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The treasures of Sanibel Island, off Florida’s southwest coast, are easily accessible by a connected network of paved shared-use pathways. Although many of the trails parallel the island’s main streets, they are separated from traffic by grassy medians and connect visitors to Sanibel’s numerous attractions.
The island is connected to the mainland by the Sanibel Causeway on its northeastern shore. Soon after arriving on the island, you’ll see the brightly colored chamber of commerce and visitor center on your right; be sure to stop here for maps and trip-planning information.
The island’s main thoroughfare is Periwinkle Way and the pathway follows the south side of the roadway, offering convenient access to restaurants and shops. If you head east along Periwinkle Way, you’ll be rewarded with a visit to the Sanibel Lighthouse, the island’s most famous landmark.
If you head west, Periwinkle Way ends at a T-juncture with Tarpon Bay Road. Take a right and follow the path north until you can take a left onto the pathway paralleling Sanibel-Captiva Road. This will take you past the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, featuring exhibits on shell art, mollusk habitats, fossils, and native Florida varieties. Continue west down Sanibel-Captiva Road until you see the entrance to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge at Wildlife Drive on your right. The park protects one of the country’s largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems; explore its 5,200 acres by foot, bike, or even via kayak. You can continue along Sanibel-Captiva Road all the way across the island to Turner Beach on its western shore.
If you want to see the island’s popular southern shoreline, take a left from Sanibel-Captiva Road onto Rabbit Road just before you get to the wildlife refuge. Part of the route that parallels Rabbit Road is along a wooded canal; look for alligators, herons, and the marsh rabbits for which the road is named. After about a mile, you’ll reach West Gulf Drive. Turn left to continue on the pathway east to see beautiful waterfront estates and hotels. When the road makes a northern upswing, it becomes Casa Ybel Road, which will take you back up to Periwinkle Way.
From the Florida mainland, enter the island on the Sanibel Causeway. Shortly after arriving on the island, look for the brightly colored Sanibel Island Visitors Center (1159 Causeway Road) on your right. Parking is available here and at all of the public beaches that dot the island.
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