Southwest Florida Visitors' Guide: Attractions

BY January 12, 2017

Before Southwest Florida became the center of activity it is today, Lee and Collier counties were quaint, quiet areas nestled among endless miles of untouched vegetation. Transport yourself back to this time by immersing yourself in the diverse ecology and wildlife that continue to make Florida unique.

Opportunities for exploration are endless: Round up the family and take a wild airboat ride through the primitive flora and fauna of the Everglades, kayak through the back waterways and spot manatees coming up for air, or get lost in the maze of nature trails that wind through the region.

As you embark on your adventures, be sure to schedule visits to landmarks like the Historic Palm Cottage, Naples’ oldest home, which has been restored in its original condition. Or make your way to the Mound Key Archaeological State Park, which is accessible only by boat. Whatever path you choose, we know you’ll be enchanted by the rich past and present of the Gulfshore.



HICKEY’S CREEK MITIGATION PARK, 17980 Palm Beach Blvd., (239) 229-4134. An 862-acre wildlife preserve with 5 miles of trails, fishing deck and picnic areas. Parking is $1 per hour or $5 per day. leeparks.org


EVERGLADES WONDER GARDENS, 27180 Old 41 Road, (239) 992-2591. Former roadside zoo and animal rescue now reopened as a botanical garden and art gallery. evergladeswondergardens.com

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, 544 Cultural Park Blvd., (239) 772-7037. Dedicated to historical preservation, offers exhibits and special programs throughout the year. capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org

north of Midpoint Memorial Bridge, (239) 549-4606. Includes 365 acres of mangroves and 6,600 feet of nature trail. Kayak rentals available seasonally. capecoral.net

MIKE GREENWELL’S BAT-A-BALL & FAMILY FUN PARK, 35 NE Pine Island Road, (239) 574-4386. Nineteen-hole miniature golf, arcade, go-kart tracks, fish-feeding dock and batting cages. greenwellsfamilyfunpark.com

SUN SPLASH FAMILY WATERPARK, 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 574-0558. The 14-acre water park features three high-speed slides, river ride, Tot Spot and 457-foot Electric Slide. sunsplashwaterpark.com


HISTORIC SMALLWOOD STORE: OLE INDIAN TRADING POST AND MUSEUM, 360 Mamie St., (239) 695-2989. Established in 1906. $10 admission, children under 12 free. Open daily Dec. 1-April 30, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; May 1-Nov. 30, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. smallwoodstore.com


ESTERO COMMUNITY PARK, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., (239) 498-0415. A 55-acre park featuring an amphitheater, lighted playground, dog park, golf course, pavilions, outdoor activities and two recently transplanted historic structures. leeparks.org

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. floridaeverblades.com, germainarena.com

KORESHAN STATE HISTORIC SITE, 3800 Corkscrew Road, (239) 992-0311. Historic site, campground, canoe rental, picnic area, playground, boat landing and nature trails. $5 per vehicle (up to eight people); $26 camping fee per night. Administrative office for the Estero Bay Preserve at Koreshan State Historic Site. floridastateparks.org

MOUND KEY ARCHAEOLOGICAL STATE PARK, in Estero Bay at the mouth of the Estero River, (239) 992-0311. Accessible only by boat. No facilities. Canoe rental available at Koreshan State Historic Site. floridastateparks.org


CAPTAIN JACK’S AIRBOAT TOURS, (239) 695-4400. Experience an adventure through the mangrove tunnels and natural grasslands of the Everglades by airboat and travel high above the marshes of our cypress forests by swamp buggy. Learn about native plants, animals, and Everglades folklore from experienced captains. captainjacksairboattours.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 Monday through 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 bush plane over the Everglades, the Keys or the 10,000 Islands. Operates seasonally November through May. wingsaerotours.com/id2.html


BABCOCK RANCH ECO-TOURS, 8000 S.R. 31, Punta Gorda, (800) 500-5583. View wildlife on a 90-minute buggy tour around Babcock Ranch, which is set within a 90,000-acre “working” ranch. Reservations suggested. babcockranchecotours.com

BAMBOOZLES SKATING AND EVENT CENTER, 2095 Andrea Lane, (239) 482-7789. 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 and planetarium. calusanature.org

CENTENNIAL PARK, 2000 W. First St., (239) 321-7524. A 10-acre park along the Caloosahatchee River with a handicap-accessible playground, fishing pier and dock facilities. cityftmyers.com

CHARLENE’S CLASSIC CARRIAGES, (239) 246-0956. Downtown carriage tours in the River District of Fort Myers and in Old Naples; specializing in special events like weddings. Features the only Cinderella carriage of its kind in Florida. charlenesclassiccarriages.com

EDISON & FORD WINTER ESTATES, 2350 McGregor Blvd., (239) 334-7419. Tour the historic homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, a research laboratory and a museum. Admission fees apply. edisonfordwinterestates.org

FORT MYERS SKATIUM, 2250 Broadway, (239) 321-7509. Provides in-line and ice-skating for all ages. Public skating available. Includes skate rental. fmskatium.org

FOSSIL EXPEDITIONS, (239) 368-3252. Walking or kayaking expeditions that search for prehistoric bones and teeth of ancient mammoths, mastodons, tortoises, horses, saber-toothed cats, whales, dolphins and sharks. fossilexpeditions.com

GAEA GUIDES—GUIDED KAYAK NATURE TOURS, (239) 694-5513. Kayak clinics, plus bird, manatee, full-moon, sunset and bat kayak tours. Paddles all waterways of Southwest Florida. All guides are certified Florida Master Naturalists. gaeaguides.com

HAMMOND STADIUM, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, (239) 533-7695, (239) 768-4210. Hosts Minnesota Twins spring training games, plus the minor league Fort Myers Miracle. Open April through August. $9.50 advance box seats, $7.50 advance general admission. leeparks.org, miraclebaseball.com

HEADPINZ ENTERTAINMENT CENTER, 14513 Global Parkway, (239) 302-2155. 1899 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral, (239) 574-3611. Bowling, laser tag, aerial ropes course, game zone and dining. Booking for events and parties available. headpinz.com

IMAG HISTORY & SCIENCE CENTER, 2000 Cranford Ave., (239) 321-7420. Hands-on exhibits on weather, water, animals and more. $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children and students, free for children 2 and under. theimag.org

JETBLUE PARK, 11500 Fenway South Drive, (239) 533-7222, (239) 226-4700. “Fenway South” is the spring training ballpark and player development complex for the Boston Red Sox. Major and minor league facilities. Games, tours and events. leeparks.org

LAKES REGIONAL PARK, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, (239) 533-7580, (239) 533-7576. Water playground, nature trails, mini-train rides, bike and boat rentals, picnic sites, concession stand and Wi-Fi. Pavilion rentals available. leeparks.org

LEE CIVIC CENTER, 11831 Bayshore Road, (239) 543-8368. Concerts, trade shows, expos, rodeos, company picnics, a fair and more. leeciviccenter.com

MANATEE PARK, 10901 S.R. 80, (239) 690-5030. Picnic areas, fishing deck on the Orange River and native plant habitats. Parking $2 per hour December through March, $1 per hour April through November, $5 per vehicle per day. leeparks.org

SEMINOLE GULF RAILWAY, 2805 Colonial Blvd, (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, nature park and botanical garden. shellfactory.com

SIX MILE CYPRESS SLOUGH PRESERVE, Six Mile Cypress Parkway (1.5 miles north of Daniels Parkway), (239) 533-7556. Boardwalk trail, picnic areas and interpretive center. Parking $1 per hour, $5 per day. leeparks.org

ZOOMERS AMUSEMENT PARK, 17455 Summerlin Road, (239) 481-9666. Indoor/outdoor facility with games, rides and attractions. Features go-karts, miniature golf, rollercoasters, an arcade and more. zoomersamusementpark.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 noon. esteroislandhistoricsociety.org

MATANZAS PASS PRESERVE, 199 Bay Road, (239) 229-1610. A nearly 60-acre sanctuary for native plants and animals. Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to dusk. leeparks.org

OSTEGO BAY FOUNDATION 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 6. ostegobay.org


GASPARILLA ISLAND STATE PARK, 880 Belcher Road, Boca Grande, (941) 964-0375. Featuring the Boca Grande Lighthouse built in 1890. $3 entrance fee per vehicle is collected via honor collection box. floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland


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 through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. colliermuseums.com

LAKE TRAFFORD MARINA AND AIRBOATS AND ALLIGATORS, 6001 Lake Trafford Road, (239) 657-2401. Airboat rides and boat tours through Corkscrew Swamp. myfwc.com

SEMINOLE CASINO IMMOKALEE, 506 S. First St., (239) 658-1313. Gaming machines, live-action poker and live table games. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. seminoleimmokaleecasino.com


EVERGLADES EXCURSIONS, (239) 262-7300. Departs from Marco Island or Naples for narrated full- or half-day trips aboard a “comfort-controlled” safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com

MARCO ISLAND HISTORICAL MUSEUM, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, (239) 642-1440. Permanent exhibits, such as a life-size diorama of a Calusa Indian village. The museum showcases traveling exhibits. Visit the Marco Island Historical Society’s website for exhibit details and hours. colliermuseums.com, themihs.info


THE BAKER MUSEUM, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., (239) 597-1900. The 30,000-square-foot museum at Artis—Naples features 15 galleries. Admission $10 per adult, $5 per student. artisnaples.org

COLLIER COUNTY MUSEUM, 3331 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 252-8476. Five-acre property featuring the history, archaeology and development of Florida and Collier County. 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, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, (239) 262-0304. Newly expanded environmental organization that educates visitors about Southwest Florida wildlife and habitats. Nature Center tours available. Dalton Discovery Center, nature trails and 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 BLAIR AUDUBON CENTER, 375 Sanctuary Road W., (239) 348-9151. Award-winning boardwalk meanders through an ancient cypress forest. Tours available. Adult admission $14, students $6, children age 6-18 $4, children under 6 free. corkscrew.audubon.org

CREW (CORKSCREW REGIONAL ECOSYSTEM WATERSHED), 1295 Shady Hollow Blvd., locations in Immokalee at 4600 C.R. 850 and 3980 C.R. 850, (239) 657-2253. Programs by the CREW Land & Water Trust. Encompasses 60,000 acres. Nearly 30 miles of natural hiking trails through marsh, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. Primitive campsites available. Free admission. See website for events and hikes. crewtrust.org

DOUBLE R’S FISHING AND TOURS COMPANY, 25000 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 642-9779. Provides 2.5-hour eco-nature tours of the 10,000 Islands and the Everglades. Specializes in light tackle, inshore and offshore fishing. doublersfishingandtours.com

THE EDGE JOHNNY NOCERA SKATE PARK, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., (239) 213-3020. Forty-thousand-square-foot skating and biking facility located in Fleischmann Park. Beginner to advanced levels. $10 per day or $60 per year for Collier County residents. $20 per day or $60 for a six-month pass for non-residents. naplesgov.com

EVERGLADES DAY SAFARI, (239) 472-1559. A comprehensive exploration of the Everglades by airboat, mangrove boat cruise, wildlife drive and nature walk. $159 for adults, $139 for children ages 5 to 11. Lunch included. ecosafari.com

EVERGLADES EXCURSIONS, (239) 262-7300. 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 Tamiami Trail/40001 State Road 9336, (305) 242-7700. Largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. Explore by canoe/kayak or walking trails. Forty-seven wilderness campsites. Other features include visitors’ centers, tram tours, boating and fishing. Entrance fees apply. nps.gov

FAKAHATCHEE STRAND PRESERVE STATE PARK, at Janes Memorial Scenic Drive and S.R. 29, just west of Copeland, (239) 695-4593. A linear swamp about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide. Home to the world’s only bald cypress-royal palm forest in the world. Features a boardwalk and various events. Admission fees apply. floridastateparks.org

FLORIDA SPORTS PARK, 8250 Collier Blvd., (239) 774-2701. Host to the Swamp Buggy Races, special events and concerts. thefloridasportspark.com

FRED W. COYLE FREEDOM PARK, 1515 Golden Gate Parkway, (239) 252-4062. Fifty acres including a 5-acre lake, 3,500 feet of boardwalk, other walking trails and a visitor center. Open 8 a.m. till dusk. colliergov.net

GOLDEN GATE AQUATICS FACILITY, 3300 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 252-6128. Heated pool, children’s activity pool, 110-foot open and tube slides, a pair of 1-meter springboards and a 3-meter springboard. Adult admission $3.50, children age 3-17 $3, children under 3 free. All water facilities managed by Collier County Parks & Recreation close if the air temperature is 59 degrees or below. colliergov.net

GOLISANO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF NAPLES (C’MON), 15080 Livingston Road, (239) 514-0084. A spectacularly designed environment that fosters play-filled learning through interactive exhibits teaching children about the Everglades, a farm, a maze and more. cmon.org

GORDON RIVER GREENWAY, accessible through the Naples Zoo parking lot or from the south side Golden Gate Parkway across from Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park. A paved nature trail and boardwalk with water access along the Gordon River. Walkers, runners, cyclists, kayakers and leashed dogs welcome. Open 7 a.m. till 10 p.m. gordonrivergreenway.org

HISTORIC PALM COTTAGE, 137 12th Ave. S., (239) 261-8164. Built in 1895. The oldest home in Naples restored to its original condition. Tours $13 per person. Members and children under 10 free. napleshistoricalsociety.org

THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM & EDUCATION CENTER OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, 4760 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 7, (239) 263-9200. Promotes respect and understanding by teaching the history and lessons of the Holocaust period. Individual stories of Holocaust survivors and liberators help “make history personal” for students and visitors. $10 for adults, $5 for students age 12-18, free for students under 12 and museum members. holocaustmuseumswfl.org

LONDON AVIATION GROUP, 100 Aviation Drive S., (239) 643-4468. Helicopter and airplane tours, charters, flight training, photography, service and sales. londonaviation.com

NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN, 4820 Bayshore Drive, (239) 643-7275. Recently renovated with exhibition space, food and shopping, the area features 170 acres of preserves, gardens, lakes and trails. Includes an interactive Smith Children’s Garden plus Asian, Caribbean and Brazilian gardens and more. naplesgarden.org

NAPLES DEPOT MUSEUM, 1051 Fifth Ave. S., (239) 262-6525. Set in Naples’ first passenger train station, the museum allows visitors to travel back to the period when Naples relied upon the railway for trade and transportation. Admission is free. colliermuseums.com

NAPLES PRESERVE, 1690 Tamiami Trail N., (239) 261-4290. A .4-mile self-guided tour on an elevated boardwalk. Home to plant and animal species associated with Florida ecology. County nature/historical destination information and talks provided at on-site Hedges Family Eco-Center. naplesgov.com

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 cheetah exhibit. Daily activities include Meet the Keeper, alligator feedings, primate expedition cruises and other presentations. $22.95 per adult, $14.95 per child age 3 to 12. napleszoo.com

NORTH COLLIER REGIONAL PARK, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4000. Calusa fossil dig play area for children, interactive playground and a 90-acre preserve area. colliergov.net

ROOKERY BAY NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING CENTER, 300 Tower Road, (239) 530-5940. View an aquarium, interactive exhibits and an art gallery. Participate in field programs; guided tours available. rookerybay.org

SUN-N-FUN LAGOON, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4021. Water slides, lazy river, water playgrounds and pools. Under 48 inches tall, $6; 48 inches or taller, $13; 3 and younger, free. napleswaterpark.com


BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, (239) 695-2000. Fifty miles east of Naples on Tamiami Trail. 729,000-acre preserve of cypress swamp, mangroves, sawgrass prairies and natural freshwater rivers. nps.gov/bicy

WOOTEN’S AIRBOAT AND SWAMP BUGGY TOURS, 32330 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 695-2781. Airboat and swamp-buggy tours through the mangroves, marshlands and grasslands of the Everglades and through the Big Cypress National Preserve. Features alligator shows and an animal sanctuary. wootenseverglades.com


MUSEUM OF THE ISLANDS, 5728 Sesame Drive, (239) 283-1525. Features island culture, past and present, through artifacts and artwork. $2 for adults, $1 for children.

RANDELL RESEARCH CENTER, 13810 Waterfront Drive, Pineland, (239) 283-2062. Tour the internationally significant Pineland archaeological site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. 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. $15 for adults, $9 for children ages 12 to 17, $7 for children ages 5 to 11, free for children ages 4 and under. shellmuseum.org

CABBAGE KEY, at channel marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway, (239) 283-2278. A tiny island built on a Calusa Indian shell mound, accessible by boat. Restaurant, bar and inn. cabbagekey.com

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 per adult bicyclist or hiker. dingdarling.fws.gov

SANIBEL HISTORICAL MUSEUM & VILLAGE, 950 Dunlop Road, (239) 472-4648. Tour eight restored buildings, including a 1925 Sears & Roebuck kit house. $10 for adults, free for children. sanibelmuseum.org

SANIBEL LIGHTHOUSE, eastern end of Periwinkle Way, (239) 472-1080. The lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel was first lit in 1884. The park features beach access and a fishing pier. sanibel-captiva.org

SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION NATURE CENTER, 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, (239) 472-2329. Four miles of trails (with an observation tower), exhibits, touch tank, nature shop and bookstore. $5 for adults, free for children under 17. sccf.org


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