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Southwest Florida is known for some of the best beaches in Florida, wildlife and birds, gateway to the Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands and other outdoor getaways.

Here are some of our favorite places to begin your exploration of the area. Each of these stories contains links to places to kayak, hike, bicycle and fascinating historic sites.

  • Everglades City, a historic fishing village known for its stone crabs
  • Marco Island, a beach resort close to the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands
  • Naples, a good basecamp for exploration of nature-rich region
  • Fort Myers Beach, an Old Florida beach town
  • Sanibel, an unspoiled island where seashells litter the beach.
  • Punta Gorda, natural beauty and historic charm
  • Venice, Mediterranean-influenced city with old world charm

We recommend:

Hiking: Myakka River State Park near Sarasota and Bird Rookery Swamp near Naples.

Biking: The Legacy Trail in Venice and the many bikes trails on Sanibel Island.

Kayaking: The little known Shell Creek near Punta Gorda and the joys of paddling with manatees in winter on the Orange River in Fort Myers.

Camping: There’s tent camping on the beautiful wild island of Cayo Costa State Park.  One of our favorite campgrounds for both tents and RVs is Camp Venice on the Myakka River.

Interesting Old Florida spots: Historic Smallwood Store near Everglades City and Koreshan Historic State Park near Naples.

The following are recent stories about Southwest Florida.

 

There’s a good reason Boca Grande is a favorite among the rich and famous: It’s beautiful, unspoiled and preserves the charm of Old Florida. It makes a satisfying daytrip, especially on a bike. Another plus: The historic lighthouse at the southern tip just reopened 16 months after being slammed by Hurricane Ian.

Read More about Boca Grande: Old Florida island on the Gulf is worth the trip & toll

Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs has survived since 1936. Now it’s a small but serene spot to enjoy glorious flora, colorful birds, gators and more. It’s located on Old 41 Road, a pocket of Old Florida that is having a renaissance.

Read More about Everglades Wonder Gardens: Old-time roadside attraction reborn in Bonita Springs

Shangri-la Springs is a historic hotel surrounded by eight acres of gardens with fountains, ponds, towering trees and the original spring the town is named for. You are welcome to visit the grounds or have breakfast or lunch at its restaurant, which serves produce from its organic garden. It’s an Old Florida hidden gem!

Read More about Shangri-la Springs: A 1921 hotel in 8 acres of idyllic gardens in old Bonita Springs

This beach occupies one of the last undeveloped barrier islands on Florida’s southwest coast, and its a place for finding shells, sand dollars, gopher tortoises and, best of all, unadorned natural beauty. It reopened 14 months after severe damage from Hurricane Ian in 2022. Presently, it operates with limited facilities including portable restrooms.

Read More about Open again: Barefoot Beach, ‘second best beach in America,’ is wild and wonderful

Fort Myers Beach was a charming Old Florida town, but Hurricane Ian blasted it. More than a year later, much damage remains and you see it everywhere. But a big Margaritaville resort is opening in December, which can help turn things around.

Read More about Fort Myers Beach in winter 2023-24: Work needed after Ian, but Margaritaville Resort opens

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, an Audubon Society preserve, takes you on a hike via boardwalk with good wildlife viewing and exquisite scenery. In summer, you might get a peak at the rare ghost orchid blooming.

Read More about Corkscrew Swamp in Naples: Explore exquisite cypress forest via state’s best boardwalk

Myakka is one of the oldest and biggest state parks, a great place for seeing wildlife, from huge gators to flocks of birds in winter. Go here for its log cabins, appealing camp sites, excellent kayaking, extensive hiking and good bike trails. It’s also a good spot for nature neophytes, who enjoy the airboat ride and canopy walk.

Read More about Myakka River State Park: 10 reasons to visit this big, wild Sarasota preserve

Miss the change of seasons? Here’s fall in South Florida: Fields of wild sunflowers bloom in Florida every autumn, and a preserve near Immokalee is the best place to view them. The preserve opens for this occasion on Oct. 11, 13, 14, 15, 2023. You must reserve ahead.

Read More about Sunflowers in Florida: ‘Stunning’ fall scene in Immokalee preserve Oct. 11, 13, 14, 15