This wild island on the Gulf coast is never crowded — it’s too hard to get there. For those who drive to Pineland on Pine Island and then take the hour-long ferry to the state park, the rewards are many: Nine miles of perfect beaches, shaded jungle-like trails and wildlife that includes osprey nests, dolphins, stringrays and all sorts of bird and sea life.
The kayak trail through old Bonita Springs on the Imperial River is worth discovering for its scenery. If you’re lucky, you may see manatees.
Sanibel and Captive are kayak paradise, with waters full of fish, dolphins, manatees, ospreys, pelicans, herons — even otters. Here’s a guide to where and how to explore by kayak.
Florida’s celebrity in the orchid world — the ghost orchid — is blooming at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, attracting orchid fans who want to spot this rare variety. The ghost orchid was made famous by the 2002 film “Adaptation” starring Meryl Streep and the best-selling “Orchid Thief,” by Susan Orlean.
This cypress-lined Alafia river has an unusual feature for Florida: Rocky shoals that create fun rapids to kayak. It’s near hiking trails, springs and a very nice paddling trail at Little Manatee River State Park.
A scenic road through Everglades National Park also brings you past a cute little roadside stop: the smallest post office in the US. In an era where post offices are being closed to save money, this little outpost dating to 1953 is a survivor.
The beach town of Marco Island is all manicured and modern, but here are four adventures into the wild and authentic Florida that are within a quick drive. You can wade across a lagoon to a wild beach or have lunch in a funky fishing town or stroll on a boardwalk into a beautiful old growth cypress swamp.
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, an Audubon Society preserve, takes you on a hike via boardwalk with good wildlife viewing and exquisite scenery.
A fascinating kayak destination: Mound Key Archaeological State Park, an uninhabited island accessible only by boat near Fort Myers Beach. The ceremonial center of the Calusa people, Mound Key is one of a kind and is surrounding by waters full of wildlife.
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.