Marco Island Nature Preserves

Marco Island may only be about 23 square miles. But it boasts impressive scenic views of the gulf waters due to its higher-than-normal elevation for a Florida gulf island. It is surrounded by the stunning sights of Ten Thousand Islands, which extends down to Cape Sable and miles out into the waters.

It’s a tropical paradise and one that is highly protected with various reserves and parks. Enthusiasts looking for a natural experience off-the-beaten-path will find much to love within the wonderful trails, parks, and reserves of this acclaimed and quiet island escape.

Below are four Marco Island nature preserves, and what you can expect when you visit inside their barriers.

mangrove tunnel

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Rookery Bay is touted as one of the last undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. Its 110,000 acres is coated in mangrove forests, protected waters, and isolated uplands. You can truly get lost in the wonderful mazes and wide-open waters of the land.

It is located on the northern end of the iconic Ten Thousands Islands. Getting to the reserve is not so easy as just driving up to it. Your best approach is to find a local provider that offers water activities or guided tours into the forestry.

Guided tours are available from local legend Captain Randy McCormick. Intimate and small boat tours take you deep within the reserve. Kayak tours can get you acquainted with the winding waterways and open mangroves. You can spot dolphins, osprey, and more, encompassing a range of about 150 different species, many of them endangered or threatened.

At the end of Shell Island Road begins a series of four trails, collectively known as the “Trails Through Time.” Each is about a quarter-mile to a half-mile long, and get you drawn into this untouched world.

Alligator Flag Preserve

Alligator Flag is tucked away east of I-75 along Immokalee Road. It’s pristine, protected, and extremely isolated patch of about 19 acres. It isn’t well-known by visitors, but it is a landmark sight for local bikers and wildlife enthusiasts.

The wide bike trail offers you plenty of space to adventure down its one-mile trail through the cypress-and pine. Black bears, deer, and raccoon have all been sighted. You’ll get a great representation of the typical habitat types in the local county including cypress wetlands, pine flatwoods, and over 78 species of plants.

Eagle Sanctuary

Eagle Sanctuary is a small site, but one that packs a lot of wonders. The Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation has pulled their resources to protect this momentous and iconic bald eagle nesting area.

The sanctuary is highly-protected. No home development is allowed within a certain radius of the sanctuary. The eagles, and other wildlife, only have 11.6 acres of land to call their own in Marco Island. Since 2003, one particular family has been returning to nest annually, often bringing their offspring from the year prior along for the return home trip.

You can use the GPS address of 665 Tigertail Ct, Marco Island, FL 34145 to get to a formal location for the sanctuary. From there, explore the grounds and hope you are lucky enough to see some bald eagles gracefully resting within the trees. You can watch the bird cam or find more information about the sanctuary on the official website.

Otter Mound Preserve

Otter Mound Preserve is a delightful little spot to visit. It is located at 1857 Addison Ct, Marco Island, FL 34145 and is locally known as Indian Hills. The area is small, but it has some impressive sights hidden within its trails and bench rest areas.

It is known for the tropical hardwood hammock, which hang impressively up and in between the foliage. Protected havens of the hammock are rare, and Otter Mound is one of the largest hammock communities in the country. Fifty-seven species of bird have been sighted in the area, as well as bobcat, armadillo, and opossum.

Plan Your Visit

There are so many Marco Island preserves and parks to see from the Panther Walk Preserve to Pepper Ranch, and Camp Keais. Perhaps no part of Florida is more widely-protected, adored, and populated with a broad and incredible number of species. Book a vacation rental with us and make Marco Island your home as your explore the fascinating Marco Island nature.