Babcock Wilderness Adventures offers a glimpse of the real, old Florida. Billed as Florida’s #1 Eco Tour, the Crescent B Ranch, a working range owned by the Babcock family, sprawls across 90,000 acres in Charlotte County. On the 90-minute tour, you’ll travel in shaded comfort through a Florida cypress swamp aboard a swamp buggy as guides make the woods come alive.
Alligators abound, often coming within a few yards of the buggies. You’ll see woodland animals such as panthers, deer and bison up close and natural. There’s even a three-horned cow named Lulu.
Later, browse through the Babcocks’ Old Country Store, or sample native Cracker cuisine in the food service area, a rustic, natural wood building nestled under tall southern slash pines. Or visit the bunkhouse, for years the cultural center of the Crescent B.
The entrance is on State Road 31 about seven miles north of the Lee County Civic Center in North Fort Myers. Tours are by reservation and every day is different, call for rates. Phone: 1-800-500-5583.
On your way to the Babcock Ranch, you might stop off at the Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary and Rehabilitation Center, just off State Road 31, which has a host of animals, many of which are retired circus performers. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends. Donations are requested. Five miles north of the Lee County Civic Center on S.R. 31 in North Fort Myers. Phone 543-1130.
Wooten’s Total Everglades Adventure, on the Tamiami Trail at Ochopee south of Naples, is an animal sanctuary and exhibit offering airboat and swamp buggy tours through the swamp. At Wooten’s compound, you can see exhibits of native animals, ‘gator wrestling and a lake so populated with alligators you could walk across it on them and stay dry (not suggested). Take I-75 south to Exit 15, then S.R. 951 south to the Tamiami Trail. Turn east and go to Ochopee, which, incidentally, has the smallest post office in the United States. Open daily. Children under 6 free. Tours leave every 30 minutes. Gift, souvenir shop and snack bar.
Everglades National Park and Boat Tours feature a scenic boat ride through the famed ecosystem. Tours include the Ten Thousand Islands, wilderness and shelling trips. Located just south of Everglades City, a short drive from Naples. Phone (800)445-7724.