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Corkscrew Swamp in Naples: Explore via beautiful boardwalk

Last updated on July 24th, 2021 at 02:08 pm

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Naples hawk

This red shouldered hawk was next to the boardwalk at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. It was clearly visible up close and stayed calm and still while many visitors passed by and clicked cameras. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: Hike exquisite cypress forest in Naples

NAPLES —  One of the most exquisite parcels of land that has been preserved for us in Florida is found about 15 miles east of Naples — the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

The facility’s signage says its special because the endangered wood stork nests here and because it is the largest piece of ancient bald cypress forest preserved in the world.

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Naples Great Egret

Great egret at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

But I think it’s special because walking its 2.25 mile boardwalk takes you into a green and liquid world where at every turn you see scenes so beautiful they could have been arranged by the world’s best floral designer. And, of course, they were.

Many consider Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to be Florida’s best boardwalk.

Due to the pandemic, at this point Corkscrew Swamp requires advance ticketing and reservations and is open more limited hours. See details here. To help the Sanctuary recover from budget shortfalls due to the pandemic, admission is being raised to $17 per adult on Jan. 19. Admissions fees help support boardwalk maintenance, restore the landscape, and support Sanctuary operations.

I’ve visited Corkscrew Swamp both in winter and summer, and have found it to be a quiet place, where you can hear a rustle in the brush that signals a snake’s movement. On a recent visit, the air was filled with bird calls and butterflies.

My companion was an orchid lover who got goosebumps when he spotted the trees lush with airplants, resurrection ferns and birds nest ferns.

Wildflowers along boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Florida

Wildflowers along boardwalk at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Audubon kscrew Swamp Sanctuary’s boardwalk travels through a pine upland, a wet prairie, a cypress forest, and a marsh, and excellent interpretive signs help identify plants and ecosystems. For example, we were stunned by the profusion of maple trees with bright red leaves in the prairie. We learned their leaves are red when they first emerge in a sunny locale and turn green in the shade.

The National Audubon Society began its effort to save Corkscrew Swamp in 1912, when it hired wardens to protect egrets and other birds from plume hunters. (A shelter on the trail marks the spot where a plume hunter’s camp had been.)

Sixty years ago, this parcel, the last three miles of a bald cypress forest that once stretched 20 miles, was owned by a lumber company and scheduled for logging. Local folks who loved this swamp — birders, photographers, garden clubs — raised $200,000 and the Audubon Society purchased it.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Naples star orchid

A Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary volunteer stood on the boardwalk to point out this star orchid in a tree. We would have never spotted it without help! (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuar trail, largely shady, features benches and rain shelters along the way. The Audubon Society offers many aids to enhance visits — a field guide,  a children’s activity book, free wheelchairs and strollers.

Every season brings special charms. In winter, birder travel from all over the world (I met a woman from Great Britain while there) to spot painted buntings and other species. In August, the very rare ghost orchid (famous from the Meryl Streep movie, Adaptation) blooms and can often be spotted.

Don’t be afraid of a summer visit. The boardwalk is largely shaded and the gambusia fish eat mosquito larva, so the bugs aren’t bad.

For those who do not wish to walk the full 2.25 miles, an optional trail shortens the walk to one mile.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Naples Christmas Wreath Lichen

This beautiful red lichen on the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk railing is called Christmas wreath lichen. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

If you read the many reviews on, you’ll find the visitors who didn’t love the place are ones with high, unmet expectations for wildlife sightings. No, you’re not going to see a panther. My advice? Go for the trees and plants, and consider any wildlife a bonus.

Packing a picnic? There are tables under trees around the parking area and seating on the patio porch or inside next to a snack bar.

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples, FL 34120

Admission: $17 for adults, $6 for full-time college student with photo ID, $4 for students 6 to 18 and free for kids under 6.


Corkscrew Swamp now requires advance ticketing and reservations and is open more limited hours. See details here.

Related information:  The preserve’s website.

Things to do in Naples near Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

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