Discover Southwest Florida: Attractions
Ever heard the howl of a wolf so close it took your breath away? Few visitors are aware of Naples’ Shy Wolf Sanctuary. Though not a zoo—it’s a safe habitat for wolves, wolf dogs and other exotic animals that have been abused or abandoned—you can visit by appointment, and donations are appreciated.
Among the most beautiful and exciting zoos in Florida is the historic Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. In contrast, if a quirky Old Florida roadside attraction is your thing, check out Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs. And if your taste runs more to delicate flying flowers, head straight to the Butterfly Estates in Fort Myers.
Still, most of the wildlife here in Paradise thrive in their natural habitats. State and national preserves protect our native black bears, foxes, deer, coyotes, rare Everglades fox squirrels and endangered bird species. The bays and rivers are home to manatees, dolphins and an exquisite array of fish life. The swamps and backwaters house large populations of alligators and birds, including magnificent raptors and white pelicans. The 26,000-acre Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is helping to save this endangered species from extinction.
Don’t just read about it. Take a swamp walk through Fakahatchee Strand, which is called the Amazon of North America. Drive the winding roads through the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, home to 220 species of birds. Camp or hike at Big Cypress National Preserve. Stroll the boardwalks of Corkscrew Swamp, land of prairies, cypress knees and lettuce lakes, where wood storks nest and rare orchids grow.
Historic Smallwood Store; Ole Indian Trading Post and Museum, 360 Mamie St., (239) 695-2989. Established in 1906. $3 adults, $2.50 seniors, children under 12 free. Open daily: Dec. 1–May 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; May 2–Nov. 30, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. florida-everglades.com.
Museum of the Everglades, 105 W. Broadway, (239) 695-0008. Tells the story of 2,000 years of human habitation in the southwest Everglades. Admission is free; donations welcome. Open Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. colliermuseums.com.
Wings 10,000 Islands Aero-Tours, 650 E. C. Airpark Road, (239) 695-3296. Fly in an Alaskan floatplane over the Everglades, the Keys or Ten Thousand Islands. Operates seasonally November through May.
Big Cypress National Preserve, (239) 695-1201. Fifty miles east of Naples on Tamiami Trail. 729,000-acre preserve of cypress swamp, mangroves, sawgrass prairies and natural freshwater rivers. nps.gov.
Wooten’s Airboat and Swamp Buggy Tours, 32330 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 695-2781. Airboat and swamp-buggy tours through the mangroves and marshlands of the Everglades and Cypress Swamp. wootensairboats.com.
Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch, 1215 Roberts Ave., (239) 658-2466. Fifteen-acre living history museum recollects the history of cattle ranching in the area. Admission is free; donations welcome. Open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. colliermuseums.com.
Lake Trafford Marina and Airboats and Alligators, 6001 Lake Trafford Road, (239) 657-2214. Airboat rides and boat tours through Corkscrew Swamp. laketrafford.com.
Seminole Casino, 506 S. First St., (239) 658-1313. Gaming machines and live-action poker. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. theseminolecasinos.com.
Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, (239) 389-6447. Permanent exhibits, such as life-size diorama of a Calusa Indian village, are set to open in 2011. The museum showcases traveling exhibits. Visit the Historical Society’s website for exhibit details and hours. themihs.org.
Marco Island Trolley Tours, (239) 394-1600. New service providing a narrated 90-minute, 11-stop tour with visits to local resorts, businesses and visitor centers.
Double R’s Fishing Tours, (239) 642-9779. Specializing in light tackle, inshore and offshore fishing. doublersfishingandtours.com.
Everglades Excursions, (800) 592-0848. Departs from Marco Island or Naples for narrated, full- or half-day trips aboard a “comfort-controlled” safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com.
Golden Gate Aquatics Facility, 3300 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 353-3636. Heated pool, children’s activity pool, 110-foot open slide, 110-foot tube slide, a pair of 1-meter springboards and a 3-meter springboard. Walk-in fee $3. All water facilities managed by Collier Parks and Recreation close if the air temperature is 59 degrees or below.
Collier County Historical Museum, 3301 E. Tamiami Trail, (239) 252-8476. Five-acre botanical complex interpreting the history, archaeology and development of Florida and Collier County. Admission is free; donations welcome. colliermuseums.com.
Collier-Seminole State Park, 20200 E. Tamiami Trail, (239) 394-3397. Canoe rentals, boat ramp, electric and water hookup for campsites. $5 per car for up to eight people, $22 for camping. floridastateparks.org.
Conservancy of Southwest Florida, 1450 Merrihue Drive, (239) 262-0304. Newly expanded environmental organization that educates visitors about Southwest Florida wildlife and habitats. Daily guided tours, Discovery Center, nature trails, boat tours of the Gordon River included in admission fee. Also available are naturalist-guided boat tours of Rookery Bay and special presentations by topic experts. conservancy.org.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Blair Audubon Center, 375 Sanctuary Road W., (239) 348-9151. Award-winning boardwalk meanders through a cypress forest. Day, sunset and night tours available. Admission fees apply. corkscrew.audubon.org.
CREW (Corkscrew Regional Ecological Watershed) encompasses 60,000 acres. Managed by Land & Water Trust at 4600 C.R. 850, (239) 657-2253. More than five miles of natural hiking trails through marsh, pine flatwoods and cypress dome ecosystems. Primitive campsites available. Free admission. See website for events and hikes. crewtrust.org.
Double R’s Manatee & Eco Tours, (239) 642-9779. Two-and-a-half-hour tour of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades. doublersfishingandtours.com.
The Edge Johnny Nocera Skatepark at Fleischmann Park, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., (239) 213-3027. Forty-thousand-square-foot skateboarding and biking facility. Beginner to advanced levels. Visitor’s pass $10 per day or $30 per week. naplesgov.com/Departments/ParksandRecreation/EdgeSkatePark.aspx.
Everglades Day Safari, (239) 472-1559. A comprehensive exploration of the Everglades by airboat, convention boat, wildlife drive and nature walk. $145 for adults, $125 for children ages five to 11. Lunch included. ecosafari.com.
Everglades Excursions, (800) 592-0848. Departs daily from Naples or Marco Island for narrated full-day or half-day trips aboard a comfort-controlled safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com.
Everglades National Park, entrance located south of the Tamiami Trail/Route 29 entrance, (305) 242-7700. Largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. Explore by canoe/kayak or walking trails. Forty-seven wilderness campsites. Other features include visitor centers, tram tours, lodging, boating and fishing. Entrance fees apply. nps.gov.
Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, on Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, just west of Copeland on S.R. 29, (239) 695-4593. A linear swamp 20 miles long and five miles wide. Home to the world’s only bald cypress-royal palm forest. Features a boardwalk, seasonal canoe trips and guided tours. Admission is free. floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand.
Florida Sports Park, 8250 Collier Blvd., (239) 774-2701. Host to the Swamp Buggy Races, special events and concerts.
Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon), in North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, Naples, (239) 514-0084. Scheduled to open February 2012. A spectacularly designed environment that will foster play-filled learning through 13 interactive exhibits teaching children about the Everglades, a farm, outer space and more. cmon.org.
Holocaust Museum Southwest Florida, Sandalwood Square, 4760 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 7, (239) 263-9200. History and lessons are taught through the surviving artifacts, tours and a dedicated library. $8 admission. holocaustmuseumswfl.org.
King Richard’s Fun Park, 6780 N. Airport-Pulling Road, (239) 598-2042. Medieval-themed amusement park featuring laser tag, rock climbing and go carts. kingrichardspark.net.
London Aviation, 100 Aviation Drive S., (239) 643-4468. Helicopter and airplane tours, charters, flight training, photography, service and sales. londonhelicopters.com.
Naples Botanical Gardens, 4820 Bayshore Drive, (239) 643-7275. Newly reopened with 70 acres of gardens, lakes and facilities including an interactive Children’s Garden plus Asian, Caribbean and Brazilian gardens. naplesgarden.org.
Naples Depot, 1051 Fifth Ave. S., (239) 262-6525. Travel back to the days when Naples relied upon the railway for trade and transportation.
Naples Museum of Art, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., (239) 597-1900. The 30,000-square-foot museum at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts features 15 galleries. $8 adults, $4 students. thephil.org.
Naples Preserve and the Hedges Family Eco-Center, 735 Eighth St. S., (239) 261-4290. A .4 mile self-guided tour on an elevated boardwalk. Home to plant and animal species associated with one of the oldest Floridian ecologies.
Naples Trolley Tours, 1010 Sixth Ave. S., (800) 592-0848 or (239) 262-7300. Fully narrated trolley tour covering more than 100 points of interest. naplestrolleytours.com.
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, (239) 262-5409. New giraffe exhibit. Daily activities include Meet the Keeper, alligator feedings primate expedition tours and other presentations. $19.95 adults, $12.95 children three to 12. caribbeangardens.com.
North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4021. Calusa fossil dig play area for children, interactive playground, and a 90-acre wetland preserve area. Free admission.
Palm Cottage, 137 12th Ave. S., (239) 261-8164. Built in 1895. The oldest home in Naples restored to its original condition. Requested donation of $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12. napleshistoricalsociety.org.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve Learning Center, 300 Tower Road, (239) 417-6310. View aquariums, interactive exhibits and art gallery. Participate in field programs, take a guided kayak tour. rookerybay.org.
South Naples Citrus Grove, 341 Sabal Palm Road, (239) 774-3838. Bagged tangerines, grapefruit and oranges to sell on premises or to ship as gift boxes. naplescitrus.com.
Sun-N-Fun Lagoon at North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4021. Water slides, lazy river, water playgrounds and pools. Up to 48 inches tall, $5.50; over 48 inches tall, $12; three and younger, free.
Everglades Wonder Gardens, 27180 Old 41 Road, (239) 992-2591. Wildlife includes alligators, Florida panthers, black bears, flamingos, otter show and the world’s largest American crocodile. $15 adults, $8 children three to 10.
Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track, 10601 Bonita Beach Road, (239) 992-2411. Dog racing, adopt-a-greyhound program, live poker and dining room. naplesfortmyersdogs.com.
Cape Coral Historical Museum and Rose Garden, 544 Cultural Park Blvd., (239) 772-7037. Monthly lectures, group tours, historical preservation. capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org.
Four-Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, north of Midpoint Memorial Bridge, (239) 574-7395. Includes 365 acres of mangroves and 6,600 feet of nature trail. Canoe/kayak rentals available. Free admission and parking.
Mike Greenwell’s Family Fun Park, 35 N.E. Pine Island Road, (239) 574-4386. Paintball, 19-hole miniature golf, arcade, go-cart tracks, fish-feeding dock and batting cages. greenwellsfamilyfunpark.com.
Sun Splash Family Waterpark, 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 574-0558. The 12-acre water park features three high speed slides, river ride, tot spot and 427-foot electric slide. See website for operating schedule. sunsplashwaterpark.com.
College of Life Foundation, 8661 Corkscrew Road, (239) 992-2184. Dedicated to preserving the historic Koreshan communal heritage. Donations accepted. Tours by appointment.
Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., (239) 498-0415. A 55-acre park featuring an amphitheatre, lighted playground, dog area and two recently transplanted historic structures.
Florida Everblades at Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, (239) 948-7825. Florida Everblades hockey October to April; Germain Arena offers public skating, concerts and special events. Restaurant and sports bar on premises. florida-everblades.com, germainarena.com.
Koreshan State Historic Site, U.S. 41 at Corkscrew Road, (239) 992-0311. Campground, canoe rental, picnic area, boat landing and nature trails. $5 per vehicle (up to eight people); $26 camping fee per night. floridastateparks.org/koreshan.
Mound Key State Archaeological Site, in Estero Bay at the mouth of the Estero River, (239) 992-0311. Accessible only by boat. No facilities. Canoe and kayak rental available at Koreshan State Historic Site. floridastateparks.org/moundkey.
Babcock Wilderness Adventures, 8000 S.R. 31, Punta Gorda, (800) 500-5583. View wildlife on a 90-minute swamp-buggy ride around Babcock Ranch, which is set within a 90,000-acre “working” ranch. Reservations required. $19.95 adults, $12.95 children three to 12. babcockwilderness.com.
Bamboozles Skating and Event Center, 2095 Andrea Lane, (239) 482-7199. Includes snack bar, game area and novelty center. gobamboozles.com.
Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, 3450 Ortiz Ave., (239) 275-3435. Butterfly aviary, nature trails, a natural history museum, Audubon aviary, planetarium and new insectarium exhibit. calusanature.com.
Centennial Park, 2000 W. First St., downtown Fort Myers, (239) 321-7524. A 10-acre park along the Caloosahatchee River with a playground, including equipment for handicapped children, fishing pier, dock facilities.
Charlene’s Classic Carriages, (239) 543-2290. Downtown carriage tour; specializing in weddings and special events. charlenesclassiccarriages.com.
ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization), 17391 Durrance Road, (239) 543-3246. Global Farm tours the edible landscape nursery and herb garden and six climate demonstration areas. Adults $10, children over six $5, children under six free. echonet.org.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates, 2350 McGregor Blvd., (239) 334-7419. Tour Thomas A. Edison’s chemical research laboratory and museum filled with hundreds of his inventions. Admission fees apply. edisonfordwinterestates.org.
Fort Myers Skatium, 2250 Broadway, (239) 321-7510. In-line and ice-skating programs for all ages. $3 skate rental. Adults $7, children 12 and younger $6. yourpagemaker.com/fmskatium.
Fossil Expeditions, (239) 368-3252. Walking or kayaking expeditions that search for bones and teeth of ancient mammoths, mastodons, tortoises, saber-toothed cats, whales, dolphins and sharks. fossilexpeditions.com.
GAEA Guides, guided kayak tours, (239) 694-5513. Kayak clinics, bird, manatee, full-moon, sunset and bat kayak tours. All guides are Florida Master Naturalists trained by the University of Florida. gaeaguides.com.
Hammond Stadium, 14400 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, (239) 768-4210. Hosts Minnesota Twins spring training games, plus the minor league Fort Myers Miracle. Open April to September. $8.50 box seats, $6.50 general admission. miraclebaseball.com.
Imaginarium Hands-On Museum, 2000 Cranford Ave., (239) 321-7420. Exhibits on weather, water, the human body, physics and math. $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 children and students, free for children under three and members. imaginariumfortmyers.com.
Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, (239) 533-7581. Swimming, nature trails, mini-train rides, bike and boat rentals, picnic sites, concession stand and Wi-Fi. Pavilion and lodge rentals available with advanced notice. leeparks.org.
Lee Civic Center, 11831 Bayshore Road, (239) 543-7469. Concerts, trade shows, expos, rodeos, company picnics and more. leeciviccenter.com.
Manatee Park, 10901 S.R. 80, east of I-75, (239) 690-5030. Picnic areas, non-motorized kayak/canoe launch, fishing deck on the Orange River and native plant habitats. Parking $1 per hour, $5 per day. leeparks.org.
Palm Tree Park, corner of Edwards Drive and Lee Street, (239) 334-0839. Palm trees and a memorial to the 82nd Airborne.
Seminole Gulf Railway, 2805 Colonial Blvd., Colonial Station, (239) 275-8487. Murder-mystery dinner train and holiday-themed excursions. Reservations required. semgulf.com.
Shell Factory and Nature Park, 2787 N. Tamiami Trail, (239) 995-2141. Fun park with shell-themed shopping, dining and nature park and botanical garden. shellfactory.com.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Six Mile Cypress Parkway (one mile north of Daniels Parkway), (239) 533-7550. Boardwalk trails, picnic areas and new interpretive center. Parking $1 per hour, $5 per day. leeparks.org.
FORT MYERS BEACH
Big “M” Casino, 450 Harbor Court, (239) 765-PLAY (7529). Gaming aboard a 162-foot yacht. All-you-can-eat buffet, bingo, live entertainment. Ages 21 and up. bigmcasino.com.
Estero Island Historic Cottage and Nature Center, 161 Bay Road, (239) 463-0435. The center celebrates the history of Fort Myers Beach with artifacts and photos. Cottage open Wednesday and Saturday mornings 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve, 199 Bay Road, (239) 463-0435. 56-acre sanctuary for native plants and animals. Open seven days a week from dawn to dusk.
Ostego Bay Marine Science Center, 718 Fisherman’s Wharf, (239) 765-8101. Touch tanks and interactive exhibits. Requested donation for admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children older than six. ostegobay.org.
Eden Vineyards and Winery, 19709 Little Lane, Alva, (239) 728-9463. Vineyard producing six grape wines from hybrid grapes as well as wines from tropical fruits. edenwinery.com.
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park, 17980 Palm Beach Blvd., (239) 694-0398. A 1,115-acre wildlife preserve with five miles of trails, fishing deck, picnic area. Parking is $1 per hour or $5 per day.
Gasparilla Island State Park, via the Boca Grande Causeway at C.R. 775 and Placida, (941) 964-0375. Featuring the Boca Grande lighthouse built in 1890 to mark the entrance from the Gulf of Mexico to Charlotte Harbor. $3 entrance fee per vehicle is collected via honor collection box. floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland.
Museum of the Islands, 5728 Sesame Drive, Bokeelia, (239) 283-1525. Features island culture, past and present. Call for hours. $2 adults, $1 children. museumoftheislands.com.
Randell Research Center, 13810 Waterfront Drive, (239) 283-2062. Tour the internationally significant Pineland archaeological site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. Requested donations are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children. flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc.
Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, (239) 395-2233. Exhibits displaying shells from Southwest Florida and around the world. $9 adults, $4 children ages five to 16, free for children ages four and under. shellmuseum.org.
Cabbage Key, at channel marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway. A tiny island built on a Calusa Indian mound, accessible by boat. Restaurant, bar and inn.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, 1 Wildlife Drive, (239) 472-1100. Mangrove forest, cordgrass marshes and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Education center. Bicycles, canoes and kayaks for rent. Tours available. $5 per car, $1 adult bicyclist or hiker. fws.gov/dingdarling.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Nature Center, 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, (239) 472-2329. Four miles of trails (with an observation tower), exhibits, a touch tank, butterfly house, and Nature Shop and Bookstore. Specializing in barrier island ecology. $5 adults, free for children under 17. sccf.org.
Sanibel Historical Village and Museum, 950 Dunlop Road, (239) 472-4648. Tour eight restored buildings, including a 1926 Sears Roebuck kit house. $5 adults. sanibelmuseum.org.
Sanibel Lighthouse, Lighthouse City Park, Point Ybel, (239) 472-1080. The lighthouse on the southern tip of Sanibel was first lit in 1884. The park features a lush tropical landscape, beach and bayside fishing pier.