1 Wildlife Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957, USA
Florida’s nature is alive and well at this wildlife refuge, located on the north side of Sanibel Island. Rich with mangroves and seagrass, the protected, subtropical habitat is home to more than 230 species of birds as well as alligators, manatees, and many land mammals. Head here from October through April to see most of the shorebirds, or during the summer months if you’re looking for manatees in and around Tarpon Bay. All year long, you can also spot alligators during four-mile wildlife drives. Back at the information center, be sure to check out the great displays, which are free to all visitors.
2000 Cranford Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33916, USA
There’s plenty of rainy-day fun to be had at this Fort Myers science center, where kids can enjoy 3D movies, pet stingrays and horseshoe crabs in a touch tank, and get up close to ball pythons, bearded dragons, prairie dogs, and more. In all, there are more than 60 exhibits—most of them interactive—to explore here, with the new virtual reality attraction being particularly popular.
3450 Ortiz Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33905, USA
Tour this butterfly house in Cape Coral to observe all four stages of the life cycle, from caterpillar to cocoon to beautiful butterfly. As soon as the butterflies lay their eggs, the staff releases them into the surrounding gardens, allowing guests to observe the colorful creatures in their natural habitat. Go on Monday, Friday, or Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for a free tour, during which knowledgeable volunteers teach about the butterflies and how to bring them into your own yard and neighborhood.
2500 SE 24th St, Cape Coral, FL 33990, USA
Located in Cape Coral, this fascinating wetland offers a window into the real Florida and its denizens. Just be liberal with the bug spray when you visit. Families will enjoy taking the boardwalk trail through the preserve for a chance at spotting eagles, raccoons, snakes, and wading birds. Also worth checking out are the two observation piers and the kayak trails (rentals are available onsite but be aware that the trails require about 800 feet of portage and, therefore, are not suitable for children under six).
3883 Sanibel Captiva Road
At the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), the staff nurtures injured animals from Sanibel and the surrounding areas with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild. Among the “patients” you may meet here are gopher tortoises, opossums, armadillos, snakes, and ospreys. After checking in on the animals, head to the visitor center, where you can learn all about Florida’s native and invasive species. You can also sign up for a 1.5-hour wildlife walk, during which you’ll hear more about the animal hospital and its projects as well as the diversity of Florida fauna.