Parks & Preserves

Living with wildlife.

Because of the commitment made long ago to keep this area as natural as possible, vast tracks of land have been set-aside as park and preserve space. Put another way, we're very spoiled. At the top of the list of reasons why is J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, one of the largest mangrove wildernesses in the country. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and Caloosahatchee Regional Park offer a variety of biomes to explore, and like dozens of other parks and preserves, charge only for parking – walking and biking is free.

Nature, Wildlife, & Recreation Hotspots.

Hop aboard the 1/8th scale choo-choo for a 1.5-mile tour of Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers, then cool off in the interactive fountain. If you’re looking for quality beach together-time, Lynn Hall Memorial Park has kid-sized waves and a playground to boot. You’ll find other scenic playgrounds at Centennial Park overlooking the Caloosahatchee River and near the beach at Bonita Beach Park in Bonita Springs. Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island boasts a brand new play area.

Teens & ‘Tweens
As the age numbers ramp up, so does the dare factor. At Caloosahatchee Regional Park in North Fort Myers, teens and ‘tweens can try the mountain bike trail – the only one of its kind in a four-county area. Pitch a tent and spend the night near the river to extend the adventure. There’s also kayaking. Park staff guides a six-hour paddle to scenic Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park upstream for lunch and a hike, or you can go it on your own for extreme backwater adventure.

Seclusion-Seeking Adults
On Fort Myers Beach, Matanzas Pass Preserve lures you away from vacationland activity for a quiet stroll to a hidden bayfront. For beach romance and glorious sunsets, drive to Alison Hagerup Beach Park on Captiva Island or boat to Cayo Costa State Park.

Nature Lovers
Good nature is the headlining attraction in most area parks and preserves. Sanibel Island’s J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge takes you away from it all with acres of rich bird and marine life habitat – see it up close on a canoe tour. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve boasts a new Interpretive Center and 1.2-mile boardwalk. Manatee Park in Fort Myers has a manatee viewing area (peak viewing is November through March) and Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve in Cape Coral has excellent birding.

For the Dogs
Unleash your pet and your own sense of playfulness with a run and swim on Bonita Beach Dog Beach Park. In season, it offers monthly “kayak with your canine” paddles. Away from the beach, Barkingham Dog Park in Buckingham, Estero Community Park in Estero, Rotary Park in Cape Coral and Judd Community Park in North Fort Myers also accommodate four-legged guests.

Big on History
Have your recreation and history all in one. At Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, canoe, camp and learn about an unusual religious-intellectual sect that settled there in the late 1800s. Paddle from there to Mound Key Archaeological State Park, where a Calusa Indian mound is under excavation. Sun and picnic in the shadow of historic lighthouses at Gasparilla Island State Park in Boca Grande and Lighthouse Park Beach on Sanibel Island.

Baseball makes a hit at many local parks, especially City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, home to Boston Red Sox spring training. Too tame? Skateboarders shred at the City of Fort Myers Skate Park, while windsurfing and kitesurfing deliver thrills on Sanibel Causeway Beaches.

On the Beach
Among the area’s many coastal parks, Bowditch Point Regional Park on Fort Myers Beach is a passive recreational area perfect for sunning, strolling, birding and watching the boating world go by. To its south, Lovers Key State Park appeals to an active beachgoer with kayaking, nature tours, fishing classes and more.

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