When one thinks about vacation in Naples, Florida, all the usual suspects come up – the beach, the gulf, water sports, boat drinks, the list goes on. But one thing that sometimes gets overlooked is the Everglades, the region of tropical wetlands unique to Florida. The Everglades are just as much a beautiful part of southern Florida as is the beach. And within them lies a little gem – Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Do your kids like animals? Of course they do. But how often do they get to see them in their natural habitat and in the wild? Not often. Enter Corkscrew Swamp. A sanctuary about 30 minutes east of Naples in what is known as the “Corkscrew Watershed”, this 13,000-acre Audubon is home to alligators, snakes, otters, deer, panthers, raccoons and birds. Lots and lots of birds!
My girls love going to the zoo, but walking through Corkscrew Swamp had them on their toes. We saw 7 alligators, a snake, a hawk, lizards, limpkins, blue herons, an owl, butterflies, and more. It may have not been lions and tigers, but seeing the animals – particularly the gators – in their natural surroundings had them totally enthralled. When my older daughter thought she spotted a panther she yelled out PANTHER! Everyone turned and we soon discovered it was a raccoon. Safe to say we got a few laughs.
So how does one walk through this ecosystem of wetlands and wildlife? Corkscrew has its “boardwalk”, a 2.25 mile-long boardwalk trail that takes you through the wilderness, including trees, wet prairie, a marsh and the Bald Cypress Forest. Note: if you don’t want to walk the entire 2.25 miles there is a short cut, where you can take a different boardwalk trail, winding up at the same spot.
The thing that made it especially fun for my girls was the Kids Scavenger Hunt check-list, where they had to check off every animal on the list they came across. It was a game for them, which got them through some of the non-animal viewing lolls, particularly at the very beginning, before we made it into the heart of the sanctuary. They also loved the baby alligators in the Visitor’s Center. That got them super excited to head out in to the wild.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is one of the more unique things to do in Naples, and one I highly recommend. Best to go first thing in the morning to get as many animal viewings as possible!
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 375 Sanctuary Road, Naples, Florida 34120, tel: (239) 348-9151
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