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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.)

paddle Sanibel, Tarpon Bay, Commodore Creek, Great Calusa Blueway, kayak, canoe

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

Tarpon Bay Explorers  (rentals, tours)

Adventure Tours and Rentals  (rentals, tours)

Support and Advocacy:

"Ding" Darling Wildlife Society

Sanibel Island... Comments and Photos

Paddling at Sanibel Island includes:

  • Tarpon Bay, and the Commodore Creek Kayak Trail - see below for details
  • J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge - paddling is permitted to the right side of Wildlife Drive, no vessels are allowed on the impoundment to the left of the Drive.
  • Buck Key off Captiva Island - 4-mile loop through mangrove
  • Bowman's Beach - good launch to explore the Sanibel Bayous.

Tarpon Bay

We launched from Tarpon Bay Explorers (concessionaires for the "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, paying a fee for launching our own kayaks) and explored the shoreline along Tarpon Bay and its bays and tunnels. A pleasant paddle, though it can get windy paddling across the Bay and we had a good aerobic exercise. Stick close to the shoreline on the sheltered side for an easier paddling experience. There may be motor boats on the Bay as well. We hoped to see dolphins and manatee, but not on this trip!


Commodore Creek Kayak Trail

We paddled the 2.5 mile Commodore Creek Kayak Trail off Tarpon Bay, about a half mile from the launch - a beautiful, easy paddle and perhaps the prettiest 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. At the end of the trail, continue along the shoreline of Tarpon Bay (an 8 mile loop).


Wildlife

The Refuge is a popular bird watching destination, many seen while paddling. On land, the 4.3 mile Wildlife Drive winding through mangrove forest and tidal flats provides close-up wildlife viewing.

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