When people think of Southwest Florida, they often think of the beach and palm trees, but the area is also full of nature parks and preserves. Whether you’re looking for a walk through the swamp or a kayaking adventure, these parks and preserves offer something for everyone. If you’re visiting Cape Coral for the first time or if you’ve been here many times before, here are five of the best parks and preserves to visit during your vacation:
5 Parks & Preserves to Visit During Your Trip to Cape Coral
Corkscrew Swamp SanctuaryCorkscrew Swamp is located north of Naples and was established by the National Audubon Society. The park features a 2.25-mile boardwalk and a one-mile shortcut. The boardwalks wind through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh and into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America.
The forest is also home to hundreds of animals, including alligators, otters, white-tailed deer and red-bellied turtles. There are also a wide variety of wading birds, songbirds and raptors that can be seen throughout the year. Corkscrew Swamp is perfect for the photography lovers out there, as there are photo opportunities available at every turn on the boardwalk.
Ding Darling National Wildlife RefugeThe J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is located on Sanibel, and it is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. The refuge is well known for its migratory bird populations. Ding Darling offers a visitor and education center where you can learn about the wildlife and ecosystem, the work of “Ding” Darling and the National Wildlife Refuge System. The park also offers a wildlife drive that gives you the opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal. For those who are looking for a fun adventure on the water, you can also take kayaking tour through Ding Darling through Tarpon Bay Explorers.
Six Mile Cypress Slough PreserveThe Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is located in Fort Myers, and the slough is over 3,400 acres of a wetland ecosystem. The park features daily guided tours and private group tours. Guests can also roam through the slough’s boardwalk at their own pace. Six Mile Cypress Slough has five observation decks for wildlife viewing, and guests often see alligators, otters, turtles and wading birds.
Mantanzas Pass PreserveMantanzas Pass Preserve is nearly 60 miles of sanctuary located just south of Mantanzas Pass Bridge on Fort Myers Beach. The preserve has 1.25 miles of trails that wind through canopies of mangroves and an oak hammock. The trails also lead to a pavilion that looks over Estero Bay. The preserve was dedicated on January 20, 1979 as a sanctuary for native plants and animals as a learning resource for the Lee County community.
Estero Bay Preserve State ParkEstero Bay Preserve State Park was the first aquatic preserve established in Florida, and it is one of the most productive estuaries in the United States. Estero Bay Preserve State Park offers over 10 miles of trails and the opportunity to get away from the city for a while. The park has trails for hiking and biking but also offers the ability for visitors to canoe or kayak in the bay or on the Estero River. The park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife, including the bald eagle, gopher tortoises and fiddler crabs.
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