Just because your A/C unit is running like a champ and your house is cool and comfortable, you can still get outside from time to time and enjoy all that Southwest Florida has to offer like…
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Established in 1976, the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge is part of the US National Wildlife Refuge System and is well-known for its abundant bird life. It’s also one of our favorite places to go for a tour, admire Florida wildlife, or spend the day fishing!
Touring by Land or by Water
We strongly believe the best tours in Southwest Florida would be from a kayak, canoe, or paddleboard for two reasons. First, they are small enough to fit in the mangrove tunnels and maneuver around tight areas unlike any boat. (“Motorized crafts” are also prohibited in many areas of the refuge.) Second, they don’t make any noise and don’t really disturb the water. This is important in shallow areas like Ding Darling, which provides a lot of great wildlife that is relatively unharmed. A kayak can maneuver the mangrove forests and help you get up close and personal.
Ding Darling also provides a road for cars and bicycles to venture around a portion of the park from land. It costs $5 for vehicles and $1 for bikes. There is a tour bus as well that is filled with bird watchers and alligator seekers alike.
Ding Darling is known for its wide variety of wildlife, especially birds. Their website has a comprehensive list that will help identify all the different birds you can find! There is a likely chance of spotting an alligator as well. They even come on shore for visitors who take the land tour. Ding Darling is a great place to get a close-up view of the wildlife, but there are rules to keep both the wildlife and visitors safe. It is important that we admire wildlife at a safe distance!
Ding Darling is also great for fishing. However, as the seasoned fisherman and refuge manager Rob Jess said in an interview with the Florida Sportsman, “[It is] bar none…. if somebody is willing to kayak or canoe in.” This is because of the restrictions of boats and other motorized vehicles in the refuge center. It is better this way as you will scare less of the wildlife and see the natural beauty of Southwest Florida. It is also worth the $5 to fish from shore and locals can get the $12 year pass. If you are an avid fisherman, there is rarely have a bad fishing day in Ding Darling!