You want to admire thousands of butterflies in a lush, tropical environment? Then, the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates are perfect for you. Here, colorful pollinators flutter about – and you can walk freely amongst them. Conversationists will tell you more about butterfly breeding, the gift shop offers useful utensils for your garden, and thanks to a café, visitors do not have to go hungry. Interested? Then, read on and learn everything you need to know about this hidden gem in Fort Myers.
Fort Myers Butterfly Estates in a Nutshell
The history of Fort Myers´ Butterfly Estates is inseparable from the Florida Native Butterfly Society: an NGO that works tirelessly to protect Florida´s butterfly species. Everything started in 2009: Then, Estate owner Rob Johnson and co-owner Matthew Hoover renovated three old houses to make room for a café, a book shop and a restaurant called “The Gathering Place”. In addition, a greenhouse was installed, so visitors could study butterflies in their natural habitat.
Location and Directions
The Butterfly Estates are located in Downtown Fort Myers, just 0.4 miles from the banks of the Caloosahatchee River and the Edison Bridge. Motorists starting in central Cape Coral should account for 20 minutes of driving. Free parking is available.
There are several buses like the numbers 10, 70, 120 and 140 that connect Cape Coral with the Butterfly Estates, and the next bus stop Rosa Parks is a 10-minute walk away. However, due to a shortage of direct connections, most visitors have to change buses. Therefore, it can take 1 to 1.5 hours to reach the Butterfly Estates.
At the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates, the following opening hours apply:
- November to May: Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am–3 pm
- June to October: Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am–2 pm
On holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Easter and the 4th of July, the Butterfly Estates are closed. In addition, opening hours can be shorter on particularly hot days.
Tickets and Prices
Tickets to the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates can be purchased on-site. The following prices apply:
- Visitors aged 16 or older: 10 USD
- Children from 3 to 12 years: 7 USD
- Children under 3 years: free
- Senior citizens (65+): 9 USD
- College/university students: 8 USD
- Active Military personnel and Veterans: free
If you want to visit the Butterfly Estates regularly, you can purchase annual membership, which comes in 3 variants:
- 1 person: 30 USD
- 2 persons: 45 USD
- Families with 4 persons: 75 USD
Fort Myers Butterfly Estates – Attractions
Peaceful nature, shopping, dining and butterflies galore – the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates offer a wide variety of attractions.
The main focal point of the Estates is the Butterfly House: a 3617 square ft. green house with lush, tropical plants. This vegetation provides food for monarchs, longwings, peacocks and other native species – and you do not have to search for them: The insects flutter freely in the green house and come close to visitors, especially to those with brightly colored clothes. No question: There is something deeply relaxing about sitting on the benches, listening to New Age music and admiring butterflies in all their splendor. Adding to the peaceful vibes are ponds where you can watch turtles and koi carps.
If you are looking for an extraordinary experience, 10:30 am is the perfect time to visit the Butterfly House. Then, you will witness the newly hatched butterflies take their maiden flight.
Since its beginnings, the Florida Native Butterfly Society has strived to educate visitors on the ecological importance of butterflies. Thus, guided tours are a main focus of this NGO. In 30 minutes, you will get valuable insights into the life of these insects and learn, among other things, how to make your garden butterfly-friendly. In addition, the guides will show you how butterflies are bred at the Estates.
Not surprisingly, everything revolves around butterflies at the Estates´ gift shop: There are books for children and adults, plants, gardening utensils and grow kids for breeding your own caterpillars. In addition, you can buy organic honey, and if you are looking for a souvenir, the artfully crafted deco items are ideal for you.
Bullig Coffee & Bites
No trip to the Butterfly Estates would be complete without visiting Bullig Coffee & Bites: This café offers pies and waffles, whose recipes trace back to the owner´s German grandmother. Thanks to sweet and savory variants, you are guaranteed to find something for your taste. Equally popular are the coffee specialties and the homemade frozen yoghurt.
Fort Myers Butterfly Estates – Events
The Butterfly Estates are a popular venue for wedding receptions – but these are not the only events here. During workshops, you can learn how to attract butterflies in your garden. Guided walks will teach you everything about wild herbs, and every other Sunday, children can have their faces painted. In addition, lectures, talks and cooking courses are often held at the gift shop. If you want to know more about these events, you should check the Facebook page of the Butterfly Estates.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
What are the opening hours of the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates?
The Butterfly Estates are open every day except Monday: from 10 am to 3 pm between November and May, and from 9 am to 2 pm between June and October. On Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Ester and 4th of July ,the Estates are closed. .
How much is admission to the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates?
Tickets cost 10 USD for guests aged 16 or older, 7 USD for children between 3 and 12, 8 USD for college/university students and 9 USD for senior citizens (65+). Children under 3 years, active Military personnel and Veterans visit the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates for free.
Which animals can I see at the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates?
The Estates focus on butterflies that are native to Florida – among them species like monarchs, peacocks and longwings. In addition, koi carps and turtles populate the ponds in the Butterfly House.
Can I book the Fort Myers Butterfly Estates for my wedding?
Thanks to their idyllic surroundings, the Butterfly Estates are a popular place for wedding photos. In addition, you can hold wedding receptions here. However, please note that the restaurant “The Gathering Place” with room for 40–50 guests is no longer located at the Estates.
Paw tracks in the mud, piles of leaves, scratch marks on trees – these signs indicate the presence of an elusive animal: the Florida panther. In order to protect this endangered species, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge was established. In addition, other rare animal and plant species also live in this area.
With its rather moderate size, the refuge is perfect for a short nature trip – completely free of charge. We will show you how to make the most out of your visit, which animals you can see and when particularly worthwhile activities take place.
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge – important Facts
From its history to different plants and animals and the best time for visits – here are some important facts about the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge:
History and Management
The history of the Refuge is inextricably linked to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. This law mandated the creation of protected areas for endangered species, and one of them was established in 1989 to save the Florida panther from extinction.
For this purpose, the US Fish & Wildlife Service purchased an area of 38 square miles, which was expanded 7 years later. To this day, the agency is responsible for managing the protected area.
Another group that takes care of conservation efforts and projects for visitors is the non-profit organization “Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge”.
Location and Climate
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is located about 35 miles east of Naples, bordering Parkway 93 in the south and State Road 29 in the east. With an area of 41 square miles, it is one of the smaller refuges in the state.
Like in the rest of South Florida, the climate is dominated by alternating dry and rainy seasons:
The dry season lasts from October to May. It sees temperatures of 25–30° C and moderate rainfall.
The refuge is also open in the summer months. Due to heavy rainfalls, however, many paths are flooded during this time. In addition, swarms of mosquitoes and high humidity make the summer months a less popular season for visitors.
The Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge features different landscapes, which in turn are home to a wide variety of plants:
About 20 % of the area consists of flat, lightly covered coniferous forests. Another form of vegetation are hardwood hammocks: dense islands of deciduous trees that harbor more than 300 plant species. In addition, there are grassy prairies, swamps and cypress forests, which are flooded for several months of the year.
Especially during World War II, cypresses were cut down on a large scale. Lately, the population has been able to recover – although it will take a long time for these giants to regain their original size.
The name of this protected area is no coincidence, as the rare Florida panther still lives here. However, with only 11-16 specimens remaining, you are very unlikely to spot one. If you do, you might be in for a surprise: Unlike their relatives from the “Jungle Book”, Florida panthers are not black, but brown. They look similar to pumas – and in fact, are closely related to these felines.
Of course, panthers are not the only animals that populate the refuge. Permanent residents include more than 120 species of birds: among them storks, kestrels, gnatcatchers and caracaras: birds of prey with large beaks that are often spotted on wooden poles.
Mammal species include white-tailed deer, black bears, lynxes, armadillos, raccoons, and coyotes. In addition, frogs, snakes and alligators populate the wetlands, while blooming flowers along the paths attract butterflies.
Unlike many national parks, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge does not have a full-fledged visitor center. There is, however, a main office a few miles north of the hiking trails. Although it does not offer access to trails, the office is still worth visiting if you want to take a brochure or have questions about the refuge.
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge – Things to Do
Since the Panther Refuge comprises a rather small area, the number of things to do is somewhat limited. Depending on the time of your visit, you have the choice between the following activities:
There are two hiking trails at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge:
The first one is a 550 yards gravel path that leads through lush vegetation and wooded hills. This path is well marked and easy to walk, even for beginners.
Being slightly longer, the second path winds its way through grassy prairies and coniferous forests. It takes about 45–90 minutes. Although Florida panthers mostly populate the inaccessible parts of the refuge, you might see their tracks along the path if you are lucky.
Please note that the second trail may be flooded and overgrown during the rainy season. Therefore, it is best to ask the refuge´s main office about the condition of the path (phone: 239-657-8001).
No matter which trail you want to tackle, the best time for wildlife observations are the early morning and late afternoon hours. Around noon, on the other hand, many animals seek shelter from the heat of the day.
Every year in spring, usually on the third Saturday in March, the non-profit organization “Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge” hosts an Open House program: Then, parts of the park that are usually off-limits are opened to visitors.
Activities include swamp buggy rides, bird watching, plant tours, and guided hikes through the swamp. Bow and arrow shooting and other fun activities for children are also regularly offered.
In the near future, hunting and fishing could become legal at the refuge, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seeks to expand visitor access to many protected areas in Florida. More specifically, planned activities at the refuge will include sport fishing and turkey hunting.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
When does the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge open and close?
The parking lot as well as the refuge’s two hiking trails are open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. Staying overnight in the protected area is prohibited.
What is the entrance fee for the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge?
Hiking in the protected area is free of charge. However, the organization “Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge” accepts donations to finance their conversation efforts.
How long should I stay at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge?
The publicly accessible hiking trails only comprise a small portion of the refuge. Even the longer trail can be completed in 90 minutes or less.
How likely is it to see a panther at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge?
Florida panthers are shy, well-camouflaged and nocturnal animals that avoid humans. Therefore – and due to the small population of less than 16 animals – sightings are extremely rare.
From wide, open prairies to pristine mangrove forests, from the rippling waters of the Turner River to the last cypress forests in North America – There is hardly a place in the U.S. that can match the diversity of the Big Cypress National Preserve. If you want to see Florida’s iconic animals like alligators, manatees, turtles, waterfowl, and even panthers, this is THE place to go.
Just as diverse as the flora and fauna are the activities in this green paradise: Whether on relaxing strolls or adventurous swamp tours, whether by bike, kayak or off-road vehicle – there is always something to discover in the Big Cypress National Preserve.
We will show you what makes this protected area east of Naples so special, what kinds of animals and plants you can see here, and which places are particularly worth-while for a trip.
Big Cypress National Preserve – important Facts
History, geography, flora and fauna as well as important places for visitors – in the following section, you will find the most important facts about the Big Cypress National Preserve:
Prior to the arrival of European settlers, the area was inhabited by Semiole and Mikasuki Indians. After being used for hunting in the 19th and oil drilling in the 20th century, Big Cypress National Preserve was declared a protected area in 1974. Later, 232 square miles of land were added to the preserve, and the touristic infrastructure was further developed.
Location and Climate
The Big Cypress National Preserve stretches between Naples and Miami, which places it right in the middle between South Florida´s two coasts. In total, the preserve covers an area of 1,126 square miles.
Typically for South Florida, the climate is dominated by the change between dry and rainy season. From November to May, there are mild temperatures and moderate precipitation. In summer and autumn, temperatures reach 34° C and heavy rainfall causes floodings in large parts of the preserve. During this time, visitors should expect inaccessible paths, high humidity and swarms of mosquitoes – but they are rewarded with the sight of blooming wildflowers.
The Big Cypress National Preserve features an astonishingly diverse flora. One key feature are its extensive cypress forests – hence the name. In addition, the area is dominated by mangroves, grassy prairies and forested islands called “hammocks”. More than 800 species of plants are found in the preserve – almost as many as in the much larger Everglades National Park. A particularly colorful sight are 36 orchid species that grow both on soil and on tree trunks.
Given the wide variety of landscapes, it is not surprising that the Big Cypress National Preserve provides refuge for numerous animals: these include waterbirds such as herons, anhingas and ibises, as well as turtles, frogs, snakes and alligators. Otters, lynxes and black bears live well hidden in the undergrowth, and even more luck is needed if you want to see the rare Florida panther: Only 30–35 specimens roam the huge area of the Big Cypress National Preserve. A more frequent guest are Manatees: Florida’s iconic “sea cows” can be seen on the coast, but also in the canals of the preserve – especially in winter, when the animals seek shelter in the warm water.
Most guests of the Big Cypress National Preserve start their trip at two visitor centers that are open year-round (except for Christmas). Both are located right next to the Tamiami Trail Highway and feature exhibits on the flora and fauna, but also on the history of the preserve. In addition, you will find gift shops with souvenirs such as books, DVDs, postcards, T-shirts and mugs.
|Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center||Oasis Visitor Center|
|33000 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, Florida 34141
|52105 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, Florida 34141
Big Cypress National Preserve Map
Do you want to see where the Big Cypress National Preserve begins, which road you should take, and where the visitor centers are located? Then, this map will help you.
Big Cypress National Preserve – popular Activities
Whether on water or on land, solo or with expert guides – the following activities are particularly popular in the Big Cypress National Preserve:
The Big Cypress National Preserve offers both short strolls and long-distance hikes. If you are looking for a comfortable experience, we recommend the wooden boardwalk next to the Oasis Visitor Center. Here, you can overlook a pond that is populated by alligators. The 4,3-mile-long Gator Hook Trail is another easy route for beginners. Please note, however, that the paths of the preserve are flooded for several months of the year. Thus, if you want to avoid wet feet, the dry season between November and May is your best friend.
Are you wondering what secrets await beyond the official hiking paths? Then, a “Swamp Walk” at Big Cypress National Preserve is perfect for you. Armed with rubber boots and a mosquito net, you will follow your guide into the flooded swampland — a place not many visitors get to see. Here, no noises disturb the peace, except for murmuring creeks and the croaking of frogs. This makes every Swamp Walk a truly serene and meditative experience.
Swamp Buggy Tours
With their huge tires, the swamp buggies of the Big Cypress National Preserve may look intimidating at first sight. However, many visitors agree: There is no better way to comfortably explore this wilderness. Depending on the provider, up to 6 people can take a seat on these all-terrain vehicles. Not only do the Swamp Buggies provide perfect vantage points for observing and photographing animals. Experienced guides will also tell you interesting stories about the flora and fauna of the Big Cypress National Preserve.
If you want to explore the extensive waterways of the Big Cypress National Preserve, a kayak is your best choice. Especially popular is the Turner River Paddling Trail, which starts right next to Highway 41, leads 10 miles through the protected area and even cuts into Everglades National Park. Slightly shorter, but even more varied is the Lefthand Turner River Paddling Trail starting in Everglades City. After a 3-mile-long ride along flooded prairies and mangrove forests, the trail terminates at Chokoloskee Island, a truly picturesque place off the coast.
If you are looking for a balanced mix of exercise and natural scenery, you should explore the Big Cypress National Preserve by bike: either along the historic Tamiami Trail or on one of the designated bike paths. Especially beginner-friendly is the Fire Prairie Trail: a 5-mile-long dirt road where you can marvel at the vastness of South Florida’s grasslands. Or are you looking for a challenge off the beaten track? Then, the off-road trails of the preserve are perfect for you.
Fishing is allowed in all lakes, ponds, and rivers of the Big Cypress National Preserve. Although no special permit from the national park is required, visitors still need a State Fishing License. With this license, you will be ready to catch more than 60 species of fish – including eels, catfish, sea brass and snapper.
There is a lot to discover in the Big Cypress National Preserve – too much for just one day. Luckily, camping is allowed at 8 official campgrounds that are equipped with toilets and charge 10–30 USD per night. If you are looking for a true adventure, you should try Backcountry Camping: Off the beaten track, hikers can pitch their tents for free. All you need to do is fill out a permit – either online or at the visitor centers.
It may come as a surprise to foreign visitors – but hunting certain animals is allowed in the Big Cypress National Preserve: these species include deer, wild boar, turkeys, squirrels, quails, hares, raccoons and coyotes. However, hunters have to register at one of the Hunter Check-In Stations along Highway 41 and State Road 93.
Scenic Routes for Motorists
You do not have the time for long hikes or boat trips, but still want to experience the beauty of the Big Cypress National Preserve? No problem. You can also do so by car. Particularly popular is the Loop Road: a junction of the Tamiami Trail that runs for 27 miles along cypress forests and open grasslands; Alternatively, you can turn north onto Turner River Road. This route runs parallel to a canal, where many species of waterbirds can be spotted.
Motorists who want to venture deeper into the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve must leave the roads behind and bring an all-terrain vehicle. This way, you can explore unpaved routes, of which there are plenty in the Preserve. Please note, however, that you need to obtain an Offroad Permit that includes both an online safety course and the inspection of your vehicle. You can get the permit at the headquarters of the Preserve (33100 Tamiami Trail East. Ochopee, FL 34141).
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How big is the Big Cypress National Preserve?
The Big Cypress National Preserve is located in the heart of South Florida. With an area of 1,126 square miles, its size is similar to the state of Rhode Island.
When was the Big Cypress National Preserve established?
The Big Cypress National Preserve was established as a protected area on October 11, 1974.
What is the entrance fee for Big Cypress National Preserve?
Admission to the preserve itself is free. Fees only apply for campsites and special permits: for example, if you want to explore the area with an off-road vehicle.
What is there to do at Big Cypress National Preserve?
The Big Cypress National Preserve provides numerous opportunities for hiking, cycling and kayaking, fishing and hunting, as well as off-road trips and Swamp Buggy tours. In addition, there are two visitor centers with interesting exhibits about the preserve.
Stretching like pearls on a necklace, Florida’s barrier islands form the most southern points of the US. But while most tourists drive straight to Key West, there is a true hidden gem for nature lovers waiting in the Florida Keys:
Bahia Honda State Park features picturesque beaches, turquoise-blue waters, rare plant species and a colorful variety of waterfowl and fish. Here, you can see the “real Florida”, far away from the hustle and bustle of big cities – a perfect place to relax.
In this article, we will tell you what you should know before visiting this tropical Eden: from the best travel time and the flora and fauna to the most beautiful sights and activities at Bahia Honda State Park.
Bahia Honda State Park – important Facts
You want to get the most out of your visit to Bahia Honda State Park? Then, you should know these important facts:
The history of Bahia Honda State Park is inextricably linked to one person: Henry Morisson Flagler. In 1904, this oil magnate and pioneer of Florida tourism built a railroad to Key West. Although the project was thwarted by tropical storms, it succeeded in putting Bahia Honda on the map, leading to more and more visitors. The island first became a county park, and in 1961, it was declared a state park.
Location and Directions
The 494-acre park is located on Bahia Honda Key, an island in the far south of the state. It is situated about halfway between Marathon and the popular holiday island of Key West.
All of the Florida Keys’ barrier islands are connected by the Overseas Highway – a scenic route that makes arrivals by car super-easy. From Miami, motorists need about 2.5 hours.
Of course, you can also get there by boat: The Bahia Honda Marina features 19 slips with electricity and water as well as a pumping station, showers, toilets and waste disposal facilities.
You can reserve a slip via the telephone number (305) 872-3210 or the VHF channel 16.
Like the other islands of the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda features warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine all year round. Nevertheless, there are seasonal differences:
The dry season from November to April brings moderate temperatures of 25–28° C and low precipitation – ideal conditions for hiking, sunbathing and snorkeling.
In summer, you should account for more rainy days, hot temperatures and high humidity. While the showers are mostly heavy but short, there is the risk of tropical storms. The traces of Hurricane Irma are clearly visible on Bahia Honda, and exxperience shows that most storms occur between August 15 and October 15. However, warning systems can detect hurricanes quite early now.
On Bahia Honda, the flora of North America meets that of the Caribbean – resulting in a wide variety of species. The island is home to the largest population of the rare silver palm, which delights the eye with its bright, fan-like leaves. Gumbo-limbos can easily be identified by their reddish bark, the geiger tree is a colorful import from the West Indies, and sea-lavender lets the coastal areas shine in a sea of purple.
In addition, limestone soil brings forth an abundance of flowers, which in turn serve as food for the endangered butterfly species “Miami Blue”.
With its rich coastal landscape, Bahia Honda State Park attracts a large number of waterbirds: including pelicans, spoonbills, night herons and cormorants. Wood warblers like to spend the winter here, and the railway bridge in the island´s southwest is an ideal place to spot falcons.
Off the coast, the wildlife is equally diverse: rocks, coral reefs and seagrass meadows provide a refuge for angelfish, parrotfish, striped sergeants and barracudas. Larger marine species include manta rays, sharks, dolphins and sea turtles: even loggerheads, which have become a rare sight elsewhere, are regularly spotted off the coast of Bahia Honda.
Bahia Honda State Park is open every day from 8 am until sunset. The Concession Building, where you can buy snacks, souvenirs and clothes, also opens at 8 am and closes at 5 pm.
All visitors to Bahia Honda State Park must pay an entrance fee that varies according to the mode of transport:
- 2 USD for pedestrians and cyclists
- 4 USD for motorcycles and single-person vehicles
- 8 USD for vehicles with 2–8 passengers.
In addition, a county tax of 50 cents per person is due.
Bahia Honda State Park – Things to do
Whether on water or on land, alone or with knowledgeable guides, Bahia Honda State Park offers a wide variety of things to do for the whole family:
Swimming and Sunbathing
If you want to relax, enjoy the sun and splash around in the warm water, there are three beaches to choose from at Bahia Honda State Park:
The first one is Sandspur Beach, which many visitors consider the most beautiful beach in all of Florida – or better: considered. As of now (September 2021), the damage caused by Hurricane Irma is still being repaired here. For this reason, Sandspur Beach is currently closed.
Equally picturesque and situated 1.2 miles further west are Calusa and Loggerhead Beach. Not only do these beaches feature powdery, white sand and crystal-clear water. Here, you can also see the half-destroyed but still impressive railway bridge of the Flagler Overseas Railroad.
Snorkeling and Diving
If you want to snorkel or dive at Bahia Honda State Park, you have two options:
On the one hand, you can do so directly off the coast. There, you will find seagrass meadows and rocks that are home to crabs, colorful tropical fish, rays and nurse sharks. Snorkeling trips near the highway bridge are particularly worth-while. Please note, however, that strong currents can occur. A diver’s flag is mandatory to warn boaters.
If you want to experience the true underwater splendor of the Florida Keys, we recommend an organized snorkeling tour to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary, 12 miles away. There, you can marvel at 50 species of corals and 150 species of fish.
Prior experience is not necessary for the tour and the equipment (mask, snorkel and diving fins) can be rented for a deposit. There is no age restriction. However, participants must be able to swim.
Snorkeling Tour Information:
- Times: 9.30 am, 1.30 pm or 4.45 pm
- Ticket sales: Concession Building (at Loggerhead Beach)
- Duration: 1–1.5 hours
- Costs: 29.95 USD (adults), 24.95 USD (children).
Due to its small size, Bahia Honda State Park does not offer long-distance hikes. However, there are short routes that showcase the natural beauty of this area.
The most popular one is Bahia Honda Bridge Trail: a 700 yard-long, marked loop that is easily walkable, even for beginners. It starts with a gentle climb and then leads over an old section of the Overseas Highway. There, you will have a great view of the half-destroyed railway bridge – still a masterpiece of engineering.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma ravaged much of Bahia Honda’s Atlantic coast in 2017. This is why the popular Silver Palm Nature Trail on the south side is no longer accessible. As compensation, you can walk around the southern tip of the island and admire the Overseas Railway Bridge from below.
The abundance of species at Bahia Honda State Park does not just attract snorkelers. Fishing fans can make the catch of a lifetime here – directly on the beach, off the rocky west coast or on a boat trip. Fishing under the highway bridge might no longer be an insider tip, but is still worth-while if you want to catch big, silvery tarpons. In addition, snappers, groupers and barracudas also populate the waters around Bahia Honda.
If you want to explore the picturesque coast of Bahia Honda State Park, kayaking is the perfect activity for you. You can launch your vessel at two boat ramps: either at the Loggerhead parking lot or at the marina. There, kayaks can be rented for 12 or 18 USD (single or double kayak).
Bahia Honda State Park – Accommodation
If you want to spend more than one day at Bahia Honda State Park, you can choose from the following accommodation options:
Bahia Honda State Park features three campgrounds with restrooms and running water. For more information, you can check the following table:
|Electricity||Hot water||RVs allowed|
|Buttonwood||x||x||max. length: 71 ft|
|Sandspur||some sites||max. length: 13 ft|
Buttonwood, the park´s biggest campground, offers sites directly on the water (but without shade).
Sandspur is known for its beautiful surroundings, but cannot accommodate large RVs. As of September 2021, this campsite is closed due to storm damage.
Bayside is the smallest campsite of the park. Vehicles must fit under the Bahia Honda Bridge, so they cannot exceed 7 ft in height.
Please note: The oceanfront sites are in high demand. To secure your spot, you can make reservations up to 11 months in advance.
Cabins and Hotels
Are you looking for a more comfortable stay? Then, the six cabins at Bahia Honda are a great choice. They can accommodate six people and are equipped with bedrooms, living rooms, bathrooms, kitchens and air conditioning. In addition, they feature picnic areas and barbecue grills.
If there is no cabin available – just like on the campsites, the number of visitors increases rapidly in winter – the hotels of Marathon are only 9 miles away and offer a variety of rooms in different price ranges.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Does Bahia Honda State Park have Wi-Fi?
Public Wi-Fi is only available at the park´s concession building next to the Loggerhead Parking Lot.
How much does it cost to enter Bahia Honda State Park?
The entrance fee is 2–8 USD, depending whether you arrive on foot, by bicycle, motorbike or car.
Is Bahia Honda State Park open after Irma?
Yes. Although the cleanup is still going on, you can visit the state park and its beaches. Only Sandspur Beach and the adjacent Silver Palm Nature Trail are closed to visitors.
Can I snorkel at Bahia Honda State Park?
Yes. Snorkeling is possible directly off the beach and the rocky western coast. Alternatively, you can book a snorkeling tour to the Looe Key Marine Sanctuary.
Does Bahia Honda State Park offer camping?
Yes, the state park has three campgrounds that are suitable for both tents and RVs. Some sites are equipped with electricity and hot water.
Is Bahia Honda State Park dog-friendly?
Yes. Dogs are allowed if they walk on a leash. They are also allowed at the campsites – but not on the beaches of Bahia Honda State Park.
Have you ever wanted to feel like Robinson Crusoe – stranded in a secluded paradise with pristine beaches and turquoise waters? This dream becomes a reality at Cayo Costa State Park. On the idyllic island near Cape Coral, you can go swimming, sunbathing, fishing and hiking – or even better: go off-line for a few days and pitch your tent under the starry sky.
In this article, we will tell you what makes Cayo Costa State Park so special and how to get the most out of your trip. In addition to information on transport, accommodation options and the best travel time, we will also present the most worth-while activities in this island paradise.
Cayo Costa State Park – important Facts
From different modes of transport to the flora and fauna – here are the most important facts about Cayo Costa State Park:
The 2,400-acre state park is located on Cayo Costa: an island in Florida’s Lee County, nestled between Pine Island to the east, Boca Grande to the north, and North Captiva Island to the south. The next big city, Cape Coral, is about 6 miles away.
Over the centuries, many of Florida’s islands have experienced a significant population growth – not so Cayo Costa. Apart from the state park facilities and a few vacation homes, there are no buildings here.
Up until the 18th century, Cayo Costa was inhabited by the indigenous Calusa tribe. The Calusa were later followed by Cuban fishermen, most of which perished in the hurricane of 1910. The last fishing families left Cayo Costa in 1958. Today, 95 % of the island belong to the state of Florida and make up the protected Cayo Costa State Park.
Due to its secluded location, there is only one viable way to reach Cayo Costa State Park: boats. If you only want to stay on the island for a few hours, you can anchor right on the beach; for longer stays, however, we recommend the Bayside Docks featuring 10 boat slips and sanitary facilities.
Here, right next to the Ranger Station, the Cayo Costa Ferry docks – an ideal transport option for visitors who do not own a boat. Ferries depart from North Captiva Island, Bokeelia and Punta Gorda. Reserving your ticket in advance is recommended.
Of course, you can also access the island by kayak. Measuring 4.7 miles, the route from Pine Island is significantly longer than its counterpart between Cayo Costa and Boca Grande – but easier to navigate due to more moderate currents.
Cayo Costa State Park is open every day from 8 am to sunset. However, you can stay longer if you have reserved a campsite or cabin. The Ranger Station also opens at 8 am and closes at 4 pm.
Visitors to Cayo Costa State Park have to pay an entrance fee of 2 USD per person. You can simply put the money into an honor box near the Ranger Station.
As in the rest of South Florida, Cayo Costa´s climate is characterized by alternating dry and rainy seasons.
Pleasant average temperatures of 20–25 degrees Celsius and low precipitation await you in winter and spring – the most popular travel time.
In summer, temperatures rise; rainfall and humidity increases, and the hurricane season lasts from May to November. The risk of tropical storms is particularly high between mid-August and the end of October. In addition, swarms of mosquitoes make summer holidays on Cayo Costa somewhat of an ordeal.
Despite its small size, Cayo Costa State Park features a wide variety of plants: Coniferous and deciduous forests and grassy prairies dominate the interior, while palm trees are found on the coast. In addition to sea oats, this part of Cayo Costa is also home to a Caribbean species: sea grapes, a traditional source of jam and wine. Where land and sea converge, there are mangroves – vital plants that provide shelter for an abundance of fish species.
Thanks to its secluded location and natural vegetation, Cayo Costa is a refuge for animals: Common species include waterbirds such as herons, ibises, pelicans and majestic frigate birds. Snowy egrets populate the coastal regions, and in the treetops, bald eagles like to build their nests.
The island is also known for its aquatic species: Off the coast, you are likely to see porpoises and playful dolphins, while Cayo Costa´s eastern lagoons attract alligators and manatees.
In addition, four species of sea turtles lay their eggs on Cayo Costa’s beaches. The island is one of Florida’s most important breeding grounds and in the summer months, conservationists mark the nests with tape. Despite the protection efforts, not all baby turtles make it into the water: For Cayo Costa’s crabs, raccoons and foxes, these animals are a rich source of food.
Cayo Costa State Park – Things to do
Whether on water or on land – Cayo Costa State Park offers a wide variety of things to do:
Almost 9 miles of sandy beach, far away from hotels and large crowds – sounds too good to be true?
On the west coast of Cayo Costa, you will find such a beach. Here, you can bury your toes in the sand, splash around in the warm water and enjoy the coastal landscape. Shelling is another popular pastime here. If you do not feel like walking to the beach, you can take a shuttle that leaves the ranger station every hour.
Do you want to see Cayo Costa´s beach in its full splendor, access the best fishing grounds or explore the eastern mangrove coast? Then, kayaks are your ideal option. A particularly worthwhile spot is the “Manatee Hole”: As the name suggests, this lagoon offers good chances of seeing Florida’s iconic manatees. Or how about a longer paddling trip? In this case, you should kayak for 2 miles along the eastern coast, visit Cabbage Key and treat yourself to a meal at the island´s famous restaurant.
Kayaks for one or two people can be rented at the Ranger Station.
Even though Cayo Costa is not considered Florida’s best snorkeling spot — visibility is often clouded and there is no coral reef — you are well-advised to bring your snorkel and mask. Then, you cannot only dive for colorful shells; with a bit of luck, you might also see large schools of fish. The best time for snorkeling is the dry season, and a particularly worthwhile spot lies off the northeastern coast near the island´s old quarantine station.
Whether you prefer snooks, redfish, mackerel or silvery tarpons – If you want to make the catch of your lifetime, Cayo Costa´s protected waters are perfect for you. Thanks to its large size, you can easily find a quiet place to cast your rod at the beach. Boca Grande Pass is known for its goliath groupers, and off the east coast, you will find an abundance of mangrove snappers and flounders.
Hiking and Cycling
When you are done frolicking at the beach, you should also visit Cayo Costa´s interior. Here, you will find 6 miles of hiking trails meandering through coniferous and deciduous forests – a perfect place to spot bald eagles in the treetops. In addition, one path leads to the old cemetery in the north, where the Cuban settlers of Cayo Costa are buried.
Visitors who want to explore the island by bike can rent one at the Ranger Station.
Cayo Costa State Park – Accommodation
At Cayo Costa State Park, you can choose from two accommodation options:
If you want to be as close to nature as possible, camping is perfect for you: Situated 1 mile west of the Bayside Docks are 30 campsites with sanitary facilities and picnic areas. There is no electricity or Wi-Fi, but the mobile phone coverage is fine, and you can charge your smartphone at the Ranger Station.
Are you looking for a more comfortable place to stay? Then, you should book one of the 12 wooden cabins, which are equipped with bunk beds and tables.
Reservations for campsites and cabins can be made by calling 1-800-326-3521.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get to Cayo Costa State Park?
The cheapest way to get to Cayo Costa State Park is by ferry from Bokeelia. Alternatively, take the ferry from Punta Gorda or North Captiva Island. Of course, you can also travel with your own boat.
Where can I dock my boat in Cayo Costa State Park?
You can either moor directly on the beach or at the eastern Bayside Docks next to the Ranger Station. There are 10 boat slips available.
Can I drive to Cayo Costa State Park?
No. Unlike in the Florida Keys, there are no roads leading to Cayo Costa. Therefore, you can only access the island by boat or helicopter.
Are there alligators at Cayo Costa State Park?
Alligators mainly populate the mangrove-covered lagoons in the east of Cayo Costa. Off the coast, however, these animals are rarely found, as they prefer fresh water.
Nature lovers should visit Florida´s National Parks and Preserves. Here, you can explore the state´s flora and fauna the authentic way.
Everglades National Park
No visit to the Sunshine State would be perfect without the Everglades: The famous “River of Grass” meanders from the north of Florida to the southern coast, flooding vast areas in the rainy season. A perfect place to observe water birds, alligators, crocodiles, turtles and manatees is the 1.508 acres Everglades National Park. Here, you can go hiking and kayaking, or book an airboat tour. The agile vessels will take you to the best wildlife spots in the National Park.
Contact Gulf Coast Visitor Center:
Address: 815 Oyster Bar Ln, Everglades City
Phone: +1 239-695-3311
Opening hours: 8 am–5 pm (9 am–4.30 pm from mid-April to mid-November)
Contact Shark Valley Visitor Center:
Address: 36000 SW 8th Street, Miami
Phone: +1 305-221-8776
Opening hours: 9 am–5 pm
Contact Flamingo Visitor Center:
Address: 1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy, Homestead
Phone: +1 239 695-2945
Opening hours: 8 am–4.30 (no regular opening hours from mid-April to mid-November)
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Everglades National Park
Big Cypress National Preserve
No section of the Everglades harbours a larger biodiversity than Big Cypress National Preserve between Naples and Fort Lauderdale. Alligators, snakes, herons, anhingas, otters and manatees are just some of the species you can observe there – whether you go hiking, cycling, kayaking or take a swamp buggy tour.
Address: 33100 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee
Phone: +1 239-695-4111
Opening hours: 9 am–6 pm (closed on Saturdays)
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Big Cypress National Preserve
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
It takes a lot of luck to see the rare Florida Panther. If you want to increase your chances, however, you should visit the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. And even if you do not catch a glimpse of the big cat: Deer, rabbits, snakes, cranes and woodpeckers are often sighted in the swampy area that you can explore on two hiking trails.
Address: 12085 SR 29 South, Immokalee
Phone: +1 239-657-8001
Opening hours: sunrise to sunset
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
Bahia Honda State Park
If you are travelling to the Florida Keys and want to see a multitude of water birds, Bahia Honda State Park is the perfect place for you. Underwater, this marine sanctuary is teeming with life, too: On a snorkeling trip you can see colorful starfish, conch snails, parrot fish and barracudas. With a bit of luck, you might even spot a rare sea turtle.
Address: 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key
Phone: +1 305-872-2353
Opening hours: 8 am to sunset
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Bahia Honda State Park
Cayo Costa State Park
It does not take long to reach unspoilt nature by boat from Cape Coral or Fort Myers: The small island Cayo Costa is a protected state park. No buildings disturb the peaceful atmosphere here. Instead, you can watch dolphins from the beach and listen to songbirds on a hike. Or you explore the mangrove coast with a kayak to spot manatees and alligators in the water.
Address: 4 nautical miles west of Pine Island (26.685789, -82.245381)
Phone: +1 941-964-0375
Opening hours: 8 am to sunset
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Cayo Costa State Park
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
East of Bonita Springs, you will find a nature reserve with almost unparalleled biodiversity. Not only does the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary feature one of the last cypress forests in North America. Waterbirds like storks, spoonbills and herons also thrive in this flooded habitat. If you are lucky, you might even see alligators, turtles and otters while hiking on the wooden boardwalk.
Address: 375 Sanctuary Rd W, Naples
Phone: +1 239-348-9151
Opening hours: Daily, 8 am. to 3 pm. last admission at 1 pm.
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary State Park
Once used for raising livestock and mining, Babcock Ranch is now an idyllic preserve north of Fort Myers. On foot or with the swamp buggy, you can cross a landscape teeming with birds – as well as wild pigs, deer, tortoises and even alligators. A special highlight is the Crescent B Ranch where visitors are allowed to pet cute baby alligators.
Address: 8502 FL-31, Punta Gorda
Phone: +1 800-500-5583
Opening hours: October – April 9 am to 3 pm, May-September 9:30 am to 2 pm
Would you like to learn more? In the following you will find a lot more interesting information about Babcock Ranch
The term Everglades describes an area that stretches from Lake Okeechobee in North Florida to the southern coast. Between these two the aptly named “River of Grass” flows through large stretches of prairie. During rainy season the river swells dramatically, turning the Everglades into a watery world with extensive canals and deltas.
This world is home to many animals, among them water birds like flamingos and herons, crocodiles, alligators, manatees and black bears. The state’s heraldic animal, the Florida Panther, also lives here, albeit in dwindling numbers. Coastal areas of the Everglades National Park are dominated by mangroves. These plants with their distinctive taproots filter ocean water and play a big role in Florida’s ecosystem. In the south, the meandering River of Grass empties into the Gulf of Mexico.
OPTIONS FOR YOUR TRIP TO THE EVERGLADES
There are many ways to explore the diverse natural wonders of the Everglades. Among them, airboats are the most popular option. These flat vessels with their iconic propellers have been immortalized by films and TV series like CSI Miami, and are perfect for navigating the waterways. Boat tours are available in many places such as the Everglades Safari Park situated between Shark Valley and Miami. Experienced captains will take you to the most beautiful spots, all the while sharing their knowledge about Everglades National Park.
Another well-established company is Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours. Guests can choose between labyrinthine mangrove forests and vast flooded grasslands. Captain Jack’s also offers Swamp Buggy Tours. The ride will take you through enchanted cypress forests and to a lake where you can spot Florida’s famous manatees. If you would rather paddle yourself, you can always book a kayak tour. Organizers like Everglades Area Tour transport guests to secluded spots in the National Park by motorboat, before it is time to launch the kayaks.
This silent, eco-friendly mode of transport is ideal for spotting shy animals like tortoises, snakes, eagles and even dolphins. Of course, you can also explore the National Park on your own. Boats and maps of the waterways can be rented in Flamingo or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. One of the most popular routes is Nine Mile Pond – perfect if you want to experience the quiet atmosphere of the Everglades National Park and observe alligators in the brackish water.
Guests who wish to see yet another side of the Everglades should hike the National Park’s many trails. The Tamiami Trail is flanked by tall deciduous trees and runs along canals teeming with tortoises and alligators. The end of the trail is marked by the 66 feet tall Shark Valley Observation Tower that offers a perfect view over the River of Grass. The trail also features a curiosity amidst the undeveloped wilderness: Ochopee Post Office, the smallest of its kind in the USA. There is exactly enough space for one customer. Nonetheless, you can buy and send post cards here like you would in a regular post office. If you follow the Otter Trail, you might not only spot intriguing limestone caves but also the furry animals that gave the trail its name.
Shark Valley is also a perfect place for cycling, thanks to 15 miles of bike lanes overlooking the forested islands. If you want to explore the Everglades underwater, you should book a boat trip to the “Ten Thousand Islands” off the southwest coast of Florida. These islands are for the most part unpopulated and harbor more than 200 fish species. Baby fish in particular seek shelter between the mangrove roots. Situated at the National Park’s northern end is Okeechobee, Florida’s biggest lake and a favorite spot for perch fishers.
FLORIDA’S ALLIGATORS UP CLOSE
Alligators form an integral part of America’s pop culture, and the Everglades are the perfect spot to see them in the wild. The Everglades are also the only place on earth where the cold-blooded hunters share their habitat with crocodiles. Alligators mostly live in fresh water, hunting fish, tortoises and other aquatic species. They occasionally come ashore and are known to cross roads and hiking paths. While there is no need to be afraid of these prehistoric reptiles, a bit of caution is called for. Every year there are cases of alligator bites. The chances are minuscule – 1 to 2.4 million, to be precise. Nonetheless, you should heed the official warnings and never enter the water where you are not supposed to.
Baby alligators are a lot less imitating than their fully grown parents, and having your photo taken with a small gator is part and parcel of many airboat tours. Florida’s iconic reptiles not only live in the wild. They are also bred on special alligator farms. The biggest one is located in Homestead and houses 2.000 specimens. Here visitors can learn more about the reptiles and watch their feeding frenzy. The highlight, however, are the alligator shows, where trainers perform daredevil stunts with their 800 lbs pets. “Alligator Wrestling” not only looks nerve-wrecking, but also has a long tradition that dates back to Florida’s native inhabitants.
ENTRANCE FEES AND OPENING TIMES OF EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
The national park is open every day from 8 am to 4.30 pm. The entrances are located in Shark Valley and Homestead. Tickets cost 8–25 USD, depending on whether you explore the park on foot, by bicycle or by car. Annual passes are available for 40 USD.
DIRECTIONS TO EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
The part of the Everglades not used for agriculture belongs to the Everglades National Park, a 1.508.976 acres area that was put under protection in 1947. It takes about 1 hour by car to get to the park from Miami. Driving from Fort Myers to the western part of the park, you will need 1.5 hours, while guests based in Cape Coral should plan for a 2 hours drive.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER IN THE EVERGLADES
The national park is open the whole year round, but the months of October to April are considered the best traveling time. Then, the water that floods most of the park in summer retreats. Animals are forced into small pockets and can be observed more easily. What is more, mosquitoes are less of a pest in the dry season. Thanks to moderate humidity and low chances of rain, the month of May is a good compromise. Compared to the winter months, fewer people visit the park at that time.
CLIMATE CHART EVERGLADES
All details on the climate chart of the Everglades.
Alligators, turtles, raccoons and a wide variety of birds – visitors in Naples who want to see Florida’s wildlife up-close will love the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. This nature preserve in the western Everglades harbors many rare species and allows a glimpse of South Florida’s unspoiled landscape. Not only nature fans with binoculars come here, though. Benches, picnic areas and easy hiking paths in the shade make Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary a perfect place for families with children.
CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY IN A NUTSHELL
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was established in 1954 to save Florida’s native cypress trees. It was the National Audubon Society that first built a hiking trail. Today, this nature preserve houses the last big cypress forest in North America, after most trees had been cut down in the 1940s and 50s. Some of these gnarly giants are up to 600 years old. Rivers, swamps, pine highlands, flooded meadows and wild orchids also make up the sanctuary’s landscape. Another prominent feature is “Salad Lake”, which got its name for the salad-like hyacinths on its surface.
THINGS TO SEE AT THE CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY
Your first stop is the Blair Audubon Visitor Center. Here, you can watch a movie about the sanctuary and see baby alligators behind glass walls. In addition to postcards, souvenirs, T-shirts and books about Florida’s wildlife, binoculars are available here – perfect for bird-watchers. There are also educational leaflets for adults and children.
Winding through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a hiking path that is easy to walk, thanks to wooden planks. The path is 2.2 miles long and first runs along flooded meadows where you can spot snakes and rabbits. Afterwards, it leads through a cypress forest. Here, many bird species are found, among them woodpeckers, hawks, blue-gray gnatcatcher and the endangered wood stork. You can also see owls up-close, and the small lizards are not shy, either. Thanks to the elevated boardwalk, you will feel like being in the midst of the wilderness – while keeping your feet dry, that is. Rustling in the undergrowth gives away white-tailed deer and raccoons. If you are lucky, you might even see the very rare Florida panther.
The last part of the trail leads through a swamp. Here, splashing sounds indicate the presence of alligators hunting for food in the water. The wetlands are also home to turtles, frogs and fish otters. Before it is time to head back towards the parking lot, you should stop by at Salad Lake where countless water birds like herons, spoonbills and storks live. You can also watch alligators sunbathing there.
By the way: It is possible to take a shortcut midway on the trail. In this case, you will only walk for one mile. If you want to tackle the whole trail, you should account for 2–3 hours. It pays to take your time and walk slowly and quietly. This way, you will see a lot more of the shy animals. As a nice addition, volunteers often walk on the path. They will gladly answer your questions and point out animals that are difficult to spot.
BEST TRAVEL TIME FOR THE CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY
Except for days with heavy storms, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary can be visited the whole year round.
In summer, the weather is hot and humid like the rest of South Florida. Most days start sunny. In the afternoons, temperatures and humidity levels tend to rise, leading to intense, but mostly short showers before the sky clears up again in the evening. The winter months see more temperate and dry conditions, making them the most popular time for visitors.
The flora and fauna changes dramatically with the seasons, so it pays to visit the park more than once. Summer is the perfect time to see blooming ghost orchids and watch swallow-tailed kites perform their aerial stunts. In springtime, alligators build their nests in the mud. Come summer, the reptiles can be seen with their young. Flocks of migratory birds populate the sanctuary in the winter, among them colorful painted finches. Herons and storks concentrate around dwindling waterholes, where they can easily be observed.
Please note: From March to November, especially between April and June, many horseflies plague the sanctuary, so you should bring long clothes and insect repellent.
GUIDED TOURS AT CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY
If you want to explore the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary with a group and learn more about South Florida’s biodiversity, you can choose from the following tours:
- Free guided tours on the boardwalk; duration: 1.5 hours
- Early Birding Walk: guided bird-watching tours in the morning
- Ancient Forest Tour: Tours through the ancient cypress forest
- Hikes in the flatwoods, away from the boardwalk
- Butterfly Orientation Workshop: Talks and excursions about butterflies
- Sunset Strolls: Hikes at sunset with interesting infos about the park’s nocturnal animals.
- Night Walks: the perfect opportunity to hear the park’s animals after dark.
To find out more about available tour dates, hours and prices, visit the official website corkscrew.audubon.org. There, you can also read about events such as lectures, concerts, art exhibitions at the visitor center and open-air meditation courses
INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary features multiple picnic areas. Eating on the boardwalk, however, is forbidden. From December to April, sandwiches are sold at the visitor center.
The boardwalk is accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. Dogs are not allowed at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. You will find more information and a map of the hiking trail on the official website https://corkscrew.audubon.org.
DIRECTIONS, OPENING HOURS AND PRICES
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary can be reached from Naples in 40 minutes by car. Just follow the brown direction signs on Immokalee Road. On-site parking is free.
The boardwalk is open daily from 7 am to 5.30 pm. Last admission is at 4.30 pm, and the visitor center closes at 5.30 pm every day.
Tickets cost 14 USD for adults and 4 USD for children aged 6–18. Children under 6 visit for free. If you purchase your ticket in the afternoon, you can use it again the next day in the morning.
If you want to explore the diverse landscapes of South Florida, see alligators up-close, visit a 200 year old ranch and learn more about the cities of tomorrow, Babcock Ranch is the perfect place for you.
BABCOCK RANCH IN A NUTSHELL
The Babcock Ranch was named after Edward Babcock. In 1899, this lumber baron bought the 90.000 acre area in today’s Lee County from a wealthy family of bankers to use it for forestry, cattle farming and mining. In 2006, the state of Florida purchased this stretch of land known for its great biodiversity. 90% of the area now form the Babcock Ranch Preserve. No buildings are allowed here. Instead, the area is used for tours by Babcock Ranch Wilderness Adventures. On the remaining land a model city powered by renewable energy has been constructed.
BABCOCK RANCH ECO TOURS
In an area of 26 square miles – more than your average small town – Babcock Ranch Eco Tours offers the perfect chance to explore Florida’s wildlife. Here are some highlights visitors can look forward to at the preserve:
SWAMP BUGGY ECO TOUR
On this tour, guests jump aboard a camouflaged bus and discover ecosystems between water and land that are teeming with wildlife: Alligators and turtles are found in the rivers, herons hunt for fish on the shores, and owls can be spotted in the cypress canopy. The extensive prairie is home to Caracaras: birds of prey that feed on little rodents. If you are lucky, you might even spot a Florida panther in the undergrowth.
Included in the tour is a trip to the Crescent B Ranch. Cattle, pigs and horses are not the only animals raised here. The ranch is also home to baby alligators that you can pet during your visit.
The tour costs 24 USD for adults, 23 USD for senior citizens and 16 USD for children aged 3–12. Younger children take the tour for free. During main season in winter and spring, it is a good idea to reserve your ticket in advance on the official website babcockranchecotours.com.
If you want to explore South Florida’s beautiful forests on lesser-known paths, the Walking Tour is perfect for you. And do not forget your binoculars, as the densely wooded area is teeming with birds of prey like caracaras and swallow-tailed kites, as well as woodpeckers and cranes. A highlight is the Gator Bridge where you can spot Florida’s alligators in great numbers. It takes about 45 minutes to complete this easy loop trail.
DINING OPTIONS AND SHOPS
Spending the whole day outdoors can make you hungry. Luckily, the Gator Shack Restaurant serves hearty comfort food like sandwiches filled with meat and fish, tender steaks and crispy French Fries. The deep-fried cornmeal balls called Hush Puppies are particularly popular with fans of the Southern Cuisine. Visitors who always wanted to try real alligator meat should order the fried Gator Bites.
The Babcock Gift Shop offers a wide variety of souvenirs – from stuffed alligators and coloring books for children to stylish T-shirts and homemade chili sauce.
BABCOCK RANCH TOWN
After touring the preserve, you should also visit Babcock Ranch Town. There, you can see what the cities of tomorrow might look like. This sustainable and eco-friendly town features some remarkable innovations:
- The city gets its energy from solar panels and produces more electricity than it needs.
- The residential homes are equipped with Smart Home technologies that further reduce energy consumption.
- Public transport is done with noiseless, self-driving E-shuttles.
OPENING HOURS BABCOCK RANCH
The Babcock Ranch is open seven days a week from 10 am to 2 pm. During this time, Swamp Buggy Tours are available and the hiking path is open for visitors.
DIRECTIONS TO BABCOCK RANCH
The ranch is located north of the Caloosahatchee River and can be reached from Cape Coral in 45 minutes by car. This makes Babcock Ranch a perfect destination for guests in Cape Coral and Fort Myers who do not want to take the long trip to Everglades National Park.