Enjoy an Eco-Friendly Day at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center

MustDo.com | Conservancy of Southwest Nature Center Naples, Florida is a 21-acre nature preserve that features more than 150 species of local wildlife and a 500-gallon touch tank.

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

The Naples Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center offers a delightful contrast to the quaint shops and sandy beaches that Naples is famous for. Tucked away along Smith Preserve Way, this unspoiled preserve is just south of the popular Naples Zoo and is listed on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

The Nature Center has a good balance of outdoor nature trails, ponds and preserves; buildings and facilities such as the Discovery Center, Theater and Learning Lab, and family-friendly outdoor activities including kayak rentals and eco-friendly electric boat rides.

MustDo.com | Take a guided tour of the Gordon River aboard a Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center electric boat Naples, FL

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center.

The Work of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida was founded back in 1964, when Naples was just a small developing city. Plans were outlined to build a road through Rookery Bay, jeopardizing the land and native wildlife. Concerned residents formed an action group which successfully stopped the road. The Conservancy has since been influential in conserving over 55,000 acres of land to protect the flow of the Western Everglades.

MustDo.com | Baby sea turtle hatchling on Keewaydin Island Naples, Florida

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

To date, the action group has protected more than 225,000 sea turtle hatchlings and treated over 2,400 injured wild animals, returning them to the wild whenever practical. The Conservancy continues to monitor water quality and local environmental issues as well as welcoming visitors to the Nature Center, educating residents through community outreach and promoting public eco-awareness.

Visiting the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center

The flagship of the Conservancy is the 21-acre nature experience which is a popular attraction for families. It is educational for all ages with a host of natural treasures, wildlife exhibits and informative displays.

MustDo.com | Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples, Florida features more than 150 species of local wildlife.

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center.

Start your visit in the theatre where you can watch a video about the work of the Conservancy. It will also help you familiarize yourself with the site. The Dalton Discovery Center is a great place to meet around 100 animals and amphibians that are native to the area, living on the beaches, in the sea or in the Everglades National Park nearby. Dare to dip your hand in the Touch Tank which has horseshoe crabs, sea stars and other living creatures for you to touch and stroke. The star of the Discovery Center is Betsy, the baby loggerhead sea turtle.

MustDo.com | Kids love the touch tank at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples, FL

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center.

Another all-day activity is the Windfeldt Shorebird Rehab Pond where you can see pelicans, cormorants and other shorebirds recuperating around their very own pool after injury, often caused by fishing hooks and lines. If you want to lend a hand, please donate old towels, antibacterial hand soap, paper towels and laundry detergent to keep this busy facility well supplied. You can see more wildlife in rehab at the Hospital and Junior Vet Lab.

MustDo.com | Windfeldt Shorebird Pool where you can see pelicans and other shorebirds recuperating after injury. Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center Naples, FL

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

After that you’ll probably want to enjoy some fresh air and exercise along the Lagoon Trail boardwalk which is lined with 15 wildlife gardens. The Hammock Trail offers the chance to explorer mangroves, a hardwood hammock and pine flatwoods with exhibits ranging from wild coffee bushes to strangler figs. The Smith Preserve is a scrub habitat with 70 gopher tortoises and hundreds of other animals and plants to identify.

MustDo.com | Gordon River Greenway at Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples, FL

Photo courtesy Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center.

As well as taking the message of environmental conservancy out into the community, the Conservancy puts on special evening events with a series of lectures and presentations. Finally, Cinema Sunday at 1:30 p.m. is not to be missed. Follow a walk around the Nature Center with a nature movie and free popcorn for a fun day out.

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Written by:

Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

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