For one of the best island tours, hop on a bicycle. Sanibels well-maintained bike paths cover 25 miles of shopping districts and back roads, and they meander through friendly neighborhoods, beneath shady tree canopies, across wooden bridges and along quiet waterways. Biking on Sanibel is fun for the entire family By bike is the most intimate way to get to know Sanibel Island. (Captiva's narrow, twisty roads make biking risky.) Twenty-five miles of paved bike paths take you almost anywhere you want to go. They lead to shops, restaurants, points of interest, wildlife centers and beaches. Many island resorts, hotels and motels have bicycles for guest use, plus there are public bike rental facilities on both islands. (In addition to solo bikes, they rent helmets and kiddy trailers.) Follow these easy rules of the road for maximum enjoyment:
- Use designated bike paths where available.
- If you ride on a roadway: Stay in single file on the far right side of the road and ride with the traffic.
- Observe traffic laws and signs (i.e., stop and yield as you would in a car); use hand signals.
- Bikes are not allowed on the beach.
- Florida law requires that bike riders under age 16 wear helmets.
Great Bike Trips
Wildlife Drive. Paved with shell and hard-packed sand, this biking route is a bit rough, especially for skinny tired bikes. It's a four mile loop around J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, ending three miles north of the starting point on Sanibel-Captiva Road. Along the way, you can stop and hike into the refuge on short trails or climb the bird observation tower. Avoid the road at sunset, when abundant car traffic will kick up dust. Bicyclists must pay $1.00 per person over the age of 16, (free for children 15 years and under), to enter the refuge Wildlife Drive.
Dixie Beach Road. This long, straight, easy stretch of 1.5 miles takes you from Periwinkle Way, near Heart of the Islands shopping center, to San Carlos Bay. Where the road meets the bay, you can turn right and gaze at beautiful bayfront homes, or turn left and follow a contorted shell road to an undiscovered place where old island collides with new.
Middle Gulf Cemetery Route. East of Casa Ybel Road, the Middle Gulf Drive bike path leaves the roadside and takes you into backwoods. Here you'll find Sanibel's pioneer cemetery, which is not accessible by car. The path continues over the river and off-road to the beach at Gulfside Park.
Bailey Road-Dunes Circle. Bailey Road leaves Periwinkle Way just west of the causeway and leads to the bay. If you turn left on Sandcastle Road, you can circle around the neighborhood of the Dunes and its lushly landscaped, lovely homes. Continue along the 2.5 mile bike loop and you'll eventually pass the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club and return to where you began. Across from the Dunes exit, an evacuation trail takes a short cut to Sanibel-Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce and Causeway Road. For an add-on to this biking route, look for a bike path across from the golf club entrance that will take you to Bay Road and an exclusive waterfront neighborhood.