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Off-the-beaten path in Marco Island: Go beyond your hotel pool

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.

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Lovers Key State Park: Great beach plus kayaking, manatees & birds

It’s not the best known destination in southwest Florida, but there are a lot reasons that make Lovers Key State Park so lovable: A 2.5 mile beach lined with natural vegetation that is perfect for beachcombing and bird watching, and mangrove-lined waterways that are draws for both manatees and kayakers.

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Fakahatchee Strand: Big, wild and great for Everglades hiking and kayaking

Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park — the biggest state park in Florida — is a vast, wild place near Everglades City. Year after year, we drove right past, but there are three great reasons to spend time here. We’re glad we did.

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Naples: Rare ghost orchid blooms at Corkscrew every summer

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.

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