Description & History:
For more than 50 years, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida has been a leading environmental advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the water, land, wildlife and future of our five-county area. To do that, the Conservancy uses the synergy of four teams to meet this mission.
We highly recommend visiting the Conservancy of Southwest Florida! One of our favorite things to do in the area!
Come visit the Nature Center located at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s headquarters right here in Naples! The Nature Center provides a captivating way to experience and learn about the area’s diverse flora and fauna. Wander through the Dalton Discovery Center which features over 100 animals and exhibits, rent a kayak to explore the Gordon River, or if you prefer to be chauffeured around, hop on an electric boat for a leisurely, informative and fun 45 cruise that’s free with your Nature Center admission. From hiking and boating, to wildlife viewing and hands-on learning, you can find everything you need for a quintessential natural Florida experience!
Dalton Discovery Center
The Dalton Discovery Center features over 100 animals and exhibits. Inside, you’ll learn about the wondrous ecosystems of Southwest Florida – the amazing uplands, unique Everglades, majestic mangroves, beautiful beaches and more! This multi-media experience starts with a moving map of the Everglades, which gives you a unique look at how the ecosystem has changed over the years. Then, get an underground look at our unique water flow ways. As you move through the dry uplands, get up close with the slithering snakes and panther habitat. Watch baby American alligators and then continue on through the mangrove forest and onto a beautiful beach. There, dip your hands into the live animal Touch Tank; hold a sea star, touch a sea urchin, or feel a horseshoe crab run across your fingers. Before you finish your spectacular tour of the Dalton Discovery Center, you’ll be able to see Luna – our brand new juvenile loggerhead sea turtle – swimming around in her temporary tank, before she moves to the larger, 5,000-gallon patch reef tank.
Electric Boat Tours
Free with Nature Center admission. Take a leisurely, informative and fun 45-minute cruise along the beautiful Gordon River. This is a perfect way for families, nature lovers and boaters to enjoy a unique experience on the water. Our trained guides will point out the natural beauty surrounding the Conservancy Nature Center and you may even spot a manatee or two! Electric boat tours are frequently cited as visitors’ favorite part of the Nature Center experience! Boats depart between 10am – 3pm (Rides subject to tides, wind and weather).
Join us for our Daily Nature Center Programs as we explore the natural environments of Southwest Florida, meet native species up close, and discover how Conservancy of Southwest Florida works to protect our water, land, wildlife, and our future.
- 11:15am – Birds of Prey: Night and Day
- 12:15pm – Reptile Roundup
- 1:15pm – Ocean Discoveries
- 2:15pm – Wildlife 101
Wildlife Hospital Exhibits
Wildlife patients must have limited exposure to humans in order to survive when they return to the wild. However, humans are the key to the prevention of wildlife injuries. To teach prevention tips, several wildlife exhibit areas are open to the public. Come face-to-beak with our wildlife ambassadors at the new Von Arx Wildlife Viewing Pavilion. These permanent residents, including an Eastern Screech Owl, Red-Tailed Hawk and Bald Eagle, are former hospital patients. Due to the severity of their injuries, they are unable to survive in the wild. As ambassadors, they play an important role teaching people about the threats facing wildlife and what can be done to help prevent injuries to wild animals. To give visitors a glimpse inside one of our working hospital suites, we offer a peek through 1-way glass into our nursery. The people and patients are real. You may catch a glimpse of feeding time. Other times patients are resting and may be inside their recovery areas. Rehabilitation enclosures are covered to minimize exposure to humans.
Ferguson Learning Lab
Explore the inside of Ferguson Learning Lab. You can have some fun inside the Little Explorer Play Zone, take a stroll through the Hall of Invasive Species and check out the classrooms where more of our ambassador animals can be found! Step inside the Conservancy’s Hall of Invasive Species to see animals such as the Burmese python, lionfish, and red-eared slider. Learn how these species found their way into our ecosystem and how they are able to survive so well in our environment. Bring your little ones to come and play, learn, and explore in the Little Explorer Play Zone! Kids can discover the incredible animals of southwest Florida as they crawl through a gopher tortoise burrow, walk into a mangrove forest, and climb up a giant bald eagle nest. Enjoy crafts and multi-sensory interactive activities that kids are sure to love!
A natural upland and scrub habitat, the Christopher B. Smith Preserve is home to more than 200 plant species, 70 gopher tortoises and hundreds of other animal species. We highly recommend walking out to the shaded gazebo; it’s a wonderful place to spot all types of wildlife – from gopher tortoises, to raptors, to butterflies.
The trails may be short, but the bird viewing is terrific! The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Trail is listed as Site #69 on the Great Florida Birding Trail! Over 100 varieties of bird species have been spotted here. Enjoy the Guided Trail Walk – one of the Special Daily Programs this season – or take a self-guided nature walk along the DeLong Mangrove Trail, the Lagoon Trail and the Hammock Trail. The Lagoon Trail is an ecotone – a transition between two ecosystems. On the Lagoon Trail, you will move from the mangrove forest and the hardwood hammock. The Hammock Trail will bring you up close and personal with three different Southwest Florida ecosystems – the mangrove estuary, the hardwood hammock and the pine flatwoods.
The Nature Center charges admission rates of $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for kids ages 3-11, and kids ages 2 and under are free. Annual Conservancy members can visit for free all year!