the Lighthouse Gulf Beach parking area. Although there is no bike path or road that connects the two parking areas, there is a footpath that leads to public restrooms.

Bicycling is a great way to visit the many shopping areas along Periwinkle Way. It is also a fun way to explore the beaches of the islands. By using the island map in this book, you can make your own itinerary. Be sure to bring along water and sunscreen. Have a great ride.

Florida Bicycle Safety

  • All bicyclists under the age of 16 must wear helmets.
  • On the roadways, bicycles are considered vehicles and must follow the same rules of the road.
  • Use hand signals when turning.
  • Headsets are not allowed.
  • Lights must be used at night.
  • Yield to pedestrians.
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