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Top 10 Nature & Eco Tours

Destination(s): Florida Keys

The Keys have celebrated over a century of heritage of conservation and protection of natural resources, demonstrating the region’s commitment to environmental stewardship and the future of the island chain. Choose from an appealing variety of public parks and environmentally oriented eco-attractions. You can pick one, or pick them all to include on your next trip! read more about Top 10 Nature & Eco Tours

Turtle Hospital

Turtle Hospital

Educational tours of the facility are offered to introduce visitors to the resident sea turtles and to the hospital's curative programs for loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. Moretti credits Dr. Doug Mader, the hospital's current staff veterinarian, for bringing the facility to its present level. In addition to turtle rehabilitation and public education, the Turtle Hospital's goals include conducting and assisting with research that aids sea turtles in conjunction with state universities, and working toward environmental legislation that makes beaches and water safer and cleaner for sea turtles. read more about Turtle Hospital

Key West National Wildlife Refuge

Key West National Wildlife Refuge

  • P.O. Box 430510
  • tel:305-872-2239
  • Big Pine Key, 33043-0510

Key West National Wildlife Refuge is located off the western shores of Key West in the Florida Keys in Monroe County, Florida. The refuge includes the islands of the "Lakes" and the "Marquesas, all of which have been designated a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The islands of the refuge contain mostly mangrove habitat, although of primary importance to some species are a few beaches and salt ponds. Red mangrove forests constitute all or part of the vegetation on most of the islands. More than 250 avian species have been recorded in the refuges in the lower Florida Keys including Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge and National Key Deer Refuge.

In addition to providing nesting habitat for a variety of birds, the refuges provide important loafing and feeding areas for magnificent frigates, migrant shorebirds, terns, raptors, and waterfowl like the red-breasted merganser. Extensive beaches are found on a few islands and are an imperative habitat for shore birds and nesting endangered Atlantic green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill sea turtles.

Salt ponds, impounded from open water by storm created berms, are a particularly important habitat for piping plovers, terns, stilts, and a variety of wading birds, including reddish egrets. In addition to sea turtles, the indigenous mangrove terrapin is another notable reptile using the refuge.

With the exception of portions of a couple islands, the refuge beaches are open to public access for wildlife-dependent activities such as wildlife observation and personal photography. Closed areas are clearly marked. The refuge is only accessible by boat. Jet propelled personal watercraft, seaplane landings, water-skiing, airboats, and hovercraft are prohibited as per an agreement between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Florida in 1992.

The Key West National Wildlife Refuge offers a visitor center on the mainland introducing and outlining visitation of the refuge islands. Paddling, nature photography and wildlife viewing opportunities are supreme. Certain areas are off-limits to visitors. These are usually wildlife nesting areas. Sea kayaking is a favorite area recreation offering a relaxing way to explore some of Florida's most pristine reaches. Outfitters dot US 1 providing guides along with gear necessary to reach the backcountry of the Keys. Excursions take the visitor to shallow flats where creatures such as spiny lobsters, stone crabs, barracudas, stingrays, and sea stars may be observed. The abundant birdlife is particularly enjoyed through a good pair of binoculars. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very popular recreations as well; rental gear is offered through private outfitters.

The Key West National Wildlife Refuge is an area of water and land stretching 25 miles west of the resort town of Key West. The refuge encompasses the "Lakes" and the "Marquesas." Boat access only. Watch for restrictive signage.

read more about Key West National Wildlife Refuge

National Key Deer Refuge

National Key Deer Refuge

  • 28950 Watson Boulevard
  • Big Pine Key Plaza
  • tel:+1 305 872 2239
  • Visit website
  • Big Pine Key, 33043

The National Key Deer Refuge consists of approximately 9,200 acres of land that includes mangrove forests, freshwater and salt marsh wetlands, pine rockland forests and tropical hardwood hammocks, as well as more than 75,000 acres of state waters co-managed to support refuge objectives. Shallow nearshore waters are included as well. These native habitats sustain the tiny Key deer, a subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer, and 21 other threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Since the refuge was established, the Key deer, once nearing extinction because of over-hunting and habitat loss, has rebounded to a healthy population of between 600 and 700 animals. The refuge, which is over 50 years old, is also a stopping point for thousands of migratory birds each year, and a winter home to many North American bird species including the roseate tern and peregrine falcon. Birdwatching is one of the world's largest participatory sports, and the Keys are an ideal location for it, year-round. read more about National Key Deer Refuge

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Visit the Dry Tortugas by charter boat, catamaran or (my favorite) high-speed ferry. The trip is a well-spent day and the crew of Yankee Freedom II knows how to show you a good time. Once at the fort, you can camp overnight on its small beach, or snorkel for a while among the nearby corals. The Yankee Freedom II is state-of-the-art comfort, lunch is included, you cannot go wrong! Even among residents of the Keys, this is one of the favorite things to do with family and friends that visit, or to just a wile away a day exploring, away from phones and work. Book before 3p.m. the day before you want to go! read more about Dry Tortugas National Park

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden

  • 1 Free School Lane
  • tel:+1 305 294 0015
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Key West Bike Tour

Key West Bike Tour

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

  • 1316 Duval Street
  • tel:+1 305 296 2988
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040

There's just something awesome about butterflies – they represent rebirth, natural beauty, quiet strength. At the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, visitors get to walk among hundreds of butterflies in their natural habitats. Stunning, is the best way to describe it. What I did not know was that these butterflies were not gathered from the wild (Key West is as far south as you can get in the US, so it seems we have to get everything shipped in!), but it turns out that the captive breeding of butterflies is best suited for tropical climates like the Keys, and "overage" gets released into the wild to help culture our native trees, plants and shrubs. It's a fascinating place. Hours 9a.m.–5p.m. daily. Admission $12, children 4-12 $8.50, seniors and military $9, children four and under, free.
read more about Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site

Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site

  • P.O. Box 1052
  • 1 Mile West
  • tel:+1 305 664 4815 / +1 305 664 9814
  • Islamorada, 33036
Long Key Canoe Trail

Long Key Canoe Trail

Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys

Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys

  • Mile Marker 50.5 Bayside
  • 5550 Overseas Highway
  • tel:+1 305 743 9100
  • Visit website
  • Marathon, 33050