Historic Naples Zoo is a Top Attraction in Southwest Florida

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens in Naples, Florida is one of the top attractions in Southwest Florida, particularly for families. Located in established tropical gardens with shady mature trees, exotic landscaping and lakes, the zoo was founded by Dr. Henry Nehrling in 1919 as a tropical garden.

Families love the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Garden, Naples, Florida, USA. Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

History of Naples Zoo

Dr. Nehrling saw that land in Southwest Florida was being snapped up for development and agriculture and he decided to pioneer a garden to protect native species and tropical plants. He created an outstanding botanical collection of 3,300 plants species. Botanists and scientists used his collection for research and the estate was even visited by President Theodore Roosevelt, inventor Thomas Edison, and botanist David Fairchild.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens in Naples, Florida is one of the top attractions in Southwest Florida, particularly for families. Located in established tropical gardens with shady mature trees, exotic landscaping and lakes, the zoo was founded by Dr. Henry Nehrling in 1919 as a tropical garden. Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo credit Mary Carol Fitzgerald

In 1952, Julius Fleishmann introduced tropical birds and in 1969 the Tetzlaff family added animal exhibits. The 52-acre zoo is now successfully run as a non-profit attraction and nationally accredited zoo.

Located on Goodlette Road North, Naples Zoo is open 7 days and week and offers some unique features. Shady paths wind between the enclosures, giving visitors a wonderful view of the animals. The zoo emphasizes its work in animal conservation and education and its work extends worldwide to preserve endangered and threatened species such as giant anteaters and Florida panthers.

Activities at Naples Zoo

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is compact and easy to walk around and see all the animal exhibits. There are many recognizable animals such as giraffes, zebras, monkeys, lions, and wallabies along with Florida wildlife including alligators and Florida black bears. There are also less well-known species such as honey badgers, beautiful red and green macaws, and spiky porcupines.

Some of the enclosures at the Naples Zoo have floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the fences so even tiny tots get a good clear view of the animals. Naples, Florida. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo courtesy Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Some of the enclosures have floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the fences so even tiny tots get a good clear view of the animals. In hot weather you can see bears scratching and playing with giant ice cubes to cool off.

A 20-minute boat trip is included in your ticket and carries visitors along waterways to see primates, ring-tailed lemurs and cheeky monkeys on their own private islands. They have plenty of trees to climb and love showing off by swinging from ropes or chasing each other.

Naples Zoo, see primates, ring-tailed lemurs and cheeky monkeys on their own private islands. They have plenty of trees to climb and love showing off by swinging from ropes or chasing each other. Photo by Lauren Ettinger. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo credit Lauren Ettinger

A range of Feeding Times and Meet the Keeper activities at set times allows you to get up-close to pythons, reptiles, giraffes, and leopards and learn about these creatures. The Safari Canyon Theater provides educational animal shows twice daily. Visitors can sit on tiered seats and learn more amazing facts as certain animals are showcased on stage. Special activities that require an additional fee include hand-feeding giraffes.

Family fun feeding giraffes at Naples Zoo, Naples, Florida, USA. Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. Must Do Visitor Guides, MustDo.com

Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

Food, Drinks and Gifts at Naples Zoo

There are plenty of zoo staff on hand to answer questions and give directions. Stands sell drinks and snacks and there are plenty of picnic tables if you don’t want to visit Wynn’s Café with its range of signature sandwiches, hot dogs, drinks, and snacks. You can also buy snacks at the Jungle Café overlooking the lake or at Canyon Snacks, which serves pretzels, popcorn and ice cream before each animal show.

Before you leave, you will want to browse the animal themed gifts and other exhibits in the huge Gift Shop. It has plenty of books, toys, and gifts and profits all go to supporting the work of the Naples Zoo. Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens offers a fun and educational visit for all ages.

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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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