SOUTHWEST FLORIDA BEKONS SNOWBIRDS WITH TROPICAL BOTANICAL GARDENS, WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES, NATURE PRESERVES, AND, OH YES, WHITE SAND BEACHES

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford both had their winter estates in Fort Myers, which are now historical sites. It’s easy to see why Southwest Florida has been a favorite Snowbird destination for more than a century

Southwest Florida is blessed with white sand beaches and some of the best winter weather in the country, which makes it a favorite destination for Snowbirds from across the U.S. and Canada. But winter visitors in Punta Gorda, Fort Myers and San Marcos also keep busy visiting the area’s attractive mix of nature preserves, exotic wildlife rescue centers and botanical gardens that specialize in tropical plants. There’s also historical sites, including the winter estates of two of America’s most famous inventors and entrepreneurs: Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. “People are surprised when they find out how much there is to see and do in Southwest Florida,” said Bobby Cornwell, president and CEO of the Florida RV Park and Campground Association, which hosts CampFlorida.com, the travel planning website.

Here’s a sampling of some of the scenic and historical attractions in the greater Punta Gorda, Fort Myers and Naples areas, including local festivals, along with listings of nearby RV parks and resorts that can be used as base camps by winter visitors:

Punta Gorda

Babcock Ranch Preserve: This preserve includes everything from pinelands to dry prairie to cypress domes and cypress swamps. The preserve also provides habitat for wide-ranging species such as the Florida black bear and Florida panther and is home to the native wild turkey, white-tailed deer, northern bobwhite quail, crested caracara, gopher tortoise, red-cockaded woodpecker, eastern indigo snake and Florida burrowing owl. The preserve’s wetlands contribute to aquifer recharge for Southwest Florida and help maintain the health of the western Everglades ecosystem, particularly the Caloosahatchee River and Charlotte Harbor Estuary. Visitors can access the preserve through a hiking trail, an equestrian trail as well as eco-tours.

Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary is a rescue center for exotic animals, including cougars, lions, hyenas, bears, birds and reptiles. 

— Peace River Wildlife Center: Since its beginnings, the wildlife center has treated over 50,000 birds and small mammals, offering a high level of skilled care by trained and permitted wildlife rehabilitation specialists with years of experience in treating native fauna disease and trauma. The Center typically has over 100 permanent wildlife residents on educational display. All of the permanent residents are available for viewing by the public in attractive, spacious aviaries and habitats suggestive of their native environments. Among the birds available for viewing are bald eagles, hawks, owls, ospreys, crested caracra, sandhill cranes, pelicans, herons, shorebirds, cormorants, songbirds, crows, and vultures. Tortoises, turtles, opossums and rabbits are also on display.

Fort Myers

The Winter Estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford: Thomas Edison, the world-renowned inventor, purchased a 13-acre piece of land on the Caloosahatchee River and developed plans for his winter retreat, which included houses, a laboratory and extensive gardens. He was later joined by his close friend, automobile magnate Henry Ford, who purchased property next door to Edison’s for his winter estate. Visitors to Edison and Ford’s winter estate homes can also see caretaker’s houses, a botanic research laboratory and a 15,000 square foot museum.
More than 20 acres of botanic gardens include demonstration gardens for Florida native plants, succulents as well as beautiful trees and plants from around the world

Manatee Park: Manatee Park is a seasonal location for viewing non-captive Florida manatees in Lee County.  Manatees visit the park in search of warm water during the cooler days in winter when the temperature in the Gulf of Mexico is below 68 degrees.  The warm water in the Manatee Park canal comes from the Florida Power and Light Power Plant across the street and is created as a byproduct of cooling off their equipment. 

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve: This preserve includes over 3,500 acres of wetland ecosystem with a boardwalk trail and interpretive center. The cypress slough catches and slowly filters rainwater on its way towards Estero Bay. A variety of animals including otters, alligators, turtles and wading birds live at the Slough year-round. Others, like migrating birds and butterflies, use the slough as a feeding area or winter home.

Naples 

The Bird Gardens of Naples: The Bird Gardens of Naples is a non-profit organization primarily focused on education, the welfare of captive birds, and the conservation of wild species. The gardens have approximately 200 birds at any given time, including parrots, macaws and cockatoos. There is no admission fee, although donations are accepted. Tours must be booked online/

Crew Bird Roockery Swap: There are 12 miles of hiking and biking trails in this swamp area, which features a wide variety of wildlife, including alligators. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available. 

Naples Botanical Garden: This garden conserves the plants and habitats of the tropics while offering lots of adult programming, including guided morning walks and tours and informative talks on a variety of gardening topics. Subjects could include how to repot orchids, how to propagate succulents and how to create a healthier, more resilient garden environment. The botanical garden partners with conservation organizations in Southwest Florida and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean to identify and conserve threatened plants and conduct research.

Festivals 

Fort Myers Seafood and Music Festival, Jan. 5-7 in Fort Myers:  This festival is held on the waterfront in historic downtown Fort Myers. Foods are cooked fresh onsite with a variety of side dishes and of course – desserts! Seafood is from Florida’s coastal waters, a sustainable and renewable resource.

— Punta Gorda Seafood and Music Festival, Jan. 12-14 :
This three-day festival features a combination of live music and seafood cooked fresh onsite. The festival also features a marketplace with arts and crafts, gourmet food items and specialty products.

ECHO Global Food and Farm Festival, March 12-16, in North Fort Myers: This festival features opportunities to learn about tropical and international foods, sustainable living, and innovative gardening. 


Bonita Springs

Bonita Terra 

Imperial Bonita Estates 


Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach

— Blueway RV Village 

Encore Fort Myers Beach RV Resort 

Encore Gulf Air RV Resort 

Encore Pioneer Village RV Resort 

Encore Sunseekers RV Park 

Indian Creek RV Resort

Orange Harbor 

Raintree RV Resort 

Southwind Village Mobile Home & RV Park 

Sun-N-Fun MH Village & RV Park 

Sun Retreats Estero Bay 

Sun Retreats Siesta Bay RV Resort 

Swan Lake Village and RV Resort 

Tice Mobile Home Court and RV Park 

Upriver RV Resort 

Naples 

— Lake San Marino RV Resort 

— Marco Naples RV Community 

— Naples / Marco Island KOA Holiday 

— Northtide Naples RV Resort 

Sun Retreats Naples 

Sun Retreats Naples East 

— The Waves RV Resort 

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About the Florida RV Park & Campground Association

Based in Tallahassee, the Florida RV Park & Campground Association is the trade association for Florida’s privately owned RV parks and campgrounds. The association provides business services, advocacy, and promotion for the industry and their members. The association also publishes free printed camping guides for Florida. For more information, visit the association’s website at CampFlorida.com.

 

Media Contact:

 

Bobby Cornwell 

Florida RV Park & Campground Association

(850) 562-7151

bcornwell@frvca.org