Best Bets for Nature & the Outdoors
"Several rivers and the Gulf of Mexico converge to create coastal estuarine environments. See dolphins, manatees, gators and all sorts of birds. "
Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park An uplands ecosystem colors the flora and fauna in Fort Myers' Hickey’s Creek, one of Lee County’s largest regional parks. Gopher tortoises share habitat here with the threatened Florida scrub jay.
Manatee Park West Indian manatees, also known as sea cows and even mistaken for mermaids in days of yore, congregate at Manatee Park in Fort Myers from December to March. The rest of the year, they find a haven in the canals at Lovers Key State Park.
Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve & Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. Well, you’d think each of these ecological wonders would tire you out, but the boardwalks perched over these watersheds are each just over a mile long. Both are havens for native and visiting birds.
Lakes Regional Park. A tiny train takes young and old alike through a wild portion of this Fort Myers park that’s fun for the whole family. The impressive array of amenities includes fishing, boardwalks, nature trails and a kids’ water playground – a perfect way to cool off on a hot day.
Lovers Key State Park. Hike the nature trail, rent a bike, paddle a tidal lagoon, lounge on the beach, surfcast with a view of Big Carlos Pass – even get married in a gazebo perched above the twinkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico at this gem.
Guided Kayak Tour at J.N. “Ding"" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Must-experience: Paddling Sanibel Island'sTarpon Bay on the stern-side of a witty and learned Tarpon Bay Explorers naturalist through canoe trails traveled hundreds of years ago by Calusa Indians. Be on the lookout for local wildlife and learn the fascinating workings of a mangrove forest.
Turtle Time! May 1 through October 31 marks the nesting season of the loggerhead sea turtle. In very rare instances, visitors can attend a turtle release with Turtle Time and watch the hatchlings make their way to their watery home.
Babcock Wilderness Adventures. Take a bona fide swamp tour through pine flatwoods, freshwater marsh, a prairie – complete with Cracker cattle – and a cypress swamp.
Everglades Wonder Gardens. Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is home to two female mountain lions and two female Florida panthers, brought here for rehabilitation. There are thought to be fewer than 60 Florida panthers in the wild.
Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium. Aviaries, raccoons, gray foxes, a bobcat and animal feedings with educational commentary make nature come alive at this Fort Myers nature attraction. The center’s planetarium exhibits the nature of the heavens and is the only one between Bradenton and Miami."