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Paddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, FloridaPaddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, Florida

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Reported: Nov. 2011 ; latest update: Dec. 2014

Sanibel Island... Paddling on Tarpon Bay and Commodore Creek Kayak Trail

Sanibel and adjacent Captiva Island are barrier islands that are popular Gulf Coast destinations with some of the highest rated shelling in the U.S. Comprising part of the Great Calusa Blueway, paddling on Tarpon Bay and on the Commodore Creek Kayak Trail are popular with locals and tourists alike. The islands are accessed via a causeway and toll bridge; due to their popularity, traffic can be slow moving with back ups. (Detailed map and photos below.)



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Distance: Tarpon Bay Loop (8 miles), Commodore Creek (2.5 miles), Buck Key Loop (4 miles), Sanibel Bayou (various)
Location: Lee County
Difficulty:
Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: Sanibel at the Causeway, Tarpon Bay Road, Bowman's Beach (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Fort Myers, Edison and Ford Winter Homes

Paddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, FloridaPaddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, Florida

From J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge are Tarpon Bay, Commodore Creek Kayak Trail, the Buck Key Loop Trail, and the Sanibel Bayous. Paddling is permitted to the right side of Wildlife Drive, no vessels are allowed on the impoundment to the left of the Drive. The Refuge is a popular bird watching destination with the 4.3 mile Wildlife Drive winding through mangrove forest and tidal flats for close-up wildlife viewing.

17 signs mark the 2.5-mile Commodore Creek trail. At the end of the trail, continue along the shoreline of Tarpon Bay (an 8 mile loop). Buck Key off Captiva Island includes a 4-mile loop through mangrove. Bowman's Beach is a good launch to explore the Sanibel Bayous. If you do explore the mangrove tunnels, carrying a compass and GPS is a good idea to avoid getting lost.

Paddling at Sanibel Island
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
We launched from Tarpon Bay Explorers (concessionaires for the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, fee paid for launching our own kayaks) and explored the shoreline along Tarpon Bay and its bays and tunnels. We then paddled the Commodore Creek Kayak Trail off Tarpon Bay, about a half mile from the launch - a beautiful, easy paddle.
Tarpon Bay
A pleasant paddle, exploring small bays and through mangrove tunnels along the shoreline. It can get windy, paddling across the Bay was a good aerobic exercise. Stick close to the shoreline on the sheltered side for an easier paddling experience. Some motor boats may be met on the Bay. We hoped to see dolphins and manatee, but not on this trip!
Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe
Launch at Tarpon Bay Explorers - rental kayaks, paddleboards, boats in the background From the boat ramp onto Tarpon Bay, tour boat at the dock Paddling toward Commodore Creek Checking out a mangrove side creek Along a side bay
Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Tarpon Bay - Kayak, Canoe
Crossing the Bay, a good workout in the wind! Looking across Tarpon Bay Into the mangrove Exploring a side creek Returning to launch
Commodore Creek Kayak Trail
Paddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, FloridaPaddle Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Ding Darling, Ft Myers, kayak, canoe, Florida Perhaps the prettiest paddle through mangrove we've seen! A great trip for even the most novice paddlers, there are only a couple of narrow spots on the trail itself, and 17 markers to avoid getting lost in the maze. We did diverge from the trail in a couple of spots to explore the mangrove tunnels only to find ourselves back on the main trail but don't recommend this to novice paddlers.

Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe
Watch for the trail markers, 1-17 We met some other paddlers, otherwise a very serene paddle
Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe
Checking out
a side tunnel
A rare narrow spot along the trail, between markers
13 and 14
After this point, return the same way (from marker 5 in the other direction) Exiting back onto Tarpon Bay
Wildlife
Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe
Ibis Anhinga Cormorant Blue heron Pelican
Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kakak, CanoePaddle Sanibel Island, Commodore Creek - Kayak, Canoe
Osprey nesting Starfish Sheephead  

See more about the Great Calusa Blueway

Also visit us here: Bicycling at Sanibel Island

More information on Sanibel Island (opens in a new window):

- "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Sanibel Island

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Tarpon Bay Explorers

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Support and Advocacy

"Ding" Darling
Wildlife Society