Tarpon Bay Explorers, the concession for the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, will close for the month of September. The concession plans to reopen on Monday, October 2nd. “September is generally a very slow time for us and the island in general during a normal year,” said Wendy Schnapp, managing partner of Tarpon Bay Explorers. “A majority of hotels, condos and resorts are still recovering so we anticipate demand will be lower than usual and justifies a temporary closure until we begin to see snowbirds return and the holidays near,” explained Schnapp.
Tarpon Bay Explorers also employs the staff who work the fee booth at the entrance of Wildlife Drive. But, have no fear, Wildlife Drive will remain open throughout the month of September with the current days and hours of operation: 7am-5pm, Saturday through Thursday (i.e. Wildlife Drive, Visitor’s Center & Indigo Trail are CLOSED Fridays). For those who enjoy launching from Tarpon Bay, please be aware that the entire Tarpon Bay recreational area will be closed to the public, including the ramp, until October 2nd.
Tarpon Bay Explorers opened February 1st, 2023, 4 months after Hurricane Ian made landfall on September 28th, 2022. The Explorers family was forced to go from 35 employees to 3 after the storm and opened with limited days and hours: Monday, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 8am to 5pm, rentals stop at 3pm. The concession anticipates the same days and hours of operation when the company reopens October 2nd. The same rental and tour opportunities will be provided along with their wonderful nature-themed gift shop. Kayak tours will still be held on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am (reservations recommended) and Tram Tours will occur Thursdays at 10am & 1pm (reservations also recommended). If you have any questions for the Explorers crew before they go on their 1 month hiatus, call the gift shop at 239-472-8900. For any further information or reservations for guided tours, visit their website at www.tarponbayexplorers.com.