For those who love to explore the outdoors with their four-legged friends can do so at Bonita Beach Dog Park, located at 8800 Estero Blvd. The beach is located on the Gulf side, just before New Pass Bridge on the way to Bonita Beach. The furry friends can run around unleashed at the beach, while their companions spend time soaking up the sun. This is an unsupervised site, so you are responsible for yourself, your dog and his or her behavior.
Be sure to stop by the doggie shower station, to rinse your pooch off from head to paws before heading home. Dog bags are available. Rules are posted on a bulletin board.
Little Hickory Island
A shell-laden, white sand beachfront park has become a South Lee County destination near Bonita Beach. Handicapped access is offered on a ramp that runs from the parking lot to the sand, and the shore is wide and clean. A favorite pastime for visitors is surf fishing, so check the fishing regulations before casting away.
Parking is $2 per hour and on-site restrooms, picnic tables and showers mean creature comforts aren’t far away.
Another hidden gem is located off the well-traveled path of Bonita Beach Road, Barefoot Beach. Drive, or bike 1.5 miles through a exclusive community with bricked roads to a preserve at the end of your travels after inside the gate.
The beachfronts are known for their quiet atmosphere, shelling and bird watching.
Park entry fee is $8. Call 239-252-4000 for more information.
State Recreation Area
Further south, there is a part of “Odel Florida” that needs to be explored by everyone. The state reck area can be found at 11135 Gumflower Drive in Naples, Florida.
Discover a natural barrier island, thick with mangroves and native vegetation and wildlife. The popular destination has various activities in store, such as sunbathing, snorkeling the reef, hiking, bird-watching, fishing, picnicking, paddling and searching for seashells.
Boaters will also find a boat ramp to launch into Turkey Bay. The easy access leads to the delicate natural estuaries of the Cocohatchee River, leading out to the Gulf of Mexico.
Admission fee is $6 per vehicle (limit two to eight people), $4 for single occupant, $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists. Boat ramp fee is an additional $5 plus tax.
Things to do
Visit Koreshan State Park
A pristine reserve in Estero, one of the fastest-developing areas of Florida, Koreshan State Park on the Estero River combines history and nature for a magnificent outdoor experience.
With a colorful past that started with the settlement of the area by Cyrus Reed Teed and his followers in 1894, the site now stands as a state park commemorating Teed’s religious movement to build New Jerusalem in Southwest Florida. This Koreshan Unity believed the universe existed at the center of a giant hollowed sphere. Though the movement faded after Teed’s death in 1908, the last followers deeded the land to the state in 1961.
More than 50 years later, visitors can walk the park’s trails, fish with alligators and wading birds on the Estero River, picnic, canoe or camp overnight. As with all state parks, the Koreshan site is open daily, 365 days a year from 8 a.m. until sunset. The historic settlement is open daily from 8 a.m. until 5 pm., and guided tours are available each day.
The fee for parking is $5 per vehicle, limit of two to eight people per vehicle, $4 for single occupant vehicle, $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers and passengers in vehicle with a holder of the Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
Koreshan is also a face site for campers around town. Camping fees are $26 per night, plus a $6.70 reservation fee, which includes water and electricity.
Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a Social Security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the federal government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees. Proof of eligibility is required.
The site is at 3800 Corkscrew Road, Estero. For more information, call 239-992-0311 or visit FloridaStateParks.org/park/Koreshan
Visit the Everglades Wonder Garden
An old Florida road-side attraction received a facelift and new life, and it’s ready to wow.
The Everglades Wonder Gardens, at first called The Reptile Gardens, was established in 1936 by brothers Bill and Lester Piper to attract tourists. It’s now been taken over by the Bonita Wonder Gardens Inc., a non-profit, and is ready to bring people in again. The gardens feature many of Florida’s native flora and fauna, such as gopher tortoises, alligators and flamingos, as well as a museum of curiosities and taxidermied wonders. Now, the nonprofit has brought in many rescued birds and reptiles to call the garden home. The Everglades Wonder Gardens is located at 27180 Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs and is open daily from 9 a.m.to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $7 for children aged 3 to 12, and free for children under 3. Call 239-992-2591 for more information.