Millions of people visit Florida each year, but most don’t venture out of Orlando. The further you get out of town roadside attractions start to pop up everywhere.
Things like Alligator Encounters and the World Largest Bowling Pin are common sites. But there is one, in particular, that is must-see: The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs.
The Everglades Wonder Gardens History
We found the Everglades Wonder Gardens off the old Tamiami Trail in Bonita Springs Florida. As one of the first roadside attractions in Florida it flourished.
But since the newer highway has diverted traffic away, it has become a forgotten treasure. For me, just getting back from a Disney Park, it was a dream come true.
They opened in 1936 as a roadside attraction with something for everyone. Between the botanical jungles, national history museum, birds, and reptiles, it grew into something magical.
In 2014, a group of local residents transformed it into a nonprofit organization. They have restored the exhibits and added educational programs into the mix. They also take in rescue animals from failed roadside attractions.
Visiting the Wonder Gardens
From the outside, you knew this place has something special inside. It is like walking back in time. Walking in you are welcomed by a very friendly parrot.
After exploring the welcome center and exiting the doors to the gardens, you enter a world of wonder.
The gardens spread out in every direction, filled with mature plants. In-between the gardens, was home to different types of birds and reptile.
The biggest draw for many visitors is the alligators. These alligators were rescued from a different roadside attraction and were not being well taken care of.
The Everglades Wonder Gardens brought them back to full health and they are now thriving. They even have their own lagoon, with a bridge for visitors to walk over and get a little closer.
The gardens are absolutely magical. The walking path is made from crushed seashells. The pathways wonder in out between the different foliage.
Between the textures, colors, and vines, I was in heaven. It probably didn’t help that I had just come back from a few months of a Minnesota Winter.
The best part about the adventure is how well the Everglades Wonder Gardens did at integrating the reptiles in with the gardens.
You would be enjoying at some amazing plant life and stumble upon the tortoise enclosure. After a while, it became an adventure to see where the next one was hiding.
The only thing it was missing was Burrowing Owls that are all over southern Florida.
Due to Hurricane Irma, the Everglades Wonder Gardens suffered massive damage. All their animals are safe but the trees and gardens took heavy damage.
With the help of the community and following on their Facebook page they were able to replant a lot of the uprooted trees. Today it is back and better than ever.
The Everglades Wonder Gardens still depends on donations, membership, and admissions fees to stay in operation.
But what is so amazing about the Wonder Gardens is that no matter what gets thrown at them, they bounce back better than ever.
We had such a good time hanging out at the Everglades Wonder Gardens and seeing a different side of Florida. I hope that it will be around for years to come!