Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Naples, Florida

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is a must for nature lovers! Here’s a treat to satisfy your cravings for outdoor adventures and interactive learning experiences. Nestled in the heart of Southwest Florida in Collier County, Rookery Bay Reserve offers an array of wildlife and nature watching activities, recreational opportunities and interactive exhibits. It’s the perfect place for some quality time with Mother Nature and one of the finest ecotourism destinations near Naples, Florida. The Reserve is run through a partnership with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, which is dedicated to protecting the natural resources and wildlife in Southwest Florida.  There are two ways to experience Rookery Bay and its wonders: Interactive Exhibits at the Environmental Learning Center (ELC) and Outdoor Adventures at the 110,000-acre Reserve.

The ELC has four research laboratories, classrooms, and a 140-seat auditorium plus a two-story visitor center. The Visitors Center has a 2300-gallon aquarium, exhibits, hands-on experiences. You will also find a gallery and a picnic area.

Coastal Connections programs are available with admission. There are programs every day approximately 45 minutes in length at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They are presented by a team of naturalists who are well-versed on the creatures that inhabit our coastal areas.

The Environmental Learning Center at Rookery Bay Reserve is the place to be if you want to explore the reserve’s ecological diversity and scientific research through interactive exhibits and activities. The center focuses on environmental research, conservation, and education. Its exhibits feature the flora and fauna of the reserve’s estuary, mangrove habitat, upland hammock and lagoon. The center offers guided tours that explain the importance of these habitats and the wildlife that thrives there. If you are traveling with kids, they’ll love the interactive displays, puzzles and colorful exhibits that provide an immersive experience into the natural world.  The Environmental Learning Center has a 124-foot range of watercolor wildlife original by Kathy Spalding which is such a treasure and is an inviting entrance to the Center. Kathy’s work is available to the public in posters, note cards, and prints in the Palmetto Patch Nature Store.

For the more adventurous traveler, Rookery Bay Reserve offers plenty of outdoor activities that cater to all skill levels. Kayaking and canoeing at Rookery Bay Reserve are popular options to explore the tranquility of mangrove forests, coastal bays, and estuaries. If you are a fan of hiking, there are several well-marked trails that take you through natural landscapes and historic sites. The reserve also has cycling paths for those who prefer biking. For an ultimate nature immersion experience, try the Full Moon Kayak Tours offered once a month that allows the visitors to explore the reserve under the moonlight.

Rookery Bay Reserve is truly a natural paradise for bird watchers too. With over 150 species of birds that live in the reserve, it’s an oasis for enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys the beauty of these flying creatures. You can choose to take a birding tour and watch the birds in their natural habitat or go as a self-guided bird watcher. You can watch ospreys build their nests, see roseate spoonbills and herons wade in the shallow waters and get a glimpse of the great blue herons dive into water to catch fish.

If you want an educational experience combined with personal exploration, the Rookery Bay Reserve is the perfect destination for you. Visit the Environmental Learning Center and take a guided tour to learn more about Southwest Florida’s unique ecosystem. Take your family on a kayak adventure on the peaceful and pristine estuarine environment. Or just walk on the nature trails and enjoy the natural beauty of the mangrove trees and coastal vegetation. No matter how you explore Rookery Bay Reserve, you will leave with a deeper appreciation for the natural world around you.

Rookery Bay

Explore the Magnificent Coastal Bays, Mangrove Forests and Estuaries via Boat and Kayak Tours

Rookery Bay Reserve covers 110,000 acres of protected mangrove estuary, making it one of the largest undeveloped mangrove eco-systems in the United States. The Reserve is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, and over 150 species of birds. Visitors can explore the Reserve’s pristine natural habitat by taking a guided boat tour, kayaking, or hiking on one of the many nature trails.

Kayak Tours

Kayaking is a fantastic way to explore the beauty of Rookery Bay Reserve up close and personal. These tours, typically lasting between two and three hours, take you on a serene adventure through the inland waterways of Rookery Bay. You’ll be surrounded by stunning mangrove forests and have the chance to spot wildlife such as dolphins, manatees, and numerous bird species. The kayaks are easy to use, making it a perfect activity for all levels of experience. The tour guides are incredibly knowledgeable and will provide you with information about the history, geology, and ecology of the reserve. Additionally, they will also teach you tips on how to spot wildlife and ensure that you have a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

Boat Tours

For those who prefer a more leisurely tour, Rookery Bay Reserve boat tours are offered that allow you to sit back and relax while taking in the breathtaking views around you. These tours typically last two hours and take visitors along the backwaters of the reserve. The guides share their knowledge of the unique ecosystem and the wildlife that calls the area home, making it an educational experience. You can expect to see a variety of bird species, numerous mangrove islands, and potentially even a glimpse of the elusive manatee or dolphins. The comfortable boats are fitted with shaded seating areas, making it an enjoyable activity regardless of the weather.

Boaters meet and depart at the launch site: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL

Essence of the Estuary

The Essence of the Estuary tour is a three-hour eco-tour that takes you deep into the heart of the Rookery Reserve. During this tour, you get to explore the estuaries and bays of the reserve while learning about the unique plants, wildlife, and culture of the area. The tour guide shares their knowledge about the ecosystem that thrives in the Rookery Bay Reserve. You will see dolphins, manatees, birds of prey, and hundreds of other species.

Barrier Island Shelling

Barrier Island Shelling is a 3-hour boat tour where you get to go on a treasure hunt on the Ten Thousand Islands that are a part of the Rookery Bay Reserve. The barrier island excursion takes you on a scenic ride through the backwaters of the reserve, past wildlife, and deserted islands. Once you reach the Barrier Island, it’s time to start shelling where you will find beautiful shells that the tides deliver to the shore. Relax on the beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal clear gulf waters and collect beautiful shells to take home as a souvenir.

Ancient Island Excursion

The Ancient Island Excursion gives you the chance to explore the wilderness of the reserve. While on this tour, you will learn about the indigenous history of the reserve and the archeological specimens that can be found on Keewaydin Island. You will also see the beauty of sand dunes, mangroves, and ancient keepers of the forest that grow here. The Island is covered by a tropical grove with thick forests, that are hundreds of years old. It’s a journey through history and culture that you will never forget.

Sunset Bird Rookery Cruise

The Sunset Bird Rookery Cruise is a guided tour that offers a unique perspective on the birds that make their home in the reserve. It’s a two-hour tour where you will witness the beautiful sunset with an astonishing view over Rookery Bay Reserve. The tour guide will educate you on the behaviors and habitats of the hundreds of birds that you will see nesting and rookering. The tour is a perfect opportunity for bird lovers and nature enthusiasts alike who want to understand more about the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

Sunset to Full Moon Cruise

The Sunset to Full Moon Cruise is a two-hour tour where you can experience the sunset and the moonrise on the Rookery Reserve waterways. It’s a perfect opportunity to escape Naples’ busy city lights and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the reserve under the moonlight. The tour guide will show you around the reserve, where you can spot the creatures of the night, give a detailed stargazing commentary, and a relaxed atmosphere to sway to the tunes of the sunny dance music.

Rookery Bay Reserve

Established in 1978, Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is a unique and pristine ecosystem that protects and preserves numerous habitats. Rookery Bay Reserve is a place to experience nature, learn about local culture, and get involved in preserving the environment. It is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including over 150 species of birds, 110 species of fish, and 40 species of mammals. The reserve also has numerous hiking trails where visitors can explore and learn more about the area’s plant life and geology. Overall, Rookery Bay Reserve is a jewel of Naples and a must-visit destination for travelers looking for an immersive experience.

Environmental Learning Center

Be sure to stop by the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center to learn more about the ecology and history of the reserve. The center offers interactive displays, educational exhibits, and a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs related to Rookery Bay Reserve. The knowledgeable staff can answer any questions you may have about the reserve and their conservation efforts, including how you can contribute to their efforts.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve’s kayaking and boat tours are a must-do experience for anyone visiting Naples, Florida. The tours provide visitors with an immersive and unforgettable experience in a unique and pristine ecosystem. The expert guides and friendly staff at the Environmental Learning Center ensure that you will have a fun and educational experience. As you plan your itinerary in Naples, make sure to include Rookery Bay Reserve on your list of destinations.

Art Gallery

The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center Art Gallery is a must-visit spot for art lovers. This gallery showcases works of art created by some of the most talented artists from Southwest Florida and beyond. As you walk through the gallery, you will see stunning paintings, sculptures, and multimedia artworks that depict the beauty of nature and its inhabitants. These pieces of art are not just eye-catching, but they also carry a message about the importance of protecting our environment.

The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center Art Gallery is not just a display of beautiful artwork, but it is also an excellent opportunity for artists to showcase their work. This gallery accepts submissions from artists throughout the year, and selected works are displayed for the public to see. This opportunity for exposure and recognition is invaluable for emerging artists and helps them build their careers.

Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center

Friends of Rookery Bay

Friends of Rookery Bay, is an organization that offers a range of programs and events for nature enthusiasts of all ages.

Learn and Grow

The Friends offer a range of classes, lectures, and workshops that aim to educate visitors about the ecosystems, wildlife, and conservation efforts in the Rookery Bay Reserve. Whether you’re interested in birdwatching, fishing, or marine biology, you’ll find a program that suits your interests. The classes are taught by experienced naturalists and scientists who are passionate about sharing their knowledge and love for the environment. By joining the Friends, you’ll not only expand your horizons but also contribute to the protection of the reserve.

Connect with Like-Minded People

The Friends of Rookery Bay is a community of people who share a common passion for nature and the outdoors. By joining the organization, you’ll have the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who love exploring, learning, and preserving the beauty of Southwest Florida. Moreover, you’ll make friends who can accompany you on your adventures and enrich your experiences. The Friends offer social events, volunteer opportunities, and field trips that foster a sense of camaraderie and belonging.

Support the Future of Rookery Bay

The Rookery Bay’s a unique and valuable treasure that needs our protection and stewardship. The Friends of Rookery Bay play a vital role in supporting the conservation efforts of the reserve by funding research, habitat restoration, and education programs. Your membership fees and donations help sustain the long-term health of the reserve and ensure that future generations can enjoy its beauty and benefits. By joining the Friends, you become a part of a larger effort to preserve our planet’s biodiversity and natural resources.

Enjoy Exclusive Benefits

As a member of the Friends of Rookery Bay, you’ll enjoy a range of exclusive perks and benefits. You’ll receive discounts on educational programs, merchandise, and events. You’ll also receive a subscription to the Friends’ newsletter, which keeps you up-to-date with the latest news, research, and events related to the Rookery Bay Reserve. You’ll have access to guided tours, nature walks, and behind-the-scenes tours that are not available to the general public. Moreover, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re supporting a worthy cause and making a difference in your community.

Make Lasting Memories

Joining the Friends of Rookery Bay is not only about learning, exploring, and contributing but also about creating unforgettable memories. The reserve offers a wealth of opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and recreation. Whether you’re paddling through mangrove tunnels, watching dolphins play, or observing rare birds, you’ll experience moments of awe and wonder that will stay with you forever. And by sharing those moments with your fellow Friends, you’ll create bonds that transcend time and distance.

The Friends of Rookery Bay offer a unique and rewarding way to connect with nature and like-minded people while contributing to the preservation of a valuable ecosystem. By joining the organization, you’ll enrich your knowledge, skills, and experiences, and support a worthy cause. So, pack your sense of adventure, curiosity, and compassion, and join the Friends of Rookery Bay for an unforgettable journey.

How much does it cost to get into Rookery Bay?

General Admission

Adults: $10
Children Ages 6-12: $5
Children Under 6: FREE
Friends of Rookery Bay members: FREE
Association of Nature Center Administrators Reciprocal Program Members: FREE
Active and Retired Military personnel and family(up to 6 in total): FREE Year-Round

Environmental Learning Center hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and they are closed on Sunday and Monday.

Address: 300 Tower Road, Naples, Florida 34113

Phone Number: (239) 417-6310

What makes the Rookery Bay unique?

Rookery Bay is unique because it is one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America, providing critical habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species. It is also home to a diverse range of ecosystems, including seagrass beds, tidal flats, and upland hammocks, making it a vital resource for conservation and scientific research. Additionally, it is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and eco-tourism activities, and hands-on activities offering guests a chance to explore and experience the natural beauty of Southwest Florida.

What animals live in Rookery Bay?

Rookery Bay is home to a variety of animals including manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, alligators, birds (such as ospreys, herons, egrets, and pelicans), fish, and other marine life.

What are the invasive species in Rookery Bay?

There are several invasive species in Rookery Bay, including the Burmese python, Brazilian pepper, Australian pine, and the green iguana.