Reed Travel Features
TALLAHASSEE -- Although theme parks remain popular with Florida
clients, agents should not overlook the chance to suggest a visit
to a natural attraction, as well. These include caverns, Everglades
National Park, unspoiled seashore, state and national forests, a
giant sinkhole and bird sanctuaries. Following is a sampling of
* Florida Caverns State Park, north of Marianna, features seven
lighted cave rooms with stalactites, stalagmites and gray bats. For
information, call (904) 482-9114.
* Everglades National Park, with more than 1.4 million acres, is
closest to Miami, Naples and the Florida Keys. It has more than
3,000 species of birds, alligators and other animals; 465,000 acres
of sawgrass, 25 types of orchids and some 1,000 different
seed-bearing plants. The Shark Valley Visitor Center (south of
Naples) and the Main Visitor Center (west of Homestead) provide
good orientations. For information, call (800) 445-7724.
* Devil's Millhopper Sinkhole State Geological Site, northwest
of Gainesville, is 117 feet deep and is accessible by steps. For
information, call (904) 955-2008.
* Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary occupies 2,600 nautical square
miles on the Atlantic and Gulf sides of the Keys. Guests will find
fish, coral reefs, mangrove islands and seagrass beds. For
information, call the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key
Largo, (305) 451-1202.
*At the Florida Audubon Society-Madalyn Baldwin Center for Birds
of Prey, Maitland, visitors can see birds undergoing rehabilitation
for poisoning, wounds and ill health.
* Florida Space Coast visitors can take in Canaveral National
Seashore, the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge,
Scottsmoor Marsh and Turkey Creek, any of which can be combined
with a visit to the Kennedy Space Center near Titusville. Toured by
canoe, Turkey Creek is home to the West Indian manatee, alligators,
turtles and aquatic plantlife. For information, call (800)
93-OCEAN. The Best Western Space Shuttle Inn, Titusville, offers
seven-night commissionable Earthwalks packages to nature areas for
individuals and groups of eight or more. Fifteen-seat vans are used
for transportation. For price quotes, contact Els Van Engelenburg,
the inn's co-owner, at (407) 269-9100.
* The Conservancy of Southwest Florida's Naples Nature Center
borders a tidal lagoon and includes a natural-science museum with a
serpentarium, a 3,000-gallon aquarium, a wildlife rehabilitation
clinic, guided trail walks and free miniboat tours. Canoes and
kayak rentals are available throughout the year. For information,
call (941) 262-0304.
* The conservancy's Briggs Nature Center is the launching point
for canoe and boat rides to bird-watch and collect shells on Key
Island in Rookery Bay. For information, call (941) 775-8569.
* Big Cypress National Preserve in Ochopee, 35 miles south of
Naples, is home to alligators, herons, bald eagles and the
endangered Florida panther. For information, call (941)
* National Audubon Society's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary features
the largest strand of virgin bald cypress trees in the U.S. The
11,000-acre sanctuary, 20 miles north of Naples, offers a
self-guided tour on a newly extended 2.25-mile-long boardwalk. For
information, call (941) 657-3771.
* The Lee Island Coast (Fort Myers area) is home to the J.N.
"Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Calusa Nature Center,
Sanibel Island, shelling beaches and other areas. For a pocket-size
nature guide to the Lee Island Coast, call the Lee County Visitor
& Convention Bureau at (800) 533-4753, ext. 499.
* From the Anna Maria Island area (near Bradenton), Manatee
Airboat Tour operates one-hour trips to the barrier islands aboard
the six-passenger Turbulence. For information, call (941) 795-5353.
Also in the Bradenton area, the Cortez Fleet operates four-hour
boat trips on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays to Egmont Key, at the
mouth of Tampa Bay. A walking tour enables visitors to see remnants
of Fort Dade, built in 1900; a lighthouse; the endangered gopher
tortoise, and sea turtle nesting areas. The trips cost $14 for
clients age 15 and older; $12 for seniors, and $8 for children. For
information, call (941) 794-1223.