The Best Of: Best locations for watching wildlife

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

375 Sanctuary Road West, Naples, FL

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

300 Tower Road, Naples, FL

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park

Janes Scenic Drive, Copeland, FL

One of the benefits of living and visiting Southwest Florida is that there are entirely too many opportunities to get outside and do something in the fresh air.

Aside from the boating and golfing and biking and canoeing, there’s hiking and swimming and birdwatching and all kinds of other outdoor activities you can create to amuse yourself.

So this week, we’re providing places in Collier County for you to find watchable wildlife. Unfortunately, we residents don’t often take advantage of the chances to see what there is to see around here, but you, visitors, are likely to have the time and inclination we lack.

Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve

Located north of Everglades City on the western edge of the Big Cypress National Preserve, the strand’s 74,000 acres comprise the main drainage slough of the Big Cypress Swamp. Visitors can walk the 2,000 foot boardwalk through old cypress swampland to see native royal palms, rare bromeliads and orchids and endangered species like the Florida panther and wood stork.

Briggs Nature Center

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, just north of Marco Island, is home to a nature center that offers access to several birding habitats with its half-mile boardwalk. Visitors can see red-bellied woodpeckers, rare eastern towhees that are specially adapted to the Florida peninsula and two populations of Florida scrub jays.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

If you’re willing to take a bit of a drive toward Immokalee, you’d be rewarded with a visit to this gem of Southwest Florida. A two-mile boardwalk takes visitors through a swamp and cypress forest that contain many, many rare and endangered species, such as the ghost orchid, bats, and several types of birds and reptiles.

Other places worth visiting are: the ever-popular Everglades National Park, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and Collier-Seminole State Park, all of which are easily accessible from Marco Island.

For other parks, preserves and reserves in Collier County, visit’s Environmental Services department.

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