June 24, 2017

Exploring Nature with Your Family in Paradise Coast

Spring Break will be here in a couple of months and many East Coasters will be Florida-bound. We generally fly to the Ft. Lauderdale area on the east side every year to visit my in-laws, but I’ve been wanting to go to the west side for some time, and was excited to learn more about Paradise Coast, which consists of Naples, Marco Islands and the Everglades. Just take a look at what they have for kids:

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: A raised boardwalk takes families through four distinct environments: pine upland, a wet prairie, a marsh and a cypress forest. Look out for alligators, snakes, eagles and rare birds. Pick up a children’s activity booklet at the admissions desk in the Blair Center to give your children a broader experience and keep your eyes open for naturalists along the way to answer any questions you may have.

Dolphin Explorer: I love, love educational activities for kids, and am so eager to check out a cruise aboard the Dolphin Explorer where kids can serve as “Citizen Scientists,” assisting dolphin researchers with the ongoing 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project. During this three-hour expedition, you’ll see dolphins, learn how they are catalogued and even get in some shelling on the beach. Take a look at the rave reviews on TripAdvisor, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be hooked too.

The Everglades: Of course, no trip to Florida would be complete without a visit to the Everglades, and there are so many ways to explore this national park, whether by swamp buggy, guided bicycle eco-tour or a boat cruise.  Plus, don’t forget about the Junior Ranger program. You can download the Junior Ranger booklet here for Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve.

Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples: Next month, this much-anticipated children’s museum will open up to the public with lots of great activities for kids, like Journey Through the Everglades, Mother Nature’s House and Space Kidettes. Also, look out for free family programs sponsored by the children’s museums on the first, second and third Saturdays of the month in Naples and Fort Myers.

Naples Botanical Garden: My kids and I love botanical gardens, not just to see all the different varieties of plants and flowers, but we love the children’s gardens and fountains. Many botanical gardens also have “scavenger hunts” geared toward kids to make it fun to spot different varieties of plants across the garden, so be sure to ask about this when you arrive.

Naples Zoo: I always love a good zoo, and so do my kids. Head to the Naples Zoo to feed giraffes, ride camels and see the rare African honey badgers. Be sure to check out the Night Cub Family tours for an unforgettable after-dark experience featuring animal encounters with porcupines, antelope and more.  If you’ll be there over President’s Day weekend, be sure to grab this printable coupon to get a free child ticket with the purchase of an adult ticket.

If you’re looking for a place to stay, two hotels to check out are the Marco Island Marriot Beach Resort (plenty for kids to do, including photo scavenger hunts, bracelet making and jewelry engraving) and the Ritz-Carlton Naples (check out the Nature’s Wonders program, which offers kids a science-based curriculum presented by naturalists).

Have you visited Paradise Coast in Florida? I’d love to hear about your experiences with your family, so leave me a comment below.

Photo Credit: Crispy the Kid


  1. We love that area! Our favorite beach would be Clam Pass (take a little golf car/shuttle) to get to the beach and the best place to see wild life is Wiggins State Park (I think that’s what it’s called – past Vanderbilt beach). We were not fans of the boardwalk area. There is also a small train display set – up in downtown Naples with a train that has a mini one for kids to ride. We also did a “sunset cruise” last summer. Actually lots of fun – you may see manatees and dolphins. We’ve also driven up to Sanibel Island. Beautiful. Get ready to collect the best shells of your life. Have fun! 🙂

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Love this! Thanks, Kristen, for all the extra tips. My in-laws spend the winter in Delray Beach on the west side of Florida so I’m hoping to make it to the east side to check out some of these spots for myself sometime soon (maybe this summer since we’re not heading down to Delray Beach this year).

  2. One more thing – don’t forget to sign up for groupons for that area! They offered a boat trip today! 😉

  3. This part of Florida sounds right up my alley! I tend to like the low-key stuff better than the roller coasters and crowds. The raised boardwalk through the swamp especially appeals to me.

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Me too. I’m not a huge “nature girl,” but I do love anything with my kids that’s more on the educational side. Definitely hoping to check out the Naples area within the next year since my in-laws have a place on the west side of Florida, which isn’t too terribly far away.

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