Things to Do in Southwest Florida

Southwest Florida’s climate is so temperate you might wonder why people stay cooped up inside.

We’ll admit summers can be hot, but cool mornings and evenings are perfect times to get outside. Dawn and dusk offer gentle breezes that remind you that nature is spectacular in Southwest Florida.

From baseball spring training to new restaurants and Broadway shows, Southwest Florida has something for everyone. But at the top of everyone’s list are outdoor activities that make Southwest Florida the envy of the state and keeps visitors returning year after year.

Follow the Calusa Indians

The Calusa tribe that once called Southwest Florida home traveled by canoe. Today, you can follow their paths by kayak.

For example, the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail stretches 190 miles. The marked kayak trail winds through the coastal waters and tributaries of Lee County where you’ll spot birds, dolphins and manatees.

Communities in Southwest Florida that are well-known for kayaking include Pine Island, Sanibel, Matlacha, Estero and Everglades City. There are municipal and privately-owned marinas that welcome kayakers.

To find kayak launches near you, consider visiting websites that list popular ones in Southwest Florida. For example, Floridagofishing provides listings of launches with notes on fishing and parking. Florida State Parks also offers information about kayak launches throughout the state’s park system.

At Babcock Ranch, for example, you can kayak from a launch designed for that purpose at Lake Babcock. In fact, Curry Creek Outfitters has a storage facility at the launch so you don’t have to haul it from home.

Birders Flock Together

Every year, thousands of birding enthusiasts descend on Southwest Florida to catch glimpses of white pelicans and other rare bird species.

Surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness, Babcock Ranch is home to a stunning variety of resident and migratory birds. Don’t be surprised to see spotted peregrine falcons, bald eagles, wood storks, wild turkeys, sparrows, owls and egrets.

Because the town of Babcock Ranch is adjacent to the Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area, you’ll see many of the bird species that have been sighted there by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. The website describes the habitats where you’re likely to find the birds, when they breed and whether they migrate or stay in the area year-round.

You can download a handy list of birds from the commission’s web site here. The list includes information about what seasons they appear, whether they breed in the area and the likelihood that you’ll spot them.

Hit the Trails

Florida has an extensive network of trails once used by cattlemen and Indians. You can use the same trails that surround Babcock Ranch.

The adjoining state-owned Babcock Ranch Preserve purchased by the state in 2006 totals 67,619 acres. Located within the Caloosahatchee River Basin, the preserve anchors a conservation corridor of public and private land that stretches from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Beginner hikers will enjoy the EcoTour Trail, which provides a 1.5-mile hike through pine flatwoods. Park at the adjacent Babcock Wilderness Adventures parking area. Here’s a map.

More advanced hikers will enjoy the Footprints Trail opened in June 2008. Over five miles of trails in several different loops traverse pasture, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods and hammocks in the northwest corner of the property. This area is a working ranch with ongoing cattle, timber and farming operations. Please be respectful of ranch staff, be aware of and cautious of cattle and leave all gates in the same position you find them. Access the trailhead from a parking area located on State Road 74, adjacent to the Florida Forest Service tower. Here’s a map.

Looking for more things to do? At Babcock Ranch, we can share with you the incredible array of fun things to do in Southwest Florida. Call 941-200-1438 to schedule your visit.