Ding Darling Sanibel Island Anchorage

For years we thought because of our 5 1/2 foot draft, we couldn’t get close enough to the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge to make it an adequate anchorage.   So we followed the advice in the Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida – no longer in print, but if you find an old copy of this ancient guidebook, buy it – and left the ICW at Marker 16 to angle in toward the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.  (Note:  when we left following our bubble track in, we ran aground, put full sail up, wriggled and wraggled and finally got ourselves free.  The bottom is sand so no harm.  Our advice is to look at your charts and weave your way in closer to Marker 18, but it depends on your draft.)

Just under the compass rose N and you'll see Shallow Cut Off, just off of Tarpon Bay.  Just off this area is the best anchorage.

Just under the compass rose N and you’ll see Shallow Cut Off, just off of Tarpon Bay. Just off this area is the best anchorage.

Here's the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge/Sanibel Island anchorage page from the WONDERFUL but out of print

Here’s the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge/Sanibel Island anchorage page from the WONDERFUL but out of print “Guide to Anchorages in Southwest Florida” – if you find it, buy it!

We dropped anchor WAY out due to the shallow water and used the dinghy to find out we could get in much closer.  So we reanchored and enjoyed a gorgeous sunset — and fewer wakes once the ICW traffic lessened after dark.  Note this anchorage is fairly open from the North and has some fetch from other directions as well, so pick a calm window to visit.

The next morning it was time for a ROADTRIP!  Otherwise known as a dinghy adventure.  Look on the Sanibel/Ding Darling map photo above.  See the south end of the island at the far right of this photo, that’s where the Sanibel Lighthouse and Lighthouse Beach are located.  It’s a bit of a dinghy ride, but it was interesting and we saw dolphins and rays leaping all the way down.

Ashore on Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, you can see the Sanibel Bridge we went under a few days earlier returning from Ft Myers Beach/Matanzas Pass.

Ashore on Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, you can see the Sanibel Bridge we went under a few days earlier returning from Ft Myers Beach/Matanzas Pass.

The lighthouse, on the far south end of Sanibel Island,  was built in 1884 and the beach and park areas were declared a National Wildlife Refuge in 1950.   The beach park is a popular destination on Sanibel with it’s view across San Carlos Bay to Ft Myers Beach, the spring break craziness a welcome contrast with the calm laidback Sanibel atmosphere.

The stuff on the beach is natural and because it's a state park, it's not cleaned off.  When we were there, it was on Sanibel's beach, but not a few miles north on North Captiva ... go figure.

The stuff on the beach is natural and because it’s a state park, it’s not cleaned off. When we were there, it was on Sanibel’s beach, but not a few miles north on North Captiva … go figure.

Look really closely.  This Great White Egret, with it's pluming feathers, is fishing and just nabbed a teeny tiny silvery fishie - appetizer maybe?

Look really closely. This Great White Egret, with it’s pluming feathers, is fishing and just nabbed a teeny tiny silvery fishie – appetizer maybe?

Surrounded by beach umbrellas, the Sanibel Lighthouse is a popular beach location on the southern tip of Sanibel Island.

Surrounded by beach umbrellas, the Sanibel Lighthouse is a popular beach location on the southern tip of Sanibel Island.

The lighthouse was build in 1844 and the surrounding area was declared a wildlife refuge in 1950.

The lighthouse was build in 1884 and the surrounding area was declared a wildlife refuge in 1950.

I love lighthouses, and while the structural ones aren't my favorite visuals, they're still cool.

I love lighthouses, and while the structural ones aren’t my favorite visuals, they’re still cool.

Time to blow the conch horn!

Time to blow the conch horn!

And another busy day is done.  Tomorrow we’ll go kayaking in the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge!  Stay tuned!

If you anchor here – we were told that Sanibel Island enforces a 48 hour anchoring limit.  Supposedly you can get approval for longer by going to City Hall, but we were there slightly longer and no one challenged us.  We were told at the kayak concessionaire in Tarpon Bay that we could leave our dinghy long enough to visit their gift shop, and they gave us a map, but wouldn’t let us go ashore otherwise.  They told us that the Ding Darling office would not let us rent bikes because there was no place to leave the dinghy – it’s their busiest season.   Maybe in a different season it would be a different story.  Or maybe we just looked like undesirable characters.   🙂

Have you anchored in this area?  Any more info to add?  Please leave a comment and share!  Cheers!  Jan

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