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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.
Stop at the visitor center as you enter the island to get a map. Free parking and restrooms at the SCCF Park 1300 Periwinkle Way, about a mile from the visitor center. Trails are all in good condition and separated from traffic. There are much more than 24 miles if you do all the trails. The trail is busy along Periwinkle, but then it thins out and you can ride as fast as you want. Bikes can be rented in a number of locations so there are a lot of kids and inexperienced riders, but they usually stay on their side.
Biked from Billy's rental to the far end of Captiva and back. Just an excellent trail. On the return trip, near Ding Darling..had to stop on the trail because of a guy parked on it with his car! He was sitting behind the wheel and his wife was outside taking pics of birds in the nearby trees. Not enough room to get around him..I politely told him it was a bike trail...not for cars. He acted as though he didn't understand and we had to take the dirt route around him.
Was on this trail today! Wonderful trail that winds throughout Sanibel island! Along this trail there are many shop and restaurants to checkout! Also along this trail there is access to the many beaches! Including the lighthouse beach! And for the most part bicyclist have the right of way over vehicles! In fact there is an $80 fine for cars not yielding to bikes! I like that!
We biked the paths on Sanibel four days in early July-- for 35-40 miles. Using the TrailLink map on my iPhone was extremely helpful, as the paths don't have signs posted for distances, locations of restrooms or water, or directions of where to turn. Without the map, you'll get lost and wander around.
The trails are all asphalt paved and vary in width; some are quite narrow, and few of them allow two bikes to ride next to each other. It was sunny and 100 degrees every day we rode, but there's enough shade on the paths to let you stop and cool off a bit, although there really aren't places to sit.
We found that riding in the street on the southern side of the island was often much easier than negotiating around the many bikes (mostly families with children) that are everywhere on the paths. There's not a lot of traffic on these southern roads, so it usually works.
You have to cross a lot of streets and driveways on these paths, so keep a watch out ahead. Vehicle traffic seems to be pretty aware of bikes and most, but not all, will give you plenty of room and stop for you ($80 fine for not yielding to bikes).
We also rode from Sanibel over the bridge to Captiva. There aren't bike paths on Captiva, but there are lots of bikes and golf carts, and cars seem to watch out for them and give them wide clearance. The main road from the south pass on Captiva has a wide shoulder and you can ride along the ocean for several miles of it. It would hate to have to drive/park on Captiva, but cycling is easy.
We parked each day at the east end of Sanibel and cooled off by taking an ocean swim in our bike clothes afterward. Beautiful beach!
The people of Sanibel Is. deserve credit for a wonderful path network that is well-maintained. Crossings are well marked for both bikes and cars. The island is 12mi long, so round trip is 24-30 miles depending on your route. We started mid-island, went to the west end, came back to Rabbit Rd, then followed the Gulf Roads back to the east end by the lighthouse and beach Tip: you can park at the library, rec center, or plaza which are closer to mid-island. Tip: there are drinking fountains at various spots next to the paths. Tip: Periwinkle near the center of the island is busy, and the path is right next to the road - use the three Gulf Roads (W,Middle,E) to avoid it. When you are done, you can park at one of the beaches and finish off the day there. Super.
This trail is beautiful, mostly flat, and well-maintained, although narrow in spots. We rode it early in the morning the week before Thanksgiving and it was well-used. There were plenty of "amateurs" (rented bikes, no helmets, flip-flops, no knowledge of biking courtesy). So be vigilant. I was very surprised to see lots of dog-droppings along the way. Not pleasant. If you can find a spot, you can park for free at the visitors' center, just over the causeway. Otherwise, it costs $4 an hour to park in lots around the island.
You can park at the visitors center and bike the Apple Pond Trail past a pond with lots of water birds over to the old Bailey homestead. These hard packed dirt trails are less crowded in high season than the paved trails with lots of non bikers biking on rented cycles. Bob
In addition to the paved tails described in the general description there are several nice off road mt. or hybrid bike trails in the nature preserves and parks. Bowman's Beach has parking and a nice two mile trail going west out of the parking lot along a dirt road and along the beach.
There are several miles of dirt trails in the Bailey Tract off Tarpon Bay Road around the pond and north to Island Inn Road and beyond.
There is a nice ride north on Dixie Beach Blvd and left at the end down a dirt road around a great stretch of old Florida to Woodring Point.
We rode Memorial Day Weekend. The island in general was crowded so public parking was hard to find. However, we had lunch and the restaurant owners let us leave the car in their lot to ride. We rode from about midway of the island to the lighthouse and and the trail was well marked, in good condition, practially flat and interesting scenery along the way. We can't wait to go back and bike more of the island.
This is a great ride. Close to where you come onto the island is a little busy but once you get a few miles out, the number of other riders really decreases. We rode to the end of Captiva on the north end to the light house on the south end and ended up riding 33-miles.
My family has been biking these trails for years. These are easy paths that explore the entire island and this is the preferred method of getting around the island during the day. We like to bike to Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and ride through the entire refuge. Biking on the island is fairly safe since there are many pedestrians and bikers and it is well known that vehicles must yield to the bikers/pedestrians. Bike shops for rental and servicing are plentiful on the island
My wife and I enjoyed the ride on the bike trail. The terrain is flat and easy to ride. The trail is a little narrow in some locations making passing a little tight but it is manageable. Sanibel Island is an interesting island to visit since it maintains a local flavor and has a large federal conservation area on the island. There are no street lights at night. Bike and pedestrians have the right-of-way at many of the intersections. We would suggest stopping at the visitor's center just after exiting the causeway to get trail and free parking information.
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