Annual Eco Tourism Festivals & Events in Naples

By Jennifer Adams

From the spectacular fishing in the Ten Thousand Islands to the up-close encounters with flora and fauna at Rookery Bay Reserve, Naples is renowned for its spectacular wildlife and waterways. To celebrate—and preserve—these precious resources and habitats, the area hosts several eco tourism festivals and events each year, some of which draw thousands of attendees. Here are a few to add to your calendar.

Festival of Birds

Held in January
Formerly known as the Southwest Florida Nature Festival, attendees at this Rookery Bay annual event enjoy special presentations at the Environmental Learning Center and multiple field trips across Naples and Marco Island throughout the weekend.

ZOObilee

Held in February
Dubbed the wildest party of the year, ZOObilee brings delicious cuisine from some of Naples’ finest restaurants and caterers to the Naples Zoo’s historic botanical garden. Dine amidst wildlife and enjoy animal encounters and live music throughout the evening.

Naples Flower Show

Held in March
Naples Botanical Garden and Naples Garden Club combine resources and talents to present this annual two-day event, one of the largest flower shows in Florida. It includes a Garden Market and a variety of educational demonstrations, as well as the Naples Garden Club’s juried designs and horticultural exhibits. The show is included with general admission to the Garden.

Earth Day Festival

Held in April
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s biggest community celebration of the year is the Earth Day Festival, which features guest speakers, live music, festival food, exhibits, crafts, live animal programs and boat rides. Attendance is just $5 for children and $10 for adults (free for Conservancy members).

International Coastal Cleanup

Held in September
Part of the Ocean Conservancy’s international initiative to keep beaches and waterways free of trash and debris, this annual cleanup event is organized locally by Keep Collier Beautiful and routinely removes 15 to 20 tons from our local shores. Volunteers gather at one of 20 cleanup sites or contribute by kayak, paddleboard or small, motorized vessel to pick up trash. Gloves, trash bags and a free T-shirt are provided.

Florida Panther Festival

Held in November
This family-friendly eco event celebrates Southwest Florida’s local wildlife—especially the endangered Florida panther. Up to 5,000 guests attend this festival each year at the Naples Zoo, where, along with all regular zoo activities, attendees see a live Florida panther, outdoor exhibits, fun kids’ activities and talks by experts about living with wildlife.

RedSnook Catch and Release Charity Fishing Tournament

Held in November
This annual tournament celebrates one of our regional treasures: our waterways. Without clean and abundant supplies of water, recreational and sport fishing would be a thing of the past. The event supports the work of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to keep our waters clean and to preserve and enhance our fisheries.

Rookery Bay Adventure Race

Held in December
Don’t miss this exciting annual eco tourism event hosted by the Friends of Rookery Bay! The adventure race and fun run includes a 3K kayak or stand-up paddle along Henderson Creek, followed by a 5K trail run. There’s also a family-friendly 5K fun run and a one-third-mile race that’s free for kids 10 years and younger. All participants receive a T-shirt, post-race refreshments and free admission to Rookery Bay’s Environmental Learning Center after the race.