Summer Lovin’ with “Ding” Darling on Sanibel-Captiva Islands

Salty air, sunshine and beautiful Sanibel and Captiva wildlife at  J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge make for a perfect summer day. There are endless things to do on Sanibel and Captiva, but the top of your summer to-do list should include hanging out with the amazing team at the free “Ding” Darling Visitor & Education Center and exploring by car, foot, bike, or paddle. 

Summer at the Refuge means manatees social-mingling, juvenile Roseate Spoonbills hanging out after adults have flown off to vacation, great deals in the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society Refuge Nature Stores, the kickoff of its annual photo contest, and free summer programs through August 6th. Visit both nature stores on Sanibel – at the Refuge and 2250 Periwinkle Way – or let your fingers do the shopping at

Refuge Nature Stores Summer Deals

The main goal of the Refuge Nature store is to provide Refuge visitors with unique, eco-friendly products that have been curated to the highest standards. Many of its products are made in America, and the team often partners with up-and-coming local artisans. All of the store’s products are made with love, quality, conservation, and recycling as their top priority.

While we highly recommend going to the Refuge stores in person, online shopping is also available. Whether you purchase in-store or online, 100% of the profits go directly to the “Ding” Darling Refuge.

“Ding” Darling Annual Photo ContestFlamingos at

The annual “Ding” Darling photo contest is almost here! Every year, this contest is held to commemorate the birthday of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, one of America’s leading conservationists. The contest is open to any amateur photographer in the world. 

All photos should show an appreciation of wildlife and natural settings consistent with “Ding’s” wish that his conservation efforts continue to inspire.

The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners will be awarded cash prizes. All those who win and earn an honorable mention will be displayed in the “Ding” Visitor & Education Center for the rest of the year.

Those interested in participating can send in entries from July 15th through September 15th, 2022. Judges will announce the winners on October 29th during the Art in the Wild Festival.

Are you interested in entering the contest? Read the contest rules here and enter here when you’re ready!

Free Summer “Ding” Refuge Programs

“Ding” Refuge summer programs are back and better than ever! If you’re looking for fun in the wilds this summer on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, then look no further. The free “Ding” Refuge programs are guaranteed to keep you and the kids engaged all summer long.

The “Ding” Refuge programs run through August 6th. Summer tours change weekly but often include beach explorations, mindfulness walks, birding tours, hikes, and artful opportunities.

The Refuge offers free tours for 10 people or less. There’s not a set schedule but you can check the Eventbrite page to see what staff has planned for each week.


There’s no time to waste when staying on Sanibel and Captiva, the salty air and fresh breeze are waiting for you! We hope this helps you navigate your stay here to ensure that no second is wasted during your vacation. 

But, there are even more activities waiting for you – we’ve only scratched the surface! Need extra time to squeeze in every fun activity? Extend your stay by checking out