(Courtesy BIG ARTS)

Summer Guide / Attractions


Museums, Parks and Cultural Hubs

As a vacation destination, there is no shortage of activities throughout the region to make any getaway—or just any day out and about—fun and memorable. Here’s a curated list of the area’s top attractions, from educational historic sites to fascinating cultural centers. Call or check the organizations’ websites for the latest information.

 

CHARLOTTE COUNTY

Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda

Ac Freeman House, 311 West Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, (941) 639-2222. This Victorian-style home, with a historic museum, was built in the early 20th century, restored in 2006 and listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks. ci.punta-gorda.fl.us

Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours, 8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda, (800) 500-5583. View wildlife on a 90-minute buggy tour around Babcock Ranch, which is set within a more-than-14,000-acre “working” ranch. Reservations required. babcockranchecotours.com

Cape Haze Pioneer Trail, 1688 Gasparilla Road, Port Charlotte, (941) 627-1628. This trail spans nearly 8 miles across a former rail line. charlottecountyfl.gov

Fishermen’s Village, 1200 W. Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, (941) 639-8721. The shopping, entertainment, and resort complex overlooking Charlotte Harbor, includes a full-service marina, more than 30 shops and restaurants, and dozens of waterside suites. The Military Heritage Museum also is stationed here, with artifacts, veteran-led tours and educational activities. militaryheritagemuseum.org

Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens, 5827 Riverside Drive, Punta Gorda, (941) 621-8299. These waterfront gardens showcase sculptures and botanicals. peacerivergardens.org

Peace River Wildlife Center, 3400 Ponce de Leon Parkway, Punta Gorda, (941) 637-3830. A wildlife education and rehabilitation center for small animals and birds, such as bald eagles, hawks, owls and ospreys. prwildlife.org

 

COLLIER COUNTY

Alva

Hickey Creek Mitigation Park, 17980 Palm Beach Blvd., (239) 229-0522. More than 800 acres of wildlife preserve with 5 miles of trails, fishing docks and picnic areas. leegov.com

 

Chokoloskee

Historic Smallwood Store: Ole Indian Trading Post And Museum, 360 Mamie St., (239) 695-2989. Established in 1906, this once-isolated Everglades’ trading post has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and converted into a museum. smallwoodstore.com

 

Everglades City

Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, 3100 Tamiami Trail E., 695-3377. Run by an Everglades’ guide whose great-grandfather built one of the first commercial airboats, Captain Mitch’s focuses on private grasslands tours. captainmitchs.com

“The Original” Everglades City Airboat Tours, 907 Dupont Street, 695-2400. Capt. Josh Minton is a fourth-generation Everglades guide, so you’re bound to get your money’s worth on these swamp tours. evergladescity-airboattours.com

Everglades Day Safari, 472-1559. An intense, all-day excursion from the backwaters of the Ten Thousand Islands to the swamps of the Everglades. Pickup locations throughout Southwest Florida. ecosafari.com

Everglades Florida Adventures, 815 Oyster Bar Lane, S.R. 29, (855) 793-5542. Family fun with kayaking and boat tours. evergladesfloridaadventures.com

Jungle Erv’s Airboat Tours, 804 Collier Ave., (877) 695-2820. The service offers guided tours of marine and estuarine environments. jungleervairboatworld.com

Museum Of The Everglades, 105 W. Broadway Ave., 252-5026. The free-admission museum tells the story of 2,000 years of human habitation in the western Everglades. evergladesmuseum.org

Speedy’s Airboat Tours, 621 Begonia Street, 695-4448. These airboat tours seat no more than six people at a time and have access to a 1,000-acre private stretch of the Everglades. speedysairboattours.com

Wings Aero Tours, 650 E.C. Airpark Road, 695-3296. Fly in a bush plane over the Everglades, the Keys or the Ten Thousand Islands. Seasonally November through May. wingsaerotours.com

Have an up-close encounter at Manatee Park in Fort Myers. (Getty Image)

Immokalee

Immokalee Pioneer Museum at Roberts Ranch, 1215 Roberts Ave. W., 252-2611. A 15-acre living history museum tells the story of cattle ranching in the area. colliermuseums.com

Lake Trafford Marina and Airboats & Alligators, 6001 Lake Trafford Road, 657-2214. Airboat rides and boat tours through the Corkscrew watershed. airboatsandalligators.com

Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee, 506 S. 1st St., 658-1313. Find gaming machines, live-action poker and table games. seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

 

Marco Island

Breakwater Adventures, 909 Collier Court, (305) 902-4772. Private boat tours through the Ten Thousand Islands get you up-close with dolphins, manatees and wading birds. Kids love the options for wakeboarding, tubing and shelling on secluded islands accessible only by boat. breakwateradventures.com

Florida Adventures and Rentals, 909 Collier Court, 348-5551. Enjoy the Marco waters through dolphin tours by boat or Jet Ski. floridaadventuresandrentals.com

Marco Island Historical Museum, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, 252-1440. Museum offers permanent exhibits, such as a life-size diorama of a Calusa Indian village, as well as traveling exhibits. themihs.info

 

Naples

The Baker Museum, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., 597-1900. The 30,000-square-foot museum at Artis—Naples features 15 galleries, with a stunning permanent collection and traveling exhibitions from artists such as Dale Chihuly and René Magritte. artisnaples.org

Baker Park, 50 Riverside Circle, 213-7120. Greenspace stretches across 15 acres with a large lawn, playground, dog park and trails that connect to the Gordon River Greenway. A tall viewing hill looks out to the Naples Airport. naplesgov.com

Collier Museum At Government Center, 3331 Tamiami Trail E., 252-8476. This 5-acre property highlights the county’s history, archaeology and development. colliermuseums.com

Collier-Seminole State Park, 20200 E. Tamiami Trail, 394-3397. Park offers canoe rentals, boat ramp, electric and water hookup for campsites. floridastateparks.org

Conservancy Of Southwest Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, 262-0304. While this environmental organization, which educates on local wildlife and habitats, remains closed to the public, the group is running two-hour, private eco-cruises of Rookery Bay. conservancy.org

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center, 375 Sanctuary Road W., 348-9151. A boardwalk meanders through an ancient cypress forest. Tours available, online reservations required. No walk-ins. 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, 657-2253. Encompasses 60,000 acres, with nearly 30 miles of trails. Primitive campsites available. crewtrust.org

The Edge Johnny Nocera Skate Park, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., 213-3020. This 40,000-square-foot skating and biking facility is located in Fleischmann Park for beginner to advanced levels.  naplesgov.com

Everglades Day Safari, 472-1559. You can book an exploration of the Everglades by airboat, mangrove cruise, wildlife drive and nature walk. All tours are private. ecosafari.com

Everglades Excursions, 1010 6th Ave. S., Naples, 262-7300. Tours depart from Naples or Marco Island for narrated full- or half-day trips aboard an air-conditioned safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com

Everglades National Park, Gulf Coast Visitor Center at 815 Oyster Bar Lane, Everglades City, (305) 242-7700. Explore the Everglades by canoe/kayak or walking trails, or stay overnight at a campsite. Other features include tram tours, boating and fishing. nps.gov/ever

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, at Janes Memorial Scenic Drive and S.R. 29, just west of Copeland, 695-4593. A swamp about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide is home to the world’s only bald cypress-royal palm forest. floridastateparks.org

Fred W. Coyle Freedom Park, 1515 Golden Gate Parkway, 252-4062. A 50-acre park with a 5-acre lake, 3,500 feet of boardwalk, walking trails and a visitors’ center. collierparks.com

Golden Gate Aquatic Facility, 3300 Santa Barbara Blvd., 252-6128. Aquatic facility with heated pool, children’s activity pool, open and closed slides, and diving boards. Closed Sundays. collierparks.com

Golisano Children’s Museum Of Naples (C’mon), 15080 Livingston Road, 514-0084. An environment that fosters play-filled learning through exhibits teaching children about the Everglades, far-flung destinations, science and more. Closed Wednesdays. cmon.org

Gordon River Greenway Park, 1596 Golden Gate Parkway, 252-4000. A paved nature trail and boardwalk with water access along the Gordon River, with two access points: by the Naples Zoo and from the south side Golden Gate Parkway.  gordonrivergreenway.org

Historic Palm Cottage, 137 12th Ave. S., 261-8164. Built in 1895. The oldest home in Naples has been restored to its original condition. napleshistoricalsociety.org

Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center, 975 Imperial Golf Course Blvd., Suite 108, 263-9200. The center promotes respect and understanding by teaching the history and lessons of the Holocaust period through the stories of survivors and liberators. hmcec.org

Naples Botanical Garden, 4820 Bayshore Drive, 643-7275. The area features 170 acres of preserves, gardens, lakes and trails, along with exhibition space, a cafe and a gift shop. Purchase tickets in advance. naplesgarden.org

Naples Depot Museum, 1051 Fifth Ave. S., 252-8419. Set in Naples’ first passenger train station, the museum lets visitors travel back to when the town relied on rail. colliermuseums.com

Naples Preserve, 1690 Tamiami Trail N., 261-4290. Get an up-close look at Florida ecology with this .4-mile self-guided tour of the preserve. Only the elevated boardwalk is open at this time. naplesgov.com

Naples Trolley Tours, 1010 Sixth Ave. S., No.2, (800) 592-0848 or 262-7300. This narrated trolley tour covers 100-plus points of interest. naplestrolleytours.com

Naples Zoo At Caribbean Gardens, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, 262-5409. Daily activities include Meet the Keeper, giraffe feedings, primate expedition cruises and other presentations. napleszoo.com

N’gala, 2755 Inez Road, 353-3572. This exotic wildlife preserve is a venue for weddings, corporate events and private social functions. Why not have Walter, the white rhinoceros, be a witness at your nuptials? ngala.net 

North Collier Regional Park, 15000 Livingston Road, 252-4000. The park features a Calusa fossil dig play area for children, an interactive playground and a preserve area. collierparks.com

Paradise Coast Sports Complex, 3940 City Gate Blvd. N., Naples. 252-4386. A recreation and entertainment complex with professional-level synthetic turf fields for soccer, lacrosse and football events. A public gym area and restaurant is located next to the fields. sportsforceparksnaples.com

Rising Tide Explorers, 1295 Capri Blvd., 734-3231. Local biologists guide these kayak tours of the Rookery Bay nature preserve around Naples and Marco Island. You can also opt for the guided boat tour or rent a kayak on your own. risingtidefl.com

Rookery Bay Research Preserve, 300 Tower Road, 530-5972. Preserve offers recreational opportunities such as camping, shelling and birdwatching. rookerybay.org

Salt Island Seaplanes, Naples Airport/Naples Aviation Private Terminal 160 Aviation Way N., 263-7258 or Page Field Fort Myers 5200 Captain Channing Page Drive. Book a seaplane for a flight to spots like the Keys, Captiva Island, Cape Romano, Miami and other locales. saltislandseaplanes.com

Shy Wolf Sanctuary Education & Experience Center, (855) 749-9653. This 17-acre private facility is home to wolves, a cougar, a North American bobcat, fox species, prairie dogs and Florida gopher tortoises. The center offers both educational programs and therapeutic animal encounters. shywolfsanctuary.org

Wild Florida Ecotours, 25000 Tamiami Trail E., 218-5852. Book an eco-nature tour of the Ten Thousand Islands and the Everglades or for the angler, a light tackle, inshore and offshore fishing trip. wildfloridaecotours.com

Naples Botanical Garden has 170 acres of flora, along with art. (Courtesy Naples Botanical Garden)

Ochopee

Big Cypress National Preserve, 33100 Tamiami Trail E., 695-2000. Just 50 miles east of Naples, the 729,000-acre preserve includes cypress swamp, mangroves, sawgrass prairies and freshwater rivers. nps.gov/bicy

Clyde Butcher Big Cypress Gallery, 52388 Tamiami Trail E., 695-2428.  More than a collection of the photographer’s black-and-white Everglades photos, the gallery also offers swamp eco-tours and photo safaris, as well as cottage and bungalow rentals. clydebutcher.com

Ochopee Post Office, 38000 Tamiami Trail E., (800) 695-2099. Learn what it’s like to deliver mail on a 170-mile route in the swamp at the country’s smallest post office. visitflorida.com 

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters, 40904 Tamiami Trail E, 695-2275. Why does everyone say that Florida’s version of Bigfoot is so elusive? His headquarters is right here. A must-see stop on your way to the Everglades—a gift shop and roadside attraction. skunkape.info

Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, 32330 Tamiami Trail E., (800) 695-2781. Take an airboat or swamp-buggy tour through the Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve. Features alligator shows and an animal sanctuary. wootenseverglades.com

 

LEE COUNTY

Boca Grande

Gasparilla Island State Park, 880 Belcher Road, (941) 964-0375. Swim, snorkel, fish and picnic on these beaches. The park also features the Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890. Closed in August. floridastateparks.org

Bonita Springs

The Wonder Gardens, 27180 Old 41 Road, 992-2591. A historic botanical garden and home to rescued birds and reptiles—plus lorikeet encounters and yoga with peacocks. wondergardens.org

Farmer Mike’s U-Pick, 26031 Morton Ave., 498-4576. This 100-acre sustainable family farm offers a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, as well as field trips for students. farmermikesupick.com

Riverside Park, 10450 Reynolds St., 992-2556. This greenspace in the heart of downtown is home to the historic Liles Hotel, artist cottages, a butterfly garden and a bandshell—plus events. bonitaspringsparks.org

 

Cape Coral

Cape Coral Museum Of History, 544 Cultural Park Blvd., 772-7037. Dedicated to historic preservation, the museum offers exhibits and special programs throughout the year. Currently, it’s only offering guided tours as a COVID-19 protocol. capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org

Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, 2500 SE 24th St., north of Midpoint Memorial Bridge, 549-4606. The preserve includes 365 acres of mangroves and 6,600 feet of trails. Kayak rentals available seasonally. capecoral.net

Gator Mike’s Family Fun Park, 35 NE Pine Island Road, 574-4386. The park features an aerial ropes obstacle course, 600-foot zip line, 19-hole miniature golf course, arcade, go-kart tracks and an escape room. gatormikes.com

Sun Splash Family Waterpark, 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., 574-0558. The 14-acre water park features high-speed slides, a river ride and a 457-foot Electric Slide. sunsplashwaterpark.com

 

Estero

Estero Community Park, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., 533-1470. This 55-acre site features an amphitheater, lighted playground, dog park, golf course, pavilions, and two transplanted historic structures. leeparks.org

Hertz Arena Public Skate, 11000 Everblades Parkway, 948-7825, ext. 1306. Hertz Arena offers daily public skating sessions for all ages. Call the day of the public skate to pay and to reserve a spot. hertzarena.com

Koreshan State Historic Site, 3800 Corkscrew Road, 992-0311. The historic site has campgrounds, picnic areas, a playground, boat landing and nature trails.  floridastateparks.org

Mound Key Archaeological State Park, 3800 Corkscrew Road, 992-0311. There are no facilities at the park at the mouth of the Estero River; visitors access through either Koreshan or Lovers Key State Park. floridastateparks.org

At Big Cypress National Preserve, you can kayak through the mangroves. (Courtesy Visit Florida)

Fort Myers

Butterfly Estates, 1815 Fowler Street, 690-2359. Tours and classes teach on the life cycle and importance of butterflies. butterflyestates.com

Calusa Nature Center And Planetarium, 3450 Ortiz Ave., 275-3435. Includes a butterfly aviary, nature trails, a natural history museum, Audubon aviary and planetarium—plus, monthly evening hikes and late-night movies. calusanature.org

Edison & Ford Winter Estates, 2350 McGregor Blvd., 334-7419. Tour the historic homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, which have a laboratory, gardens and a museum. edisonfordwinterestates.org

Fort Myers Skatium, 2250 Broadway, 321-7509. Rink provides in-line and ice skating, with skate rentals included. fmskatium.org

Gaea Guides—Guided Kayak Nature Tours, 694-5513. Certified Florida Master Naturalists lead kayak clinics, as well as bird, manatee, full moon, sunset and bat kayak tours throughout Southwest Florida. gaeaguides.com

Great Calusa Blueway, 3410 Palm Beach Blvd. #3736, 707-7981. The 190-mile trail goes through the coastal waters from Pine Island Sound up to the Caloosahatchee River. leegov.com

Hammond Stadium, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, 533-7695, 768-4210. This stadium hosts Minnesota Twins spring training games, plus the minor league Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. leeparks.org

Imag History & Science Center, 2000 Cranford Ave., 243-0043. Hands-on exhibits on weather, water, animals and more. theimag.org

Jetblue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, 226-4700. This spring training ballpark and player development complex for the Boston Red Sox is a major and minor league facility with games, tours and events. leeparks.org, mlb.com/redsox

Lakes Regional Park, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, 533-7578. The park offers a water playground, nature trails, mini-train rides, bike and boat rentals, picnic sites, concession and Wi-Fi. Pavilion rentals available. leegov.com

Lee Civic Center, 11831 Bayshore Road, 543-8368. The center hosts concerts, trade shows, expos, rodeos, company picnics, fairs and more. leeciviccenter.com

Manatee Park, 10901 S.R. 80, 690-5030. This park features picnic areas, fishing on the Orange River and native plant habitats. leegov.com

Miss Potter’s Place, 3747 Liberty Square, 464-5754. Tour and learn about this garden and nursery that has 75 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, spices, nut trees and edible flowers, as well as a butterfly garden, and beehives. Open by appointment only.

Popstroke, 5531 Six Mile Commercial Court, 323-4653. Tiger Woods-designed mini golf complex with a 36-hole putting facility connected to a full-service restaurant. popstroke.com

Seminole Gulf Railway, 2805 Colonial Blvd., 275-8487. Expect murder-mystery dinner train and holiday-themed excursions. Reservations required. semgulf.com

Shell Factory And Nature Park, 16554 N. Cleveland Ave., 995-2141. A park with shell-themed shopping, dining, nature park and botanical garden. shellfactory.com

Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, 2301 First St., 333-1933. The art center, in a historic building, features art exhibits and holds events, such as concerts, galas and art experiences for children and adults. sbdac.com

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, 7751 Penzance Blvd., on the Six Mile Cypress Parkway (1.5 miles north of Daniels Parkway), 533-7557. Preserve features boardwalk, picnic areas and interpretive center. sloughpreserve.org

Sky Zone, 14181 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 140, 313-5448. You’ll find epic ways to play, gather and compete, including trampoline activities, a zip line, warrior course, bouldering wall and aerial silks. skyzone.com/fortmyers

Spinz Skating Rink & Event Space, 2095 Andrea Lane, 482-7789. This renovated roller rink includes a snack bar, game area and novelty center. spinzskates.com

 

Fort Myers Beach

Estero Island Historic Cottage And Nature Center, 161 Bay Road, 463-0435. The center celebrates Fort Myers Beach history. esteroislandhistoricsociety.org

Matanzas Pass Preserve, 199 Bay Road, 229-1610. The preserve is a nearly 60-acre sanctuary for native plants and animals. leegov.com

Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center, 718 Fisherman’s Wharf, 765-8101. This science center provides by-donation visits with touch tanks and interactive exhibits. ostegobay.org

Baker Park stretches across 15 acres in Naples, with a playground, dog park, 34-foot viewing hill and nature trails. (Photo by Brian Tietz)

Pine Island

Museum Of The Islands, 5728 Sesame Drive, 283-1525. Features island culture, past and present, through artifacts and artwork. museumoftheislands.com

Randell Research Center, 13810 Waterfront Drive, Pineland, 283-2062. Tour the internationally significant Pineland archaeological site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. floridamuseum.ufl.edu

 

Sanibel Island

Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, 395-2233. The museum offers exhibits displaying shells from Southwest Florida and around the world. shellmuseum.org

BIG ARTS, 900 Dunlop Road, 395-0900. Community arts center set among the breathtaking scenery of Sanibel that hosts performances, fine art shows, films and educational programs. bigarts.org

Cabbage Key, at channel marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway, 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, 472-1100. You’ll find a mangrove forest, cordgrass marshes and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Education center. Bicycles, canoes and kayaks for rent. Tours available. fws.gov

Sanibel Historical Museum & Village, 950 Dunlop Road, 472-4648. Tour eight restored buildings, including buildings that date back to the late 1800s. sanibelmuseum.org

Sanibel Lighthouse, 112 Periwinkle Way, 472-3700. The lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel was first lit in 1884. The park features beach access and a fishing pier. sanibellighthouse.com

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Nature Center, 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, 472-2329. There are miles of trails (with an observation tower), exhibits, touch tank, nature shop and bookstore. The nature center is currently closed but trails remain open. Now partnered with the Sanibel Sea School, which offers programs for kids and families, including SUP excursions around the area’s waters and guided beach walks. sccf.org