Posted by Mark Washburn on Monday, January 25, 2016 at 9:23:35 AM By Mark Washburn / January 25, 2016 Comment
With a rich history harking back to the days of Old Florida, the Everglades Wonder Gardens appeals to visitors young and old. This landmark is an historic 80-year old roadside attraction that captures the nostalgia, history and botanical wonders of Florida. It’s a jewel of a place in downtown Bonita Springs. Visitors start inside the Natural History Museum that displays plants and wildlife exhibits collected by the founders of the Gardens. The journey continues outside across three-and-a-half acres of native trees and plants in addition to specimens collected internationally. Trees have grown into a lush canopy in addition to beautiful orchids, bamboos, and other specimens. Visitors will also engage with rescued birds, reptiles, and other wildlife. The Gardens today are home to exotic birds and reptiles surrounded among native plants. Exhibits now provide an interactive experience with such features as a walk-in aviary, new fencing to provide better views, alligators, flamingo pond, tortoise exhibits, butterfly garden, orchid trail, and Imperial River views. The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is located between Fort Myers and Naples in historic downtown Bonita Springs on Old 41 Road. It is open daily. A gift shop is filled with Wonder Gardens-themed items. Brothers Bill and Lester Piper established the original roadside attraction in 1936 as a place where visitors could enjoy the animals, trees, and plants of Southwest Florida. The Gardens became known in later years for its wildlife rehabilitation programs. Last year, a local group of residents formed the Bonita Wonder Gardens, Inc., to save it from potential commercial development. The non-profit is working on restoring wildlife enclosures, preserving the botanical beauty and adding educational programs. Three generations of the Piper family owned the Wonder Gardens. The property was leased to nature photographer John Brady who worked to continue the focus of the Wonder Gardens and arranged a loan from the city to purchase the property and manage it with the nonprofit organization to repair exhibits, modernize it, and hold true to the Piper Brothers dream.
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