Nature,  Travel

What to Photograph on Sanibel Island, Florida

Sanibel Island is a popular beach vacation spot for tourists.  Miles of beaches, shelling, fishing, kayaking and miles of paved paths for bicycling are some of the attractions on Sanibel Island.

Sanibel Island is also a great place for photographers.  For those photographers traveling with families, you may be able to slip away for photography while the family is enjoying the beach or other activity.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse at Sunrise

Sanibel Island Lighthouse from the Causeway

Here are some of my favorite photography spots that I found while visiting Sanibel Island.

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

While this list isn’t in any particular order, Ding Darling is one of my favorite places on the Island.  Wildlife Drive is a 4.25 mile long road with bays and mangrove swamp on each side.  It’s a terrific spot for wading birds and shore birds.

Species that I’ve photographed along Wildlife Drive are: White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Reddish Egrets, Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Green Herons, Roseate Spoonbills, Ospreys, Willets, and Cormorants.

There are also several trails to hike and explore off of Wildlife Drive including the Indigo Trail and Wulfurt Keys Trail.

Gator in the Light, Sanibel Island

Alligator at the Bailey Tract

Bailey Tract

The Bailey Tract is a part of Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve that is separate from Wildlife Drive.  The Bailey Tract has several miles of trails that lead you along several ponds and a small river.

Several Types of birds can be photographed at Bailey Tract including wading birds, waterfowl and song birds.  Some of the birds that I have photographed on Bailey Tract are Tricolored Herons, Palm Warblers, Flycatchers, and Northern Cardinals.  Butterflies, Dragonflies, and alligators can also be readily photographed on Bailey Tract.

Sunrise on Sanibel Beach

The southern end of Sanibel Island curves around to the east making it a terrific spot to photograph the sun rising over Fort Myers beach.  If you’re lucky, you may get a boat or paddle boarder in your shot to add interest to the photograph.

Willet on Sanibel Beach

Willet on Sanibel Beach

Sanibel Beach for Bird Photography

Try walking along Sanibel Island Beach in the morning or evening to photograph birds.  Birds gather along the beach in search of food.  Look for Brown Pelicans diving for fish, shore birds feeding on conch and other foods, and Ospreys looking for fish.

Sanibel Lighthouse and Fort Myers Beach Skyline

One of my favorite places to photograph the Sanibel Lighthouse is from the causeway leading to Sanibel Island from Fort Myers.  The sun rises behind the lighthouse and in the minutes before sunrise, you can capture the orange and pink colors in the clouds above the lighthouse.  This is also a great location to capture the sunrise over Fort Myers Beach.

You will need a longer lens to photograph the lighthouse from this location.  I used my Canon 100-400mm lens with a Canon 1.4X Telephoto Extender that I use to photograph birds at Ding Darling.

Fort Myers Beach Sunrise from Sanibel Beach

Fort Myers Beach Sunrise from Sanibel Beach

Sanibel Bridge

The Sanibel Bridge can also be photographed from the causeway.  However, you may want to move closer to the Fort Myers before the bridge for a closer composition.

There is a turn around exit before the bridge as you are heading off the island that will make it easier to return to Sanibel.  Sometimes left turns can be difficult with the traffic entering Sanibel.

Sanibel Moorings Botanical Garden

This isn’t your typical botanical garden.  The gardens are spread around the buildings of a housing complex.  That said, the garden is well maintained and has a good variety of plants and flowers.  It’s only a $5 donation for your entire party.

Written by Martin Belan

Related Blog Posts
Southwest Florida Bird Photography – Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Florida Bird Photography with the Canon 100-400mm Mark II Lens
Bird Photography at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

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