Exploring the outdoors is the perfect activity this summer. And you don’t have to go far—Naples is within easy driving distance of several state and national parks. “If you’re into hiking, swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, or any other outdoor recreation, there are opportunities for them here,” says Alex Levine, education manager at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples.
Spending time outdoors is also good for your health. A study published in Landscape and Urban Planning indicated that walking in natural areas decreased anxiety and rumination. Other research has found that being in nature is associated with improved health and increased levels of connectivity in general. Levine adds that health perks come from both “green spaces” and “blue spaces,” so you’ll benefit whether you visit an inland forest or the ocean.
One great way to elevate your nature excursions is through journaling. You can purchase a dedicated journal from My Bucket Journals, complete with lists of parks, as well as places to record information, plan your visit, and reflect on your experience.
Here are Levine’s recommendations for parks and preserves in Southwest Florida:
Levine says two incredible nearby areas are Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and Big Cypress National Preserve in the western Everglades. “There’s nothing else like it, not just in Florida, but on the planet,” he notes.
On the coast, he suggests visiting the Ten Thousand Islands and J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. Besides being great spots for birders, “it’s just amazing to paddle among the mangroves,” he says. “It’s so peaceful and beautiful.”
If you haven’t been to Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, add it to your list. “The swimming there is beautiful, and inevitably you see dolphins and all types of birds,” says Levine. He adds that the park, which is just north of Naples, is often overlooked by tourists, making it an even more special place to escape into nature.