A common vacation destination among Floridians, Fort Myers and Sanibel Island's white sand beaches, plethora of shells, and wildlife rich landscapes and waters also provide wonderful paddling opportunities for kayakers and paddleboarders alike. There are miles of inland paddling trails to explore that are protected from the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these trails lead right out into the beaches and bays and there are multiple islands to explore in the immediate vicinity. Here's just a taste of a few of the options available to paddlers looking to kayak and board in and around Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
San Carlos Bay is the area of water in between Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. The mouth of the bay opens right up to the Gulf of Mexico on one end or it goes through the inlet under the Sanibel Causeway on the other side. The bay therefore has shoreline, mangrove trails, beaches, and islands from to explore by either kayak or paddleboard. You can even paddle across and go back and forth between Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
Sanibel Island is a quieter scene than Fort Myers Beach. To get to Sanibel, head west from Fort Myers Beach and go over the Sanibel Causeway. You'll pass over two islands aptly named The Causeway Islands which also serve as launch points for various kayaking and paddleboarding excursions. The beaches at Sanibel are great for paddling. There is also a large wildlife preserve (highlighted below) and bay which has kayak rentals and is a great opportunity to see the islands birds, dolphin, and manatee. (click photo to enlarge)
Perhaps one of the best kayak and paddleboard launch-points in the vicinity of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, the Causeway Islands serve as the nexus for a variety of different types of paddling trips. Island A and Island B, as they are called, serve as a partial land bridge between Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. In the process they have been made into a park and are full-fledged recreation areas where partakers enjoy fishing, picnicking, swimming, and paddling.
Bunch Beach Preserve is an estuary of mangrove trees and trails that leads out into the San Carlos Bay. There are carpeted kayak ramps at the preserve. From the kayak ramps you can paddle and explore the various of mangrove trails contained in the preserve. It is a 5-minute paddle from the kayak launch among the mangrove trails to get out into San Carlos Bay.
Located on the north side Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico, The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest mangrove estuaries in the country and is home to dolphins, manatees, bird galore. There is a full service kayak, paddle board, nature tour outfitter right on the site. But, you can of course explore using your own gear. (click photo to enlarge)
Part of the Lee County Parks System, Lakes Regional Park is a very large freshwater lake formed from a rock quarry in the last quarter of the 20th Century. This is a great option for freshwater paddlers looking to see alligators, birds, fish for bass, and do some protected kayaking and canoeing. (click photo to enlarge)