Go Beyond the Beaches: 3 Attractions to Explore on Florida’s Islands

Many people visit Florida and its islands because of the beautiful sandy beaches, but there is much more to do in Florida than swim and sunbathe. From great dining options to cool shops, culture experiences, and outdoor adventure, there is a little something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo, as a couple, or with your family, there is plenty to do and see. So put on some shades and a good hat and head out to explore Florida’s islands. Go beyond the beaches and check out these three great attractions.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is nestled on the beautiful subtropical island of Sanibel, just off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The popular refuge is part of the biggest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the entire United States. It’s world renowned for its amazing migratory bird populations with well over 245 species of birds. It includes about 6,400 acres of fascinating mangrove forest and lush cordgrass marshes. Approximately 2,800 acres of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge are protected as a Federal Wilderness Area, so it’s a great place to spend a day relaxing in nature. Plus, there are plenty of great places nearby to spend the night.

Pine Island Aquatic Preserve

Image via Flickr by caligula1995

Charming and quiet, Pine Island may only be about 30 minutes from Fort Myers, but it feels like they’re a world apart. The stunning beauty, great fishing, and wildlife viewing opportunities have a way of calming your nerves and refreshing your spirit. The pristine waterways of Matlacha Pass in the Pine Island Aquatic Preserve are perfect for kayaking, paddle boarding, and canoeing. As the biggest island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Pine Island surprisingly still provides a peaceful small-town feel. The three large aquatic preserves and acres and acres of gorgeous tropical plants and fruit groves provide endless photo opportunities.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge got its unique start during the development of our nation’s Space Program. In 1962, NASA purchased about 140,000 acres of land and marshes next to Cape Canaveral. NASA built a launch complex and other space-related facilities, but most of the surrounding land sat unused. In 1975, NASA established Canaveral National Seashore, and today, the Department of Interior has opened most of the vacant area around the Kennedy Space Center to the public as a National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge provides ample opportunity for bird watching, nature walks, and kayaking.

If you’re planning a trip to Florida, why not give yourself some extra time to bask in the pristine natural beauty of some of Florida’s barrier islands? These unspoiled places are a wonderful place to relax in the outdoors and rediscover your wild side. From quite walks to bird watching, canoeing, and wildlife viewing, there’s a ton of great ways to take in the stunning beauty of the islands. You can explore on your own or take a guided tour with many of the guide services available.