Sanibel Island is known as just one of the 100 barrier islands that make up Florida's Lee Island Coast. Offering visitors incredibly diverse ecosystems in addition to the best shelling beaches in North America, Sanibel offers great biking and hiking trails and many acres of wildlife sanctuaries to explore. In fact, more than half of the island serves as a wildlife sanctuary.
With so many different kinds of shells, it is no wonder that the area hosts the annual Sanibel Shell Show, attended by thousands of shell enthusiasts from around the world. For most visitors, however, shelling is a delightful excuse to enjoy hours of sun worshiping along some of the most beautiful shoreline in North America and to absorb the unspoiled island atmosphere the natives so effortlessly maintain.
Located toward Sanibel's northwestern tip, the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to exotic species of birds and plants. Naturalists and sightseers get opportunities to witness a variety of wildlife, including the ubiquitous alligator, in a natural setting. You can drive, bike or hike through this sanctuary, or take a narrated tour by tram or canoe. In all, the refuge occupies 6,400 acres, almost one-third of the island.