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.

Parks Primer: Nature, Wildlife & Recreation Hotspots

"There's a park for every age and interest -- kids to adults, sports fans to nature lovers."

On The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, parks aren’t just for picnicking anymore. Here you can find live manatees, a cross-country bike track, major league baseball action, a beach for dogs and a mini-railroad ride – all within local city, county and state parks. Here’s a handy guide to what you can find in our parks for every age, activity level and interest.

Kid-Friendly
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.

Sports-Centered
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.

Parks and Recreation

"Beaches, parks and recreation centers abound on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel."

Filling the time between each beautiful sunset is easily done on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Miles of pristine shorelines and an abundance of parks and recreation centers create opportunities for fun and leisure. See for yourself why southwest Florida tops the nation’s list of favorite destinations for the variety of outstanding outdoor activities.

SANIBEL & CAPTIVA ISLANDS
Bowman’s Beach (239) 472-6397

Gulf-side on Bowman’s Beach Road on Sanibel Island, Bowman’s Beach is a county-owned and operated beach and picnic area. Parking fee of $2 per hour.

Sanibel Lighthouse 1 Periwinkle Way (239) 472-6397
Located on Sanibel Island’s southern tip, view the picturesque 100-plus-year-old lighthouse while enjoying a picnic, strolling on the beach or fishing from the pier. Parking available, $2 per hour (multi-space machine).

Turner Beach (239) 472-6397
Situated between Sanibel & Captiva islands, this beautiful beach is prime shelling territory and an excellent vantage point for West Coast sunsets. Parking is limited. Level ground handicapped parking; no handicapped restrooms available.

Gulfside Park (239) 472-6397
Located off Casa Ybel Road on Sanibel Island, this beach offers swimming, picnicking and restrooms. Parking available, $2 per hour (multi-space machine).

FORT MYERS BEACH
Lovers Key State Park 8700 Estero Blvd. (239) 463-4588
Located between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach on S.R. 865 (Estero Blvd.), this romantic state park is both visually impressive and environmentally progressive. Activities include 2-1/2 miles of white sand beaches, world-class shelling, swimming, bridge and backbay fishing, bird watching and excursions to observe loggerhead sea turtles during active periods, as well as bottlenose dolphins and endangered West Indian manatees. Canoe and kayak explorations of miles of waterways lead to several uninhabited islands through the park. A 100-seat, turn-of-the-century beachfront pavilion is available for weddings, lectures and special events. Handicapped accessible. Entrance fee is $3 for a single occupied vehicle, $5 for up to eight people in one vehicle, and $1 per person for walk-ins and bicyclists.

Bowditch Point Regional Park 50 Estero Blvd. (239) 463-1116
Located on the northern tip of Estero Island, this 17-acre park offers everything to make your day at the beach complete. A boardwalk leads to picnic areas and the beach. Stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the bay, the park’s amenities include a bathhouse and changing rooms, a "village deck" for group gatherings and a covered waiting area for trolley service. Onsite parking is available behind the bathhouse and includes handicapped access parking. Park free at the Main Street lot, and hop a trolley for 25 cents (call Lee Tran at 275-8726). Or, park at the park for 75 cents an hour.

Lynn Hall Memorial Park 950 Estero Blvd. (239) 463-1116
Located in the northern section of Estero Island in the Times Square shopping, dining, and entertainment district next to the fishing pier, this county-operated park provides the perfect setting for family outings. Picnic tables, restrooms, showers, barbecue grills, and a playground are available to visitors. Parking fee is 75 cents per hour, handicapped accessible.

Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve (239) 765-4233
Overlooking Estero Bay off of School Street, this preserve features more than 56 acres of unspoiled live Oak Hammock and 4,000-feet of mangrove shoreline to explore by elevated boardwalk. Limited free parking.

Mound Key (239) 765-0865
Just northeast of the southern tip of Fort Myers Beach, this island, like so many in the Fort Myers/Sanibel area, was constructed from shells deposited by the Calusa Indians more than 2,000 years ago. Accessible by boat only.

FORT MYERS
Lakes Regional Park 7330 Gladiolus Drive (239) 432-2000
Lakes Park offers 279 acres of Florida foliage. Visitors can enjoy freshwater swimming in the summer, canoeing, paddle-boating, fishing, an observation tower, exercise course, picnic tables with barbecue grills, a concession stand, shower facilities, and 2-1/2 miles of paved nature trails for jogging, biking and walking. Recent additions to the park include a zero-depth-water Play(spray)-ground and rock climbing wall. Other amenities include a fragrance garden for the visually impaired and a 1-1/2-mile miniature train ride through the back section of the park. Winter hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., summer 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is a $2 per person fee to ride the train. Parking fee is 75 cents per hour, $3 for the day.

Centennial Park 2100 Edwards Drive (239) 338-2287
Along the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers, this scenic park has 8 acres of playgrounds and picnic areas with an entertainment pavilion and fishing pier. Special events and concerts take place year-round. Free parking.

Manatee Park S.R. 80 (239) 694-3537 or 461-7477
Visitors can observe the endangered West Indian manatees in their non-captive habitat from three observation decks during the winter months of November through March. The Eco-Tourium Gift Shop is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in season, interpretive naturalists are on site, and kayak rentals are available during "Manatee Season." Facilities on the 17-acre Orange River site stay open year-round for picnicking, fishing and canoeing. Nature-lovers host ongoing educational programs. Hours are April through September, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; October through March, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Handicapped accessible. Parking fee of 75 cents per hour, $3 for the day.

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve Six Mile Cypress Pkwy. (239) 432-2004..Visitors can journey through this 2,200-acre wetland ecosystem on a mile-long boardwalk trail, where southwest Florida's diverse plant and wildlife are found. See subtropical ferns and bromeliads. Watch wading birds such as herons, egrets, ibis and anhingas. Open daily April through September, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., October through March, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free guided walks daily, January through March at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and April, November and December at 9:30 a.m., and Wednesdays only May through October, 9:30 a.m. Handicapped accessible.

Hickey’s Creek Mitigation Park 17890 S.R. 80 (239) 728-6240
This 1,020-acre wildlife preserve consists of a variety of habitats including palmetto-oak scrub, pine flatwoods and seasonal wetlands. Offers views of scenic creek from trail and overlook areas. This ecosystem supports threatened scrub jay and gopher tortoises. Site includes rustic restrooms, canoe/kayak landing, fishing deck and more than 5 miles of walking trails. Open daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Limited parking available for 75 cents an hour, $3 for the day.

BONITA SPRINGS & ESTERO
Bonita Beach Park 27950 Hickory Blvd. (239) 229-0459 or 461-7440
Located between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs, this 4-acre pristine beachfront park features a boardwalk to protect the sea oats, sand dunes and coastal vegetation surrounding a gazebo and eight picnic shelters. Bathrooms, changing rooms and outdoor showers front parking areas with handicapped access. Parking is 75 cents per hour, $3 for the day. Lee Tran trolleys offer transportation to this beautiful beach on Little Hickory Island leaving from the K-Mart store at Bonita Beach Road and U.S. 41 in Bonita Springs. Cost is 25 cents.

Bonita Springs Community Park 26740 Pine Ave. (239) 992-2556
Located at West Terry Street and Pine Avenue, this park is the hub of recreation in Bonita Springs. Its 60 acres offer picnicking, a playground, sports fields, a 7-acre lake, library and community pool. The recreation center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free parking.

Koreshan State Historic Site 8661 Corkscrew Rd. (239) 992-0311
At the Koreshan State Historic Site, the curious find only remnants of a religious sect, which practiced communal living and equal rights of women long before the concept was popular. Visitors can tour the buildings and property where the Koreshans envisioned their perfect city and enjoy a picnic lunch on the picturesque grounds. Camping and canoeing are available. Located off of U.S. 41 in Estero. Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. An entry fee of $4.00 per vehicle for up to eight people and $1.00 for each additional person.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary 375 Sanctuary Rd. (239) 348-9151
This 11,000-acre wilderness sanctuary, operated by the National Audubon Society, offers visitors a 2-1/4 mile boardwalk through pinelands, wet prairies, hammocks, and cypress ponds. The sanctuary contains the country's largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress with its 500-year-old trees being among the oldest in eastern North America. Large populations of rare wood storks, as well as a number of wild orchid species can be found during the winter months. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for college students, $5 for Audubon members, $4 for children ages 6 to 18, free for children younger than 6. Open daily, October through March, from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, April through September, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

CAPE CORAL
Lake Kennedy Senior Center 400 Santa Barbara Blvd. (239) 574-0575
Lake Kennedy Park features picnic facilities, a playground, boat ramp, fishing, boardwalk, restrooms and a senior citizens center. Adjacent to Sun Splash Family Waterpark.

R.C. Seahawk Park 1030 N.W. 28th St. (239) 542-8350 or 542-1624
The R.C. Seahawk Park is a developed facility for radio-controlled model airplanes, gliders and boats. Meets are held every weekend.

Veterans Memorial Park 4140 Coronado Pkwy. (239) 573-3128
Veterans’ Memorial Park features basketball, shuffleboard and boccie courts, playground, picnic tables, an open pavilion and restrooms.

Four Freedoms Park 4818 Tarpon Ct. (239) 574-0804>
Four Freedoms Park is on Bimini Basin and has a recreation center, playground, amphitheater, picnic area and fishing.

Jaycee Park 4125 S.E. 20th Pl. (239) 573-3128
Located at the end of Beach Parkway, Jaycee Park offers a magnificent view of the Caloosahatchee River. The park has a quarter-mile jogging track and eight exercise stations, two picnic pavilions with tables and grills, shade trees and restrooms.

Jason Verdow Memorial Park 801 S.E. 27th St. (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
This park features three lighted Little League fields with bleachers, restrooms, picnic tables and a playground.

Pelican Sports Complex 4128 Pelican Blvd. (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
The Sports Complex offers five lighted soccer fields, one practice field, four lighted baseball diamonds, a batting cage, playground and restrooms.

BMX Park 1410 S.W. 6th Pl. (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
The park offers a bicycle moto-cross track and a softball complex with three lighted fields.

J. Chandler-Burton Memorial Park 1502 N.E. 3rd Terrace (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
This park is the home of Cape Coral Little League Girls Softball. The park has one tennis court, a basketball court, three lighted playing fields, picnic tables, barbecue grills, playground equipment and restrooms.

Guiffrida Park 1044 N.E. 4th St. (239) 573-3128
Guiffrida Park has barbecue grills, picnic tables, two covered pavilions and a playground.

Caloosa Park 610 Del Prado Blvd. (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
Caloosa Park offers two lighted softball fields, two lighted football fields, one tennis court and restrooms.

Storm Football Park 2602 Chiquita Blvd. (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
Storm Football Park offers three lighted football fields, restrooms and picnic tables.

Koza/Saladino Park 301 S. W. 30th Terrace (239) 573-3127 or 772-4232
Koza/Saladino Park offers four lighted little league baseball fields with bleachers, restrooms and picnic tables.

Four Mile Cove Ecological Area S.E. 23rd Terrace (239) 549-4606
Four-Mile Cove Ecological Area is a 365-acre saltwater wetland preserve at the end of Southeast 23rd Terrace, just behind the Coralwood Mall, along the Caloosahatchee River and Midpoint Bridge. Amenities include a 4,200-foot boardwalk trail through a mangrove forest, a visitor center with restrooms and picnic area, and a canoe launch at Horton Park. Open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Free parking.

PINE ISLAND, BOCA GRANDE & OUTER ISLANDS
Matlacha Community Park and Boat Ramp 4577 Pine Island Rd. (239) 283-4110
This park’s community buildings complement sheltered picnic tables, restrooms, a double boat ramp and benches. Drive north from Fort Myers to S.R. 78, turn left and proceed 13 miles, turn left again at the next street past the Island Super Market.

Cayo Costa Island State Preserve (941) 964-0375 or 964-2965
Cayo Costa is a delightfully secluded island that is great for camping, swimming, shelling and fishing. Primitive cabins are available for overnight stays. Accessible only by boat.

Phillips Park 5675 Sesame Dr., Bokeelia (239) 656-7748
Phillips Park features play areas, athletic fields, picnic areas and a swimming pool. The Pine Island Library is located across the street. Free parking.

Boca Grande Beach Park (941) 964-0375 or 964-2965
To find this park, take U.S. 41 to Murdock. Turn left on 776 and then again on 771 to the Boca Grande Causeway ($4 toll) to the four-way stop, then turn right. There is a $2 honor fee to enter. Once there, enjoy a delightful Gulf beach equipped with picnic tables, barbecue grills and restrooms.

Boca Grande Community Center 131 First Street W. (941) 964-2564
The center has picnic areas, playgrounds, multi-purpose courts and an active community recreation center.

Boca Grande Community Park 305 Wheeler Rd. (941) 964-2564
Boca Grande Community Park has one baseball diamond.

Boca Grande Lighthouse Park 880 Belcher Rd. (941) 964-0375 or 964-2965
Picnic in the shadow of a maritime landmark. The Boca Grande Lighthouse, built in 1890, overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and is the perfect spot to observe boat traffic and fishing expeditions. Swimming is not recommended here because of the strong current. Open November through May seven days a week, June through October five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission of $2 per vehicle covers parking.

NORTH FORT MYERS
Caloosahatchee Regional Park 18500 North River Road, Alva (239) 693-2690
This 765-acre park features two sections. The north section’s 400 acres offer 5 miles of bike trails and 2 miles of roads for hiking, biking or riding horses. The south section’s 368 acres accommodate tent camping, picnicking and hiking on 3 miles of trails, 6,700 feet of it paralleling the Caloosahatchee River. A handicapped trail on a seashell-laden path leads to a scenic river overlook. Open daily 8 a.m. to dusk. Parking is 75 cents an hour, $3 for the day.

Nalle Grade Park 8350 Nalle Grade (239) 656-7748
Near the Lee County Civic Center, Nalle Grade Park offers shelter and picnic tables.Free parking.

Hancock Park 2211 Hancock Bridge Parkway (239) 656-7748
Hancock Park has four baseball diamonds, one football field, five tennis courts, a tennis wall, a playground and restrooms. Free parking.

LEHIGH ACRES
Lake Camille
Located on North Joel Boulevard, Lake Camille has freshwater fishing and a beach.
Lehigh Community Park 1400 West 5th St. (239) 369-3004
Located off of Lee Boulevard across from the Able Canal, the Lehigh Community Park features picnic tables, a playground, baseball diamonds, tennis courts and a swimming pool. Accessible by West 5th Street. Open daily year-round, dusk to dawn, lighted facilities until 11 p.m. Free parking.

Lehigh Acres Senior Center 219 Plaza Dr. (239) 369-5355
The Senior Center has educational courses, entertainment, crafts and horseshoe pits.

Lehigh Acres Community Center 1299 Homestead Rd. (239) 369-1521
In front of the Senior Center, this is the hub of activity for the community. Dance classes, educational programs, teen activities and more. Open Monday through Saturday.

Lehigh Veterans Park 55 Homestead Rd. (239) 369-1521
This newly constructed park has a lake, playground equipment, skateboard facility, picnic areas and a beautiful lodge, complete with kitchen and restrooms, available for rental. Free parking.

Best Bets for Nature & the Outdoors

"See dolphins, manatees, gators and all sorts of birds."

Parks
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.

Tours
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.

Nature Centers
Everglades Wonder GardensEverglades 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.

Go
  • Review #2
    “Really cool!” - Florida

  • BUTTERFLY RAINFOREST
    “Beyond expectations.” - Florida

  • Another Review
    “Great place!” - Reviewer

Find more reviews and tips on TripAdvisor
Close

Enter our weekly giveaway. You could win a print of Chicago artist Judy Ledgerwood’s artwork inspired by The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. One entry per day.

Thank you for entering today.
Good luck!

    Register for Favorites







  • Sign Up

    Recover Your Password

    Enter your email address below and an email will be sent to you with your password.


  • Submitloader
  • login
Hidden Clicker