5 Best Things To Do in Southwest Florida
Many who travel to the Sunshine State have Southwest Florida on top of their to-visit list. The region is along the southwest Gulf coast and is known for beautiful landscapes and fantastic outdoor activities. To help you plan a trip to this region, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Southwest Florida.
1. Take an Airboat Ride
You can’t go to Southwest Florida without riding an airboat through the Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a quintessential local experience that takes you on a thrilling ride through the area’s natural ecosystem, including swampy grassland.
While the boat zips over the water, you get to see alligators, bald eagles, wading herons, turtles, and other wildlife. The airboat can spin 180 degrees in a matter of seconds to turn around and check sightings of gators or other animals.
If you prefer to ride an airboat elsewhere, you can head to 10,000 Islands State Park, a massive area composed of many small islands. This park is known for its enchanting mangrove maze and is best explored on a guided tour.
2. Take a Wildlife Spotting Boat Trip
Another tour worth a ride is a wildlife spotting boat trip. This guided boat tour starts on land and continues on the water to get up close to sightings of local animals.
The one-hour trip will take you to the natural habitat of mammals like opossums, raccoons, bobcats, wild boars, black bears, and even rare Florida panthers. You’ll see a variety of birds, including herons, shorebirds, egrets, roseate spoonbills, and more, who migrate to Sanibel, Marco Island, and Sarasota during the winter.
From witnessing dolphins swimming in the Gulf to watching stingrays float beneath your boat, and spotting reptiles, turtles, and more, this tour is an excellent option for things to do in Southwest Florida.
3. Kayak Through Don Pedro island
Without a doubt, the best kayaking in Southwest Florida can be done on Don Pedro Island. During this 3-hour guided tour in a clear-bottom kayak, you get to paddle through scenic mangrove tunnels and the island’s jellyfish gardens while watching dolphins and manatees swim by.
The tour also takes you to a secluded 7-mile white sandy beach where you can hunt for fossilized shark teeth and shells, sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and relax before paddling back.
There’ll also be plenty of marine life sightings like starfish, conch, crabs, sponges, snails, and others! Your guide will teach you about local marine life, wildlife, and vegetation, and, of course, take photos for you, so you’ll have a memory of this special adventure to keep.
4. Go to the Beach
One of the best things to do in Southwest Florida is going to the beach. Here are two of the best beaches in Southwest Florida:
Cayo Costa State Park
Considered a hidden gem in the region, the beach at Cayo Costa State Park stretches over nine miles of unspoiled white sand. Here, you can swim, snorkel, sunbathe, have a picnic, or collect colorful seashells, and in the water, you can spot dolphins, manatees, and osprey.
If you prefer to be physically active, go fishing or head to one of the nearby trails and explore the natural wilderness of the region.
Siesta Key Beach
Award-winning Siesta Key Beach is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire country. It boasts of sugary white powdered sand made of 99% pure crushed quartz that is contrasted by the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the ocean. You can enjoy watersports or just bask in the sun; either way, going to Siesta Key Beach is one of the best things you can do in Southwest Florida.
5. Spot Wildlife
Spotting Wildlife is a favorite among the many things to do in Southwest Florida. No wonder, as the region has excellent wildlife sanctuaries.
For example, the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, where you can feed giraffes, the Mote Marine Aquarium, which allows you to touch a stingray or feed a shark, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens, where you can feed flamingos, or the IMAG History and Science Center in Fort Myers where you can marvel up close at sea urchins and sea stars. The two wildlife destinations we want to highlight in particular are:
Lee County Manatee Park
Manatees are gentle giants that are a threatened and, fortunately, protected species. Winter is the best time to see them, as they migrate to rivers and springs in search of warm water. At the Lee County Manatee Park, you can see them up close while on a guided boat tour that starts from Naples or Marco Island.
Lovers Key State Park
Another place to spot manatees, as well as other wildlife like bald eagles, bottlenose dolphins, or gopher tortoises, is the Lovers Key State Park near Fort Myers Beach. Made up of four barrier islands, this 1,600-acre park also has several unspoiled beaches ideal for swimming, collecting shells, or paddle boarding.
The Ideal Place For Outdoor Enthusiasts
There are so many fun things to do in Southwest Florida. From zipping through the Everglades in a speeding airboat to sighting wildlife in their natural habitat, kayaking through Don Pedro Island, and relaxing at the beach, this region is sure to feed your hunger for Florida outdoor adventures.
Whether you’re traveling alone, with your partner, family, or friends, you’re sure to have a wonderful time exploring the beautiful sites and enjoy the exciting activities of this special sector in the Sunshine State.