Bunche Beach Preserve: A Paddler’s Paradise Across the Bridge
When people find out that I lead paddling excursions for a living, often the first thing they want to know is where I like to paddle. That’s easy – anywhere with water. However, if you are looking for a more specific answer, Bunche Beach Preserve offers easy access, protection from wind, and incredible views.
Located just four miles east of the Sanibel toll plaza in Fort Myers, Bunche Beach was named after Dr. Ralph Bunche, the first African-American to win the Nobel Prize after he served as a mediator for the United Nations. The preserve is a quick drive from the islands and covers more than seven hundred acres, facing southwest towards Sanibel and the Gulf of Mexico. It is home to mangroves, beaches, and plenty of birds. It is also part of the Great Calusa Blueway and the Great Florida Birding Trail.
Bunche Beach Preserve offers two ideal options for paddlers. The first is to arrive just after low tide and paddle to the beach along Rock Creek via paddleboard. Spend some time sunning and shelling, then relax with the incoming tide on your way back to the launch area. The second option is to head into the mangroves by kayak and explore the prehistoric world of these walking trees. Both paddles will provide excellent wildlife watching opportunities.
To access the preserve’s kayak launch, go to 18201 John Morris Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908. There is a small parking fee of $2 per hour, and parking spaces fill quickly during season. If you do not own a vessel, rentals are available from an onsite vendor. Do not be deterred by a crowded parking lot, as many visitors head straight to the beach, so the paddling areas remain relatively quiet year-round.
Walter Cheatham is an experienced paddler and ACA-Certified Paddling Instructor. Ocean Tribe Paddlers is a club founded by Sanibel Sea School to help the SWFL paddling community better explore, enjoy, and understand the ocean. Visit oceantribepaddlers.org or follow us on Facebook to learn more.