Marco Island is the largest of the 10 000 island aquatic preserve and an official sanctuary for the Bald Eagle. It is surrounded be a very unique ecosystem and home to exceptional wildlife and vegetation. There are a number of parks and preserves within short distance from the island.
Just slightly north of the island on Shell Island Road off State Road 951 is the 9,400 acre Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. In the mangroves you will find mullet, snapper, oysters, crabs, snook, pelicans, osprey, bald eagles, deer, bobcats, snakes and tortoises. Tours can be arranged at the reserve’s Briggs Nature Center which also rents canoes. (Tel. 775-8569)
Ten miles east of the intersection of State Road 951 along U.S. 41 is Collier-Seminole State Park located. It is a 6,400 acre mangrove preserve and is home to alligators, the american crocodile, panthers, black bears and manatees. You’ll find a 13 mile canoe trail and a 6 mile hiking trail there.
The third largest park in the United States The Everglades National Park is only 15 minutes by car away from Marco and its entrance is in Everglades City. In 1.5 million acres of wilderness is an abundance of wildlife. The park offers campsites, picnic areas, cabin rentals, boating, fishing and guided tours.
The access to the 63,000 acre Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve is on Jane Memorial Scenic Drive off State Road 29 at Copeland. The preserve is home to the Florida panther and many other endangered wildlife species. It also has the largest concentration of epiphytic orchids in North America.
Roughly 30 minutes from Marco Island is the Big Cypress National Preserve located on U.S. 41 at Ochopee. In this 716 ,000 acre perserve one can observe cypress swamp, exotic mangroves, saawgrass prairies and natural freshwater rivers. Wildlife seen includes panthers, snakes, alligators, bobcats, bear, wild boar, deer and a multitude of colorful birds.
Located on Santuary Road off Immokalee Road in north Collier County is the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary which is owned by the National Audubon Society and home to the largest remaining stand of virgin bald cypress trees and the country’s larges colony of nesting woodstorks.