Nature & Wildlife

Living with wildlife.

Experiencing nature and wildlife happens naturally everywhere on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Anhinga and pelicans dive for fish just offshore. Osprey fly gracefully overhead, dolphins play in your boat's wake and manatee surface to say hello as you pass on your kayak. These and so many more brushes with nature are commonplace thanks to our dynamic mangrove estuaries, which rival rainforests as the most productive ecosystem on the planet. Your job is simply to enjoy and help protect it for future generations.

Meet Native Wildlife in the Fort Myers Sanibel Area

Marvelous Manatees
Manatees are drawn to Fort Myers' 17-acre Manatee Park because its canal contains the warm-water discharge of a nearby power plant. When the water in the Gulf dips below 68 degrees, the manatees swim into the park to warm up.

Pelicans, Egrets, Herons and More
Birding in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is easy. You can probably start when you arrive at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), or in the parking lot of your hotel.

If you're interested in birds, you’ll want to travel to Sanibel Island's J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Choose to explore the refuge by tram, operated by Tarpon Bay Explorers, kayak, bike, foot or car. 

There are numerous parks and refuges in which to go bird watching. Among the best:
- National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – anhingas, storks, owls, warblers and hawks
- Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve – herons, egrets, woodpeckers and migratory birds
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve – anhingas, red-shouldered hawks and wading birds

Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Each year beginning around May, female loggerhead sea turtles instinctively return to the beaches on which they were hatched to lay their eggs. While adults can reach 350 pounds, turtle hatchlings are tiny and fragile.

Observe the nests from a distance, and be sure to follow the lights-out policy in effect on area beaches. Moonlight guides the hatchlings to the water, but artificial lights can confuse them and cause them to wander toward dangerous roads.

Dolphin sighting is the Holy Grail of animal watching in Florida. Book a dolphin cruise offered by Adventures in Paradise or Captiva Cruises.

Best Bets for Nature & the Outdoors

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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's Tarpon 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.

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.

Parks & Preserves - Venues & Locations

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