Skip to Content

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

NAPLES —  One of the most magnificent 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 nested here and because it is the largest piece of ancient bald cypress forest preserved in the world.

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.

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)
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)

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 has been raised to $17 per adult. Admissions fees help support boardwalk maintenance, restore the landscape, and support Sanctuary operations.

audubon corkscrew swamp sanctuary corkscrew swamp sanctuary heron 2012 1 Corkscrew Swamp in Naples: Explore exquisite cypress forest via state's best boardwalk
A great egret posed near the boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, captivating photographers. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

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)

The Corkscrew Swamp 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 Sanctuary 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. Frequently, well-informed “Boardwalk Naturalists” in khaki uniforms are out on the boardwalk to answer questions and point things out to visitors. 

Every season brings special charms. In winter, birders travel from all over the world. I met a woman from Great Britain who came for the painted buntings. In August, the very rare ghost orchid (famous from the Meryl Streep movie, Adaptation) blooms and can often be spotted. (Here’s a Florida Rambler story on Corkscrew’s ghost orchid.)

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.

This beautiful red lichen on the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk railing is called Christmas wreath lichen. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
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 Tripadvisor.com, you’ll find the visitors who didn’t love the place are ones with high, unmet expectations for wildlife sightings. No, you’re probably not going to see a panther.

My advice? Go for the trees and plants, and consider any wildlife a bonus.

Map of boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Map of boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Blair Audubon Center
375 Sanctuary Road West
Naples, FL 34120
239-348-9151

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary directions

The Corkscrew Preserve’s website

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.

Hours: Timed entry daily 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. The boardwalk closes at 3 p.m.

Corkscrew Swamp requires advance ticketing and reservations. See details here.

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.

Can I bring my dog? Pets are not allowed.

What birds or wildlife might I see? Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary updates a list of recent sightings here.

Things to do in Naples near Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

A note from the editor:

The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning your trip.

This page may include affiliate links from which we may earn a modest commission if a purchase is made. More often, we include free courtesy links to small businesses, such as kayak outfitters, from whom we receive no compensation.

This article is the property of FloridaRambler.com and is protected by U.S. Copyright Law. Re-publication without written permission is against the law.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.