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Best boardwalks in Florida provide easy access for all

Boardwalks open parks to disabled, families and others

The best boardwalks in Florida allow everyone to explore Florida’s natural beauty, including people in wheelchairs and families with strollers.

Three decades ago, an important civil right law was signed – the Americans with Disability Act. Thanks to the ADA, streets, sidewalks, public transportation and buildings are all more accessible to people with mobility disabilities.

Partly thanks to the ADA, Florida’s magical natural beauty is also easier to experience as many parks have built wheelchair-accessible boardwalks.

Of course, boardwalks aren’t just for the disabled. Families with strollers love them too, as well as those who want flat, easy surfaces for steadier walking.

Boardwalks are a perfect way to introduce people to nature who are not ready or able to plunge into thick woods or a muddy trail.

These 16 boardwalks are all south of Orlando. (We’d love to assemble a similar list for northern Florida. Please add your suggestions in the comments field at the end of the article.)

Best boardwalks in Florida

Corkscrew Sanctuary Naples Christmas Wreath Lichen. Corkscrew is one of Florida's best boardwalks
This red lichen at Corkscrew Swamp in Naples is called Christmas wreath lichen. Corkscrew makes the list of best boardwalks in Florida because it so long and the scenery is so unspoiled. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Naples: Corkscrew Swamp Santuary

The scenery here – an unspoiled cypress swamp – is spectacular, and so is the birding. But what really makes Corkscrew special is the length of this boardwalk. At 2.25 miles, you really have a chance to be immersed in this green and serene world. More about Corkscrew Swamp.

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

Wood storks nesting in Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach
Wood storks nesting in Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach are easy to see. The visibility of the wildlife is the main reason this is one of the best boardwalks in Florida. (Bonnie Gross)

Delray Beach: Wakodahatchee Preserve

This free boardwalk passes through a man-made wetland and in winter it is full of wildlife. Walking along the three-quarter-mile-long boardwalk recently, we saw all sort of bird plus an alligator and marsh rabbits. The birds that are so used to people you often can get extraordinarily close. Every season offers a different variety of birds and bird life, from feeding to nesting to fledging. This is a particularly good place from from February to April, when dozens of wood storks and other birds nest here close to the boardwalk. More about  Wakodahatchee

Wakodahatchee Preserve
13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach

Green Cay Wetlands and Nature Center
12800 Hagen Ranch Road, Boynton Beach

A raccoon meets our eyes along the boardwalk at Fern Forest Preserve in Broward County. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
A raccoon meets our eyes along the boardwalk at Fern Forest Preserve in Broward County. (Photo: David Blasco)

Coconut Creek: Fern Forest Nature Preserve

This is the prettiest short nature hike and best boardwalk near me. First thing to like: It’s free. The half-mile trail winds through a tropical hardwood hammock and a very pretty cypress-maple swamp, providing a taste of what South Florida looked like before we paved it over. While it’s short, this ranks as one of the best boardwalks in Florida because it is located in one of the most overbuilt, nature-starved parts of the state.

Fern Forest Nature Preserve
201 Lyons Rd. South, Coconut Creek

Grassy Waters Preserve Boardwalk in West Palm Beach. One reason this made our list of best boardwalks in Florida is that its low rails don't block the view from a wheelchair.
Grassy Waters Preserve Boardwalk in West Palm Beach. One reason this made our list of best boardwalks in Florida is that its low rails don’t block the view from a wheelchair. (Photo: David Blasco)

West Palm Beach: Grassy Waters Preserve

This free boardwalk trail is just under a mile long and takes you past a staffed nature center. What I love about the boardwalk is that it has very low rails, so that if you’re pushing a wheelchair or stroller, the rider has excellent visibility. This is a great trail for families, as there are inviting rocking chairs situated under chickee huts along the way — magnets for kids.

Grassy Waters Preserve
8264 Northlake Blvd.
West Palm Beach

Boynton Beach: Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Behind the Visitors Center is the Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, there’s a 1-mile trail through a beautiful forest  of natural cypress. It’s  shaded, cool and picturesque. Hikers can find more trails in the preserve, which is excellent for birding in the winter. More on Loxahatchee Refuge.

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Boynton Beach.,
10216 Lee Road
 Boynton Beach

Roseate Spoonbill at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.
Roseate Spoonbill at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.

Wellington: Peaceful Waters Sanctuary

Located a half hour west of Lake Worth just down the road from Royal Palm Polo in Wellington, this is a 30-acre manmade wetland with a 1,500- foot boardwalk and a one mile trail. While this is a very short boardwalk, it’s good for birders in the winter.

Peaceful Waters Preserve
11676 Pierson Road
Wellington, FL

A family at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers.
A family at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Fort Myers, one of the best boardwalks in Florida on the Gulf Coast. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Fort Myers: Six Miles Slough

This free preserve is just five minutes off I-75 and this makes a great stop on a road trip. The 1.2 mile boardwalk goes through an unspoiled cypress swamp, a hidden treasure similar to Corkscrew Swamp. There is excellent signage and many volunteers to enhance a visitor’s appreciation of nature.

Six Miles Slough 
7751 Penzance Blvd.,
Fort Myers

Strangler fig along Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk along the Tamiami Trail, just beyond Big Cypress Preserve. (Photo: David Blasco)
Strangler fig along Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk along the Tamiami Trail, just beyond Big Cypress Preserve. This is the best boardwalk in Florida for an Everglades experience.. (Photo: David Blasco)

Everglades City: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

This is just short of a half-mile long, but it’s well worth a stop if you’re traveling across Florida on the Tamiami Trail. It’s part of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and it takes you through old growth cypress swampland. It’s a truly stunning place. And free.

Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk 
27020 Tamiami Trail East, Naples

Naples: Gordon River Greenway

Gordon River Greenway, Naples: This free 2-mile-long parkway near the Naples airport has a 12-foot-wide boardwalk with several entrances, covered benches and a bridge spanning the Gordon River. Entrances at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road and 1596 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples.

Entrances at 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road and 1596 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples.

On the Anhinga Trail, only a guard rail separates visitors from alligators. They appear oblivious, but it is still wise to give them space. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Homestead: Everglades National Park

Boardwalks within Everglades National Park.  At the Homestead entrance, one of the very best ways to experience the Everglades is the Anhinga Trail, an accessible .8 mile paved and boardwalk trail — one of the best boardwalks in Florida for seeing Everglades flora and fauna. I have visited here at dozens of times and have never failed to see alligators clearly and close. A range of Everglades birds — great blue herons, great white egret, cormorants, anhingas, moorhen, coot, wood storks — are almost always visible. Then, as you travel through the park, there are several other short boardwalks at stops along the way. The Pinelands Trail is another half-mile walk, this time through another environment, a typical Florida pine forest. The Mahogony Hammock Trail is a half-mile boardwalk that takes you through the sort of jungly Tarzan-movie setting that many people come expecting at the Everglades.

Everglades National Park Visitor Center
40001 State Hwy 9336, Homestead

Miami: Everglades National Park, Shark Valley

Shark Valley has basically one trail – a smoothly paved 15-mile loop that is perfect for wheelchairs and strollers. This trail is also used by bicyclists and a tram, but once you get more than a few steps from the parking lot, it is not crowded or hard to navigate. At this trail, the alligators and birds line the trail in winter, seeming to be oblivious to the humans steps away. Here, you may have to walk around the alligators, who sometimes sun themselves with body parts extending onto the trail. In the first mile of the trail on a sunny winter day, you’re likely to count dozens of alligators, plus myriad birds, often right next to the gators. More on Shark Valley.

Everglades National Park, Shark Valley entrance
36000 SW 8th St, Miami

Miami Beach: Miami Beach Boardwalk

The Miami Beach Boardwalk, Maim Beach. This is a very long and scenic pathway, stretching from the South Beach north for about 40 blocks. It has views of the Atlantic ocean, the lavish hotels and is a superb spot for people watching.

Location: The boardwalk runs along the ocean from 5th Street to 46th Street. There is metered parking between 5th and 14th street on Ocean Drive plus a half dozen public garages within a block or two of the boardwalk. See details in the link.

Hollywood Broadwalk: A scenic walk along the ocean. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Hollywood Broadwalk: A scenic walk along the ocean. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Hollywood Broadwalk. This old-fashioned beach-side promenade is 2.5 miles long. It’s popular with walkers, strollers and cyclists. There is a fabulous view of the ocean and beach the whole way and lots of mom-and-pop shops and motels. More on the Hollywood Broadwalk.

Location: A paved trail that includes what is considered the Hollywood Broadwalk runs along the beach from Franklin Street at the north end to Jefferson Street. There is parking at lots and garages along the way. We like to use the metered parking at the north end along streets that dead-end into the pathway if we can find a space there.

Smyrna Dunes Park

New Smyrna Beach: You’ll find a 2-mile long boardwalk surrounded by water on three sides plus pass through an active gopher tortoise community at Smyrna Dunes Park. Here’s the official website and here are some photos of the boardwalk. Parking is $10. 2995 N. Peninsula Ave., New Smyrna Beach

Boardwalk at Mosaic Peace River Park
Boardwalk at Mosaic Peace River Park (Photo courtesy visitcentralflorida.org.)

Bartow

Bartow: A half-mile-long boardwalk at Mosaic Peace River Park winds through a beautiful cypress floodplain forest extending to the Peace River. (Bartow is near Lakeland, 40 miles east of Tampa.) The floodplain did its job during Hurricane Irma and the flooding took out the boardwalk, which reopened at the end of 2019. The 460-acre county park is reclaimed from an open-pit phosphate mine that was one of many in the area that resulted in the demise of a major area spring (Kissingen Spring; there’s a marker for it.) The boardwalk is good for birding. Mosaic Peace River Park, 2200 Co Rd 640, Bartow, FL 33830 (863) 534-6000. 

From the Editor:

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