Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to do in Southwest Florida

  • Published 2022/08/31

Do you want to experience a luxurious trip to a tropical place, or do you want to see the best sunset view on the beach?

Then, Southwest Florida is the perfect place for you, as it has a lot to offer, starting from tarpon fishing, collecting shells and treasures on pristine beaches, appreciating nature, and knowing history by going to museums.

If you are looking for great places to check out and things to do, here are the 20 best things to do in Southwest Florida:

Explore and Appreciate the Wonders of Natural Creation in Everglades National Park

A type of bird at Everglades National Park

Rosanne de Vries /

Do you want to see and check out many species of animals in just one place and take a trip to one of the most extensive wetlands in the world?

If yes, you will see it all in Everglades National Park, the largest subtropical park in the United States, which is the home of even the endangered and rare animals.

View of Everglades National Park

Nagel Photography /

Everglades National Park has more than 2,000 animal species and plants, and it is the only place where you can see both crocodiles and alligators together.

It is fascinating to witness animals in their natural habitat but don’t forget to give them space and a safe distance.

The waters of Everglades National Park

Irina Wilhauk /

Sometimes, they mark their territories and do not give them food because it makes the animal aggressive.

You can explore the park with or without guides, but make sure you wear protective clothing, have an insect repellent, and a bottle of water to stay hydrated.

Boardwalk of Everglades National Park

Simon Dannhauer /

You can do paddling, boating, fishing, or camping if you want other recreational activities, although it is challenging during summer since insects can bite you.

Take the opportunity to join the free ranger-led field trips and other educational programs for kids and adults.

Mangrove kayaking at Everglades National Park

mariakray /

Visit Koreshan State Historic Site

A small machine shop at Koreshan State Historic Site

SunflowerMomma /

Koreshan State Park is the place to 11 nationally restored historic but well-preserved buildings made by Koreshan in the 19th and 20th centuries.

A house at Koreshan State Historic Site

SunflowerMomma /

You will know more about the local history of the Estero River and the extraordinary lives of the pioneer group of Koreans who believe that the universe existed inside of the Earth.

Dr. Cyrus Teed founded the Koreshan, a religious sect where people lived celibate lives on farms or botanical gardens.

Front porch of the founders home at Koreshan State Historic Site

William Silver /

Visit the historic site and immerse yourself in life from a few centuries ago.

Interior of the small machine shop at Koreshan State Historic Site

SunflowerMomma /

Relax in Naples Beach and Catch Sunset in the Pier

View of Naples Beach pier

SunflowerMomma /

You will genuinely feel that you are in the most beautiful place in the world if you are in Naples Beach as the sand is so white and the beach is so pristine.

The Naples Pier, one of Florida’s longest piers, is the prime location to watch the beautiful and fiery sunsets of the Gulf of Mexico.

View of the sunset at Naples Beach

Susanne Pommer /

You will feel calm, relaxed, and at peace, if you are in a perfect place that does not disappoint.

Play volleyball in the sand, walk and take a stroll around the area, or go fishing on the pier any time of the day.

There are also different amenities in the area, such as the restrooms, showers, and covered eating area, and you can park within close walking distance to the pier.

People watching the sunset on Naples Beach pier

ESB Professional /

Sail and View the Sunset While Having a Catamaran Cruise

Catamaran Cruise on the waters of Florida

majicphotos /

If you are on Florida’s Gulf Coast, the best thing that you do is to have a great sunset view and cool breeze while having a Catamaran Cruise.

Do not forget to set sail with monitoring on this beautiful Catamaran “Cool Beans” cruise, with quick access to the Gulf of Mexico.

You can either choose from a 2 hour and a half-day sail or a champagne sunset cruise for your best experience as they can accommodate up to 20 passengers.

View of the sunset from a Catamaran Cruise

Tathoms /

You can also swim on the cool emerald water and pristine beach and look for different shells.

Do not forget to take a picture for lasting memories of this great sailing and watch as the day turns into night off Florida’s coast.

Try the World-Class Fishing in Boca Grande

View of a Street in Boca Grande

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Boca Grande, one of the most elite islands in Florida, is truly an island of leisure, sophistication, and perfect tropical place blended with old charm.

If you want to check lodge in the century-old but luxurious Gasparilla Inn, it would cost you more than a hundred dollars per night.

Gasparilla Inn or Pink Elephant Restaurant is where presidents, celebrities, and other rich and famous people go.

Boca Grande is also known for the world’s best tarpon fishing spots, and its sandy white beaches are suitable for shelling and historic downtown full of churches and quaint homes.

Exterior of Gasparilla Inn at Boca Grande

PVSBond at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can feel the old charm of the place as there are no high-rising buildings, chain restaurants, and resort towns.

You must go to the Whidden’s Marina, the historic waterfront complex with a small maritime museum founded in 1925 by the Whidden family.

You will also love the paved golf cart and bike path that is 6.5 miles long that passes through the fantastic scenery of the place, and you can also have a tour in one of the two lighthouses on the site.

Whidden’s Marina at Boca Grande

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Collect Different Kinds of Shells and Treasures in Sanibel Island

Lighthouse in Sanibel Island

Nagel Photography /

If you are a treasure hunter and shell enthusiast, Sanibel Island is the best spot for you as you’ll have fine-sand beached filled with shells from the Gulf of Mexico.

You can also go to the island lighthouse established in the 19th century due to the increasing boats and trading on the Southwest Florida coast.

The Sanibel Island Lighthouse is open for tours for anyone interested to know the history of the place.

Shells in Sanibel Island

EQRoy /

The place is famed for its luxurious resorts, so you have many places to go around the area, and do not forget to watch the captivating sunset every day.

You can go to the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce if you want to know more about local tourist information about the island and if you want to talk to travel specialists to enrich your experience about the mesmerizing island.

Gorgeous sunset at Sanibel Island

Sheri Armstrong /

Check State-of-the-Art Technology in Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples

The first museum in Southwest Florida dedicated to children learning through interactive exhibits is the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (CMON).

Make sure you visit this 30,000 square foot, a two-story institution that blends state-of-the-art technology.

Some of the exhibits are the Beach Exhibits where children can take an imaginary boat trip, Doc McStuffin Exhibit, Adopt-A-Vet Pet Clinic children have career exploration, and many more.

The museum is for young and young at hearts, but the interactive exhibits are anchored to those children 14 years old and below.

There are facilities designed to be accessible such as classrooms, a birthday party room, a museum store, meeting rooms, and a family resource library.

You can buy tickets online or upon entry, and the museum hours are from Monday to Sunday, except Wednesday, from 10 am to 5 pm.

Enter a New World in Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Exterior of Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Carol Ann Mossa /

Explore the historical winter place where the two American icons, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, stayed and lived.

You will have access to the 20-acres of land full of historical buildings, research lab, museum, main and guest house, and even the garden.

The first main attraction is the Semino Lodge which is Edison’s main house which has family suites, guest house, library, study area, and Edison’s den.

View of Edison and Ford Winter Estates

SR Productions /

The Edison’s caretaker’s house is where the caretakers lived while maintaining the property, and then you can go to the Moonlight Garden filled with fragrant plants and Garden Shoppe with hundreds of herbs and fruit trees.

You will see the 1928 Edison botanical Research laboratory, and the Edison Museum holds different artifacts, inventions, and exhibits.

Signage of Edison and Ford Winter Estates

SR Productions /

Take the opportunity for the homeschool, preschool, and scout programs to explore the ‘living laboratory” of the winter estates and join camps and virtual field trips to the place.

If you are interested to know the place thoroughly, have a guided tour.

Otherwise, self-guided tours are available via the Edison Ford app, and it’s in English, French, Spanish, and German.

Research lab at Edison and Ford Winter Estates

Irina Wilhauk /

Enjoy the Fun Night Out in Captiva & Sanibel Island Bar

The Mighty Duck bar at Captiva Island

Dan, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

After the long day on the beach, of course, you want to catch a low buzz and fun in one of the best local beach bars on Captiva Island.

As the sun goes down, enjoy the night while drinking a fruity drink or a cold beer in The Mucky Duck, Captiva.

The Mucky Duck is an indoor English pub-style bar that serves the best food in Florida along with the beach setting.

If you don’t want a laid-back beach bar, then you can go to Coconuts Poolside Bar & Grill in Sanibel Island when you can drink a cocktail and meet new and adventurous people.

The drinks and the food are delicious and well-made from the heart, and the atmosphere is very welcoming and thrilling.

See Different Species of Animals in Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Trail at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Sally, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited Naples Zoo for its conservation and recreation efforts to help the animals.

It sets the highest standard for wildlife care and conservation.

You will have fun here as it’s a zoo for every generation since you will find the historical tropical garden, exotic animals, and plants surrounded by mature trees.

Alligators at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

Tim Menzies, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s the best place to see your favorite animals like monkeys, giraffes, lions, tigers, reptiles, and others.

You can get involved if you are passionate about rescuing animals, valuing every living thing on Earth, and helping people conserve wildlife.

There are wildlife shows, and you can watch professional staff feeding alligators while explaining popular myths and their truths.

Macaws at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

J. Norman Reid /

Know American Heritage and Traditions in Southwest Florida Museum of History

Exterior of the Southwest Florida Museum of History

User:Kolossos, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This museum is in the Fort Myers depot and is dedicated to preserving the history of South Florida.

The exhibits focus on prehistoric times when fossils and dinosaurs, early civilizations, early settlers, Spanish explorers, Paleo Indians, the Calusa, and the Seminoles.

You will also see the re-creation of the authentic Cracker House, a 1929 Pullman railcar, and a 1926 La France fire pumper as part of the tour.

Railcar at Southwest Florida Museum of History

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also see many artifacts on different civilizations, military instruments, agriculture and fishing industries, and pieces of carnival glass.

If you want to witness how history is collected, preserved, and interpreted, you must visit this place in Southwest Florida.

Do Different Water Activities in Matlacha

The watrrs of Matlacha, Florida

JamieJamerton /

A funky, colorful, and unique small town in Southwest Florida is Matlacha, known for its fresh seafood and different recreation concerning water.

Go to this tiny fishing village where you can get different kinds of fish, clams, shrimps, crabs, and even see colorful shorebirds.

Kayaking in Matlacha, Florida

Laurel A Egan /

Tourists are attracted to stay at the Bridgewater Inn with interior comforts, and you can watch manatees, tarpon fish, and dolphins in the overlooking body of water.

There’s no surprise that this place is one of the best fishing places in the world.

Cruising at Matlacha

Laurel A Egan /

Watch Sports at Hammond Stadium

Daytime view of Hammond Stadium

Evan Meyer /

If you are a fan of baseball and rooting for the Minnesota twins, you must watch their spring training in this stadium.

The home for spring training of the Minnesota Twins since 1991 is the Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex.

Baseball game in Hammond Stadium

Evan Meyer /

The stadium has a softball complex, five complete baseball fields, two half baseball fields and two soccer fields, and an expansive lake for public fishing.

There are recent upgrades in the stadium, which include the new chairback seating in the ballpark.

The ticket holder for the existing Twin Spring Training Season will have exclusive access to but single-game tickets this year.

Exterior of the Hammond Stadium

Tommy Dolan /

Have a Kayak Tour in Rookery Bay Reserve

Aerial view of Rookery Bay Reserve

RW at RookeryBay, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Come and have fun in this protected natural treasure, the home of primordial wilderness between Marco Island and Naples.

This place is your to explore, and you can have a guided kayak tour in hidden bays and spots in the bay, mangrove tunnels, and even across mudflats.

Roseate Spoonbills at Rookery Bay Reserve

Fine Art Photos /

You can also reserve a small boat tour to know more about the bay’s unique ecosystem, have a more meaningful connection to the coastal wilderness, and see the diverse native wildlife.

Rookery Bay Reserve is also the best spot for bird-watching, and you can witness different tropical birds all year-round since there are birds that migrate to this place in the winter.

Visit Everglades Wonder Garden

The grounds of Everglades Wonder Garden

SunflowerMomma /

This three-acre botanical garden in Bonita Springs was set up to rescue and rehabilitate injured animals, grow the botanical beauty, and upgrade wildlife enclosures.

Since its opening in 1936, this little tropical zoo has been the place for the none-releasable birds and reptiles such as the Florida alligators, flamingos, tortoises, macaws, pythons, and even golden pheasants.

You can get up close while maintaining a safe distance to these native animals and learn more about the importance of wildlife and our environment.

There are different educational programs and events in which you can be engaged and involved.

This Wonder Garden is one of the few remaining cornerstones of history in Southwest Florida that continues to tell the past while adapting to the future.

Explore Nature at Naples Botanical Garden

Signage of Naples Botanical Garden

Kristi Blokhin /

The 170-acre Naples Botanical Garden is a top-notch garden oasis with flowers from all over the world.

The Garden was established in 1993 by a creative group of neighborhood plant lovers.

Plants surrounding Naples Botanical Garden's lily pond

Kate Mur /

The Garden aims to create and preserve environments and treasures typical of the flora and civilizations found between the 26th and 27th latitudes.

Boardwalk at Naples Botanical Garden

SunflowerMomma /

The Garden offers on-site and digital arts, culture, education for children and adults, preservation, wellness, and voluntary activities that improve Southwest Florida’s overall quality of life.

Visitors are more deeply engaged with the manicured gardens and Preserve because the Garden’s living collections constantly expand and change.

Beautiful flower at Naples Botanical Garden

SunflowerMomma /

Stroll along Lovers Key State Park

Beach at Lovers Key State Park

Radoslav Cajkovic /

Lovers Key was formerly a set of remote barrier islands only accessible by boat and has evolved into a charming location for breathtaking beachside weddings.

It is now known as Lovers Key State Park and was presented to the people of Florida to preserve its coastlines and mangrove woods for everyone to enjoy; the park was formerly intended to become the location of luxury condos.

Explore tranquil canals and lagoons that are the preferred grazing areas for manatees and shorebirds by kayak while lounging on the beach under an umbrella or in a hammock.

Gazebo at Lovers Key State Park

BeeRu /

Visitors might catch a glimpse of a dolphin’s tail or an osprey’s talons striking the still, turquoise seas.

This tourist attraction is a well-liked getaway for couples, and it frequently plays host to charming gulf-side weddings.

Boardwalk at Lovers Key State Park

SunflowerMomma /

View Various Birds at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Anhinga at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Dimitris Timpilis /

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a section of the country’s biggest natural mangrove environment on the tiny tropical island of Sanibel.

It bears the name Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, a cartoonist.

The Darling Refuge and the Matlacha, Caloosahatchee, Island Bay, and Pine Island National Wildlife Refuges, make up the Darling National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

A heron at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

stockeeyem / ​

For its incredible migrating bird populations, it is renowned worldwide.

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is excellent for birdwatchers since it has hundreds of acres of natural landscapes home to a wide diversity of species.

You may take in the tranquil natural surroundings by hiking, bicycling, or taking a picturesque drive along Wildlife Drive.

Great egret at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

ulrich missbach / ​

Shop Endlessly at Tin City

Exterior of Tin City


Whatever Naples attractions you’re interested in—cuisines, shopping, or seaside sightseeing—Tin City offers it all.

You can spend the entire day there.

Naples’ Tin City Waterfront Shops, a charming area for upscale dining and luxury shopping, is situated directly on the water.

This attractive historic neighborhood features small boutiques, waterfront restaurants, and water-based activities for all ages.

Shops at Tin City

Philip Lange /

You can browse a wide variety of businesses in Tin City, each with a unique selection of products.

There are many possibilities available, whether you’re looking for a waterfront store to buy presents for your family or swimwear so you may go to the beach afterward.

Beautiful jewelry, as well as regional wine, soaps, and much more, are all available.

A winery at Tin City

Chris Rabkin /

Have a Picnic at Marco Island

A boardwalk leading to the Marco Island beach

Paul Harrison /

The largest and only piece of built land in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands is Marco Island, not far from Naples and the Florida Everglades.

This getaway on the Gulf Coast offers magnificent resorts, stunning beaches, and pristine parks.

The tropical environment and proximity to the water on Marco Island are major draws.

View of the sunset from Marco Island

Pola Damonte /

A short distance from Marco Island, Collier Seminole State Park offers rustic campsites, canoeing, angling, boating, picnic areas, and a mile-long nature path.

On a half-mile boardwalk at Briggs Nature Center, Marco Island visitors may view animals in their natural setting.

Kayaking at Marco Island

SunflowerMomma /

Final Thoughts

Southwest Florida is truly a delicious blend of historic and cosmopolitan adventures that are best for you.

It is a tourist vacation paradise full of relaxation, peace, and spectacular quality of life because of the expansive ecosystem and wildlife, pristine beaches, and magnificent natural landscape and views.

What are you waiting for this time? Go to this subtropical heaven and make memories that last forever.

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