Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary | 375 Sanctuary Road W., Naples, 34120 239-348-9151;
Journey into this famed rugged beauty on Corkscrew’s famous boardwalk—a 2.5-mile adventure through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, marshes, and the largest old growth bald cypress forest in North America. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is the liquid heart of the Everglades, and home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, and red-bellied turtles. The bald cypress trees tower 130 feet and have a girth of 25 feet. Their massive branches are draped with mosses, lichens, bromeliads, and ferns. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, and raptors can be seen throughout the year. Corkscrew Swamp is a designated Wetland of International Importance. Learn about the sanctuary’s history and hydrology, grab lunch, visit the art gallery and gift shop, and learn about its many programs at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center.
Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center, 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, 34141
Oasis Visitor Center, 52105 Tamiami Trail East; Ochopee, 34141 239-695-4111
The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support rich marine estuaries along the Southwest Florida coast. Protecting over 729,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther. Find out about all its resources and recreational opportunities at one of the visitor centers before starting your journey.
Collier-Seminole State Park | 20200 Tamiami Trail E., Naples, FL 34114 239-394-3397
Located 17 miles south of Naples, this is the site of a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark: the only existing Bay City Walking Dredge made in 1924. It was used to build the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) through the Everglades swamplands, linking Tampa and Miami, and opening Southwest Florida to travelers and development. The 7,271-acre state park lies within the great mangrove swamp of South Florida—one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world. A wide variety of wildlife, including several imperiled species, inhabits this blend of temperate and tropical native plant communities and includes an original stand of Florida royal palms. This is an ideal place to camp and hike or cycle on several trails.
Conservation Collier Preserves | 239-252-2961 or 239-252-2979
Like Lee County citizens, Collier County taxpayers have supported the conservation and preservation of environmentally sensitive and critical habitats and ecosystems. There are 20 locations in Collier totaling 4,261 acres, with 12 open to the public. Some provide nature strolls while others include restroom facilities, biking, hiking, and equestrian trails, hunting, picnic areas, and observation decks. Visit the website, which has interactive maps, for details to plan your journey. To get you started, these five sites offer the longest trails:
Pepper Ranch Preserve: 6315 Pepper Road, Immokalee
Caracara Prairie Preserve: 2320 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee
Gordon River Greenway Preserve has two access points: 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road and 1596 Golden Gate Pkwy., Naples
Red Root Preserve: 1330 Limpkin Road, Big Corkscrew Island
Alligator Flag Preserve: 7875 Immokalee Road, Naples
1495 Smith Preserve Way, Naples, 34102
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit environmental protection organization established 55 years ago to safeguard the water, land, and wildlife in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, and Glades counties. Learn about Southwest Florida’s ecosystems, and flora and fauna. Rent kayaks, take an electric boat tour, and stroll through native ecosystems. Go behind the scenes at the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, nature, and the Dalton Discovery Center.
CREW | 4600 Corkscrew Road, Immokalee, 34142 239-657-2253;
CREW stands for Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed—a 60,000-acre watershed that is managed through a partnership between CREW, the South Florida Water Management District, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Conservation Collier, and Lee County’s Conservation 20/20. There are exceptional recreational opportunities for people of all ages on nearly 30 miles of hiking trails, with more being planned. CREW has four trail systems open to the public, two located off Corkscrew Road (County Road 850), one off of Bonita Beach Road, and one located off of Immokalee Road. Hikers can experience pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, a popash slough, sawgrass marsh, and maple-cypress swamp. Research CREW’s website and maps to plan your visit.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass Recreation Area | 11135 Gulf Shore Drive, Naples, 34108 239-597-6196
Secluded and relaxing, this barrier island boasts of one of the most unspoiled beaches in the United States. Get your cameras ready—wildlife abounds. Along the nature trails and open waters, expect to spot resident and migratory birds, tortoises, dolphins, and more. The park’s waters, with a hard-bottom reef, are ideal for fishing and shelling. Outside of the pass, calm surf and shallow water make this a popular sunbathing spot.
Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center | 815 Oyster Bar Lane, Everglades City, 34139 239-695-3311
The Gulf Coast Visitor Center serves as the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends to Flamingo and Florida Bay accessible only by boat in this region. The original Gulf Coast Visitor Center was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017, though a station is in place. It provides restrooms and exhibits, informational brochures, and backcountry permits. Ninety-minute excursions across Chokoloskee Bay, into Indian Key Pass, and through the mangrove islands of Everglades National Park are available through Everglades Florida Adventures at (855) 793-5542 or evergladesfloridaadventures.com. The concessioner also provides canoe, kayaking, and camping equipment rentals, guided paddling trips, and water shuttle between Flamingo Bay and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center.
Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve | 137 Coastline Drive, Copeland, 34137 239-695-4593
The largest state park in Florida is home to a variety of plant and animal species found nowhere else in the continental United States. The Fakahatchee Strand is a forested swamp about 20 miles long and five miles wide where the underlying limestone has dissolved to form a shallow, seasonally flooded depression with a canopy of bald cypress, red maple, and royal palm trees. More native orchid species grow in this 75,000-acre wilderness than in any other place on the continent. The elusive ghost orchid (poached from this region) was introduced to national audiences by Susan Orleans’ book, The Orchid Thief, the basis of the 2002 film Adaptation. The wilderness is divided into four main use areas: the 2,500-foot-long Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, East River, Jones Grade lakes, and Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, accessible by car, foot, and bicycle. Begin your journey at the visitor center. Fakahatchee borders another regional treasure: Picayune Strand State Forest.
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve | 300 Tower Road, Naples, 34113 239-530-5940
Rookery Bay is really special: It’s one of only 29 protected reserves in the United States. The research reserve stretches across 110,000 acres of pristine mangrove forest, uplands, and protected waters, from Gordon Pass in Naples to the western Everglades. Recreational and educational opportunities to explore abound: kayaking, boating, camping, shelling, angling, nature photography, and birdwatching. Begin your journey at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, a 16,500-foot educational, research, and training facility with laboratories, classrooms, auditorium, and two-story visitor center offering including interactive exhibits, an art gallery, nature trails, and picnic areas.