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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 18 boardwalks are all located in southern half of the Florida peninsula. (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)
Best boardwalks in Florida: 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

Best boardwalks in Florida:  Roseate Spoonbill at Peaceful Waters Sanctuary in Wellington.
Best boardwalks in Florida:: 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, the birding can be exceptional 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

The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk has been rebuilt, and it’s a good place to see wildlife like this egret or interesting foliage, like this blooming bromeliad. (Photos: David Blasco)
The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk has been rebuilt, and it’s a good place to see wildlife like this egret or interesting foliage, like this blooming bromeliad. (Photos: David Blasco)

Everglades City: Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand

If you’ve visited this area before, you might recall the old boardwalk, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ian in 2022. It led you through a lush cypress swamp teeming with wildlife and it was one of my favorites.

Its replacement (for now) goes through a sunny prairie that is not quite as special. The upside: A spectacular open air pavilion over the prairie with a breeze and rocking chairs. Also: This boardwalk features restrooms.

A boardwalk into the cypress swamp, like the old one, is being rebuilt, but won’t open until 2025 earliest.

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. NOTE: The Gordon River Greenway has reopened after Hurricane Ian swept through.

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

best boardwalks in florida everglades NP gator too clo Best boardwalks in Florida provide easy access for all
Best boardwalks in Florida: 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)
Best boardwalks in Florida: Hollywood Broadwalk offers 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.

Orlando: Orlando Wetlands Park

A half hour from downtown Orlando, this free 1650-acre manmade wetland offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Central Florida. Nature photographers love it. The city recently opened the 2,200 foot long Cypress Boardwalk. The site provides advanced treatment of reclaimed water. There are also free tram tours here September through May on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Hikers can take a 3.9 mile loop trail or the 2.5 mile “birding loop.” Come prepared with hats and sunscreen; this is full sun. The park has restrooms. Here’s more information and here’s a PDF of a map and guide. It’s free.

Orlando Wetlands Park, 25155 Wheeler Road,
Christmas, FL 32709

best boardwalks in florida visitor on Oakland Preserve boardwalk Best boardwalks in Florida provide easy access for all
The boardwalk at Oakland Nature Presever is framed by cypress trees draped in Spanish moss where the boardwalk meets Lake Apopka. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Orlando area: Oakland Nature Preserve

Five minutes off the Turnpike, you’ll find this lovely free preserve and a .7 mile boardwalk to Lake Apopka. We ate our sandwiches here on a break from a long drive and during 20 minutes sitting in the shady shelter overlooking the lake we saw both an alligator cruise by and an American bald eagle fly overhead.

The preserve has a cracker-style building as its nature center and preserves one of the last original fish-camp cabins from the shores of Lake Apopka. Lake Apopka was a famous fishing destination with more than 16 fish camps until we polluted the lake and killed the fish. Happily, fish are again thriving in the lake and wildlife has returned.

Oakland Nature Preserve, 747 Machete Trail,
Oakland, FL 34760, (407) 905-0054

New Smyrna Beach: 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, Here’s the official website and here are some photos of the boardwalk. Parking is $10.

Smyrna Dunes Park, 2995 N. Peninsula Ave.,
New Smyrna Beach

Tampa: Lettuce Lake Conservation Park

This boardwalk on the north end of Tampa extends a mile into a lush wetland along the Hillsborough River. It’s a great place to see wildife including alligators, turtles and birds; many visitors mention hearing owls hooting. The tree-lined pathway leads to a lookout tower with a scenic view of the beautiful Hillsborough River. The park is full of recreational opportunities, too: A playground, picnic tables, kayak rentals. Admission is just $2 per vehicle. The park opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 7 p.m. in spring and summer and 6 p.m. in fall and winter.

Lettuce Lake Conservation Park, 6920 East Fletcher Ave.,
Tampa, FL 33637, (813) 987-6204

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Charles Byron

Thursday 19th of August 2021

Will have to go see Wakodahatchee on Delray. Thanks

Barbara Wright

Saturday 3rd of September 2022

Baby alligators visible there yesterday

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