It’s great to be a tourist in my great hometown.

I’ll save my past middle-through-high school, teenage snubbing of Naples, FL for another time. On Saturday, I left the golf courses and winter getaways of Naples and seemed to head for the surrounding swamp. It wasn’t a purely Seminole experience; I landed in Rookery Bay—nature conservancy, mini museum, and swamp hugging shrine.

As per national museum day, admission was not only free, but some early lucky people managed to snag spots on its boat and kayak tours. Alas, I was only early, not lucky. Naturally, free admission brought out all the locals. The hiking trails in the rear were dominated with the common Naples locale of silver hair, polos, and socks inside sandals. Food carts from local establishments sold ice cream, hot dogs, and other snacks amidst a band playing rock classics.

Strangely enough, the museum’s AC inside was filled with the young’uns while the silver hairs stayed outside. (Sign of the times: the old folk have more energy than the new generation) Visitors were able to touch local wildlife such as starfish and crabs. Tanks displayed fish and sharks. My 30-minute lab tour with the very knowledgeable Christina took us through the research facilities.

Minus the kayak and boat tours, the visitor area of Rookery Bay was pretty small. Kids may find most of the explanations boring, but will enjoy the activities. If you’re a nature-hugger, you’ll find a decent number of things to explore. Overall, I was excited to find this nature treasure just miles away from normal civilization and I was glad that Rookery Bay opened its doors to the public for free.

Experience free day at Rookery Bay by clicking on my pictures

Rookery Bay Research Reserve
300 Tower Road
Naples, FL 34113
(239) 417-6310

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