Fort Lauderdale, FL | Nature & Wildlife

Nature & Wildlife in Fort Lauderdale

From the Atlantic Ocean to the Everglades, Fort Lauderdale has plenty of options for getting in touch with nature.

Fort Lauderdale is an action-packed beach city with 24-hour restaurants and endless entertainment options among the high rise hotels and multi-million dollar homes. However, there are several places where it’s easy to escape the nonstop action and simply enjoy the beauty of plants and animals in their native habitats.

The Beach Fort Lauderdale Beach

Fort Lauderdale’s public beach spans more than seven miles of coastline along highway A1A. The areas along the beachfront promenade with shops, restaurants and hotels are typically more crowded, with the beach in front of the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park often a bit quieter. There are 15 year-round, permanently staffed lifeguard stands along two miles of the beach, with up to 10 additional stands staffed during peak seasons, special events and holidays.  While there may not be obvious abundant wildlife, keep an eye out for areas of the sand that are roped off – those are sea turtle nesting areas. At night, the harsh glare of streetlights is exchanged for soft ambient lighting along the wide pedestrian sidewalk to help protect the sea turtles as the babies hatch and head to the ocean.

Flamingo Gardens

The Flamingo Gardens, about 20 miles inland from Fort Lauderdale Beach, features 60 acres of lush botanical gardens and a wildlife sanctuary. Visitors can find more than 3,000 species of rare and exotic tropical, subtropical and native plants and trees, as well as the largest collection of Florida native wildlife, including alligators, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacocks and flamingos. Since 1927, this attraction and citrus grove has been preserving the flora and fauna of south Florida and is home to the largest single-trunk tree in the state as well as one of the largest raptor collections in the country.

Group of red flamingosVisitors can see the residents of the sanctuary up close with wildlife encounter shows, presented daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. These fun and informative shows feature birds of prey, mammals and reptiles native to the area. Hop on a tram sit back and relax while you enjoy a narrated ride through 42 remote acres of the gardens. Take in the sights of some of the last original jungle growth in south Florida and disembark for a stroll at the Wetlands Walkway or the Pioneer Walkway. The tram is about 25 minutes long (without stops) and leaves every hour and half hour throughout the day.

In addition to the outdoor attractions, the Wray Home Museum sits in the centerpiece of the gardens, amid 200-year-old live oak trees thriving with orchids and epiphytes. The home, built in 1933, is one of the oldest in the country and is open to the public with guided tours from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily.

The wildlife encounters, tram tours and house museum tours are included with admission to the gardens.

Sawgrass Recreation Park

It wouldn’t be a trip to south Florida if you didn’t take a trek into the Everglades, and Sawgrass Recreation Park has plenty to offer visitors staying in Fort Lauderdale for a few hours or a half day trip. Previously a fishing camp, the park started offering airboat tours in the 1970s. Over the decades the park has expanded, and in recent years has increased its animal rescue efforts, eco initiatives and community involvement through scholarships and partnerships with local schools.Airboat Aerial

The 30 minute airboat tour is guided by an experienced captain who will narrate with fun and impressive facts about this unique ecosystem as well as a bit of the area’s history. You may spot wildlife such as alligators, birds, fish and turtles.

If you’re not into staying out in the Florida sun, take a night time adventure that includes a full hour of gliding across the glassy waters and learning about the lush wilderness surrounding you. Private and small group tours are also available during the day and after dark for an even more customized experience.

Included with the cost of the tour are the exhibits featuring reptiles and mammals, both those local to the Everglades and some more exotic species. From friendly turtles and iguanas to alligators and snakes, the reptile exhibit and shows will wow the whole family. Panthers, bobcats and leopards are some of the featured mammals at the park, and a Glades video presentation provides some education about important conservation issues surrounding the fragile ecosystem and the creatures that call it home.

Good to know: Tours leave every 20 minutes throughout the day and each boat accommodates approximately 15-25 guests. While the boat offers a smooth ride and is enjoyable for all ages, they are loud. Ear protection is provided for all those who want it, and children under 6 must wear a provided life jacket.

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