Florida Nature Suggestions

Old Feb 27th, 2014, 02:00 PM
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Florida Nature Suggestions

We are planning to spend a week in Florida (few days in Ft. Lauderdale area and a few in Naples area) and enjoy nature. We enjoy birding and wildlife in general…..and hiking on short walks. We are also open to boat tours (including kayaking if it's not too strenuous). If anyone has suggestions for great bird walks, nature tour companies or any "inside scoop" we'd greatly appreciate it. I'd like to stay away from overly touristy type tour companies and trips. Thanks in advance for your help!
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 02:17 PM
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> We enjoy birding and wildlife in general

A simple drive into Everglades NP will give you more birds and wildlife than you are likely to find almost anywhere else in the US. There's also no "inside scoop" -- just drive into the park, pull over when you see birds or alligators, hike the Ahinga Trail, take a ride (bike or tram) at Shark Valley. Can't guarantee you'll see as much wildlife as I did
but I'm sure you'll see a lot with not much effort.
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 05:18 PM
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In Naples check out The Conservancy. Not a tourist attraction, but a great organization dedicated to nature. Everything including kayaking

And be sure to do Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary north of them with a wonderful boardwalk -- run by the Audubon Society.
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 06:56 PM
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check out http://www.floridastateparks.org/
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Old Feb 28th, 2014, 05:49 AM
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Old Mar 1st, 2014, 12:43 PM
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This is a great preserve in Palm Beach County:


This one, too:


Both are free.
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Old Mar 3rd, 2014, 04:00 PM
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We occasionally make a loop down the east side of the state, across 41, and back up the west side or vice versa during the winter (Nov.-Mar.). For wildlife we head straight to a Homestead or Florida City motel for a couple of days. From there it's a reasonable drive down US 1 to Key Largo and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for a day trip - especially good if you snorkel since there's a lot of good stuff to be seen from shore as well as group snorkel trips out to the reef by boat. There's also Crocodile Lake NWR that we've never been to but is on our list for the next trip.

Your best birding (and alligatoring) is probably on that side of Everglades NP just past the Coe VC at Royal Palm. We always see tons of wading birds and anhingas, cormorants, the occasional hawk or kite on Anhinga Trail. That is also an almost fail-safe place to see purple gallinules, particularly late in the afternoon. The trail (boardwalk) is better when the water is low since the birds are closer to the trail and not hidden in the grass so much. There are numerous short trails and overlooks between there and Flamingo, although we seldom see as much wildlife after we leave Royal Palm. Often we don't bother to go much past Royal Palm. If starting from Miami or Homestead you could run down to Key Largo for a few hours and get back to Royal Palm/Anhinga Trail mid-afternoon, but it would be a bit of a slog from Ft. Lauderdale to do both in a day.

Bike or take the tram from the Shark Valley entrance on the 7 mile paved trail (or you could walk it if not too hot) for alligators galore and plenty of wading birds. Usually more storks there than other places in the park. We usually leave Homestead in the morning and go to Shark Valley, then drive some of the roads in Big Cypress Nat'l Preserve on the way to Naples. If you don't have time to drive in the preserve there are several roadside pull-offs with birds and gators. There are a number of hiking trails in the area of the Oasis VC. We've seen deer when driving 839/837/841 in the preserve.

I have found Everglades City and the Gulf Coast VC to be a bit disappointing compared to Royal Palm and Shark Valley. We did take a boat trip (small boat, maybe a dozen people) once but didn't see much wildlife and nothing we hadn't seen a lot more of on our own. I can't tell you anything about other possible boat trips in Ten Thousand Islands or kayaking. I assume you know not take an airboat if you want to see wildlife (or much of anything else).

I second Corkscrew (have seen deer there) and suggest Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Ft. Myers. I would especially recommend a trip over the bridge to "Ding" Darling NWR on Sanibel (not open on Fri.) for a drive-though or a tram trip. It's not very "green" of me to say so, but we like driving Wildlife Drive ourselves so we can stop, get out of the car to watch flocks of roseate spoonbills or cavorting reddish egrets and take some of the short paths to overlooks; I have heard the guides on tram trips telling people "that's a juvenile black-crowned night heron" when it was actually a yellow-crowned, etc. There's also the Bailey Tract you can walk that's part of the NWR.

The best birding will generally be Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm, Shark Valley, and "Ding" Darling.

If you are driving down I-95 from north Florida, there are two good stops for birding/alligators en route. First is Merritt Island NWR at Titusville (adjacent to Cape Canaveral), maybe 7-10 miles from the interstate; Blackpoint Wildlife Drive is the prime birding road here but there are plenty of other trails (driving and walking) and viewing areas. Often can see dolphin in the Indian River; there is a manatee viewing area on the river and they are sometimes in the boat basin, along with a dolphin or two, depending on the time of year. Half an hour or so south and about 2 miles west of I-95 is Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, exit 191. You will likely see as many birds, sometimes more, at these two places as you will in the Everglades, though fewer and mostly somewhat smaller alligators. We have actually seen more birds, more variety and closer, at Viera than anywhere else in FL. The Viera wetlands is free and you could drive to/through it in an hour if pressed for time, though best to spend longer.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 04:58 AM
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"I second Corkscrew (have seen deer there)"
I've seen bobcats there. It's a wonderful place.
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Old Mar 4th, 2014, 05:00 AM
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Sanibel and the Ding Darling Preserve
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