A painter at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Home to the annual Everglades Seafood Festival the first weekend in February each year, this small town on the edge of Florida's Everglades is known as the Stone Crab Capital of the World. Over 375,000 pounds of stone crab claws are brought in to the seafood processing plants lining the banks of the Barron River between October and May each year – the legal season for harvesting stone crab claws.
Gulf grouper, snapper and other fresh fish are also brought in regularly to the city's docks. With such as bounty of fresh seafood, it's no wonder this tiny town is filled with numerous restaurants, all specializing in fresh seafood along with other local Everglades favorites like fried gator tail and frog legs.
The town is the western gateway to Everglades National Park
and is also the launching point for fabulous fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands. Anglers come from all around the world to cast to tarpon, snook and redfish -- all found in abundance in the mangrove estuaries leading out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Canoe and kayak paddlers are also in heaven here. The Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center is the launching point for paddling the famous 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, recognized by adventurers as one to put on the list of "paddling trips of a lifetime."
The Museum of the Everglades
and Smallwood Store provide fascinating glimpses into the history of this area, from the days of the Native American Calusa tribe through the modern-day pioneers who carved out this settlement in the wilderness. Immokalee
Immokalee is the Seminole Indian word for "my home." This small town in eastern Collier County is the center of the area's agricultural industry. Immokalee's farms produce a significant portion of the nation's fresh produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, potatoes and citrus. Drive down New Market Road any day of the week to check out the Pinhooker's Market, offering fresh produce at great prices. The Immokalee State Farmer's Market offers fresh produce, especially during the peak fall and winter harvest.Collier County University Extension
offers public Agricultural Tours every year in March for a behind-the-scenes look at the area's diverse farming industry. In November, it hosts the Southwest Florida Yard and Garden show.
Two of the region's top environmental attractions are in the Immokalee area. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
, located 15 miles east of I-75 on Immokalee Road, is the crown jewel in Audubon's sanctuary system and protects the world's largest remaining stand of old growth bald cypress. Recognized internationally as a top bird-watching spot, the sanctuary's 2.25-mile boardwalk produces wonderful opportunities year 'round to view bird, animal and rare plant life.
Lake Trafford can be found at the end of Lake Trafford Road in Immokalee. This 1,500-acre freshwater lake, an important element in the Everglades ecosystem, is renowned for crappie, bluegill and bass fishing and is also an excellent place to view birds, alligators and other wildlife. The Airboats & Alligators airboat tour departing from Lake Trafford Marina
assures alligator sightings.
The 75,600-square-foot Seminole Casino Immokalee
, one of seven casinos owned and operated by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, offers a large variety of table games, as well as Las Vegas-style and Native American Indian wide-area progressive slot machines. It also features nonstop live poker action 24/7 in its new WPT Poker Room, including a wide array of tournaments for all types of players. The new Paradise High Limit room offers high-stakes Blackjack and Mini-Baccarat, plus separate room for high-limit slot machine play. The EE-TO-LEET-KE Grill is a local favorite. This beautifully renovated 5,100-square-foot Seminole restaurant offers the best dishes Southwest Florida has to offer, including its signature authentic Seminole fry bread and fresh-from-scratch classic favorites. Chef Greg Rosace (formerly of the MGM Mirage, Las Vegas and Beau Rivage, Biloxi) and his staff visit the Immokalee Farmer's Market daily to purchase the freshest possible produce. The kitchen of the EE-TO-LEET-KE Grill will soon debut a new classic cuisine menu upon completion of a total renovation of its kitchen. Ave Maria
Near Immokalee is Ava Maria, which combines a college town with a major development. Founded in 2005, Ave Maria is home to Ave Maria University
, the country's first new major Catholic university in four decades. Its focal point is the 101-foot Oratory.
The town of Ave Maria
features homes, a town center (La Piazza), restaurants, shops and recreation opportunities, including a golf course -- all set in a natural environment. The community is growing by the day and prides itself on being not just a development, but a lifestyle.