Exploring the Paradise Coast’s wondrous, pristine natural areas and wildlife preserves is easy and convenient with a variety of nature trails, hiking paths, boardwalks, self-guided tours and well-designed viewing areas throughout the region.
Walk the 2,000-foot-long Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
and experience a freshwater swamp environment dominated by cypress trees and birds like bald eagles, wood storks and herons. At the Big Cypress National Preserve
, the one-half mile long Kirby Storter Boardwalk rewards you with an engaging and educational nature walk that takes you into a cypress dome, without getting your feet wet.
In Naples, the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
has a 2.25-mile raised boardwalk that takes you through four distinct environments – pine upland, wet prairie, cypress forest and marsh. Volunteer naturalists are usually on the boardwalk to answer questions and an optional trail shortens the walk to one mile. This spot has been named by Birder's World
as one of the top bird watching spots in the United States. In the summer, watch for a large and very rare ghost orchid that usually blooms between June and September.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to walk, try driving the 17-mile Turner River Road
, located off U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail), a dirt road that weaves through mostly open prairie interspersed with slash pine and along canals frequented by birds and alligators.Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive at Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve
is an 11-mile drive on an old cypress logging trail that winds alongside the long, narrow strand swamp known as the native orchid capital of the U.S. There are a number of hiking trails for walking alongside the swamp. Experienced swamp explorers often venture into the swamp to take wet walks past native bromeliads and orchids. It’s best to go into the swamp with a guide, and there are ranger-guided walks as well as explorations with private guides available.
Loop Road within the Big Cypress National Preserve
is the farthest you can go into the Everglades by car, providing a fascinating look at wildlife. This extremely secluded road stretches for miles into pristine wilderness, giving you an unmatched view of hundreds of species of birds, alligators, turtles, river otter and much more. In fact, you’ll see so many alligators sunning along the road, it’s impossible to keep count. Loop Road is a favorite for nature photographers and anyone who wants a true adventure by car. (Loop Road is currently closed to public traffic for roadwork). For more information, stop in at the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center on the Tamiami Trail or call (239) 695-1201.