The Wonder Gardens in Bonita Spring is an iconic, old Florida attraction that features a zoological park with hundreds of birds and reptiles, and a botanical garden with beautiful specimens of flowers and plants.
In operation since its 1936 establishment, The Wonder Gardens is an enjoyable setting for roaming alongside peacocks who share your sidewalks; for learning about unique species of flora, fauna, birds, and reptiles; and for photographing the many treasures found throughout the property.
If you haven’t visited The Wonder Gardens, I highly recommend it. Pathways wind through this beautiful place that was started 85 years ago by the Piper family. Back then, it was named The Reptile Gardens, and it was a roadside attraction on the newly built Tamiami Trail (US 41) from Tampa to Miami. (Its location now is designated as on Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs.)
This post today by The Daily Artisan is the second in a series of “VISIT” places I go and photograph. I’m pleased to share The Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs. The VISIT series’ first installment was the Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens in Punta Gorda, and each VISIT post ends with links to all the properties visited.
Today was not my first opportunity to visit The Wonder Gardens, and I enjoy it each time with camera in hand. If you’re looking for a Disney World kind of experience, this isn’t the place. However, if you’re looking for a true old Florida landmark that’s one of the last remaining historic roadside attractions in our state, you’ve found the place.
The sprawling property is full of lush, native landscaping, including massive banyan trees that reach to the sky. Rescued and rehabilitated animals throughout The Wonder Gardens don’t seem to mind the tourists, and it always makes me laugh when I’m walking in lockstep with a beautifully plumed peacock!
You can learn a lot about nature and conservation at The Wonder Gardens. Wooden signs with educational information dot the property, and staff present informative and interactive experiences. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve been impressed by the staff’s friendly and helpful ways in welcoming and assisting the guests.
Volunteer and internship opportunities are available, and additional information can be found on The Wonder Gardens website (see below). You also can learn about all kinds of events and programs held onsite, including camps; guided tours; and weekly “Yoga & Peacocks” classes held on the Butterfly Green!
Although my camera is trained on the flowers, plants, birds and reptiles, I also informally people watch – and I’ve seen WONDER on the faces of all ages from grandparents to small children as they experience such closeup natural beauty. Today I smiled each time a young child would march up to an animal or bird and say, for example, “Hey, Mr. Turtle!” or “Hey, Mr. Bird!”
My favorite was a little boy around the age of five years old who walked up to turtles climbing up a log and proudly (and quite loudly) announced, “WE ARE THE TOURISTS!” – perhaps repeating something his parents had said while instructing him to respect the animals and birds!
There are benches and seats located all over the property for taking a resting moment or just taking a moment to take it all in. You’ll also find a Natural History Museum; the Wonder Shoppe for gifts and souvenirs; and plants for sale. The Wonder Gardens also has private rental space indoors and outdoors for weddings, dinners, and other special events.
So, what’s my favorite part about The Wonder Gardens? It’s a tough call, but I’d say it’s a tie between Flamingo Lagoon (what camera can resist the amusing contortions of a flamingo!), and the beautiful flowers and plants on the property.
Today I also got to watch a funny show of two white ducks who spent 15 minutes energetically dunking their heads under water in the lagoon and coming up enthusiastically shaking the water all over themselves for what I think was a bath!
Admission to The Wonder Gardens can be by single-day ticket, or you can purchase an annual membership for free visits; gift shop discounts; reciprocal admission (free or reduced price) with other nature centers and botanical gardens; and more.
We need to visit and support this local landmark so all those excited children I saw today can be assured of the opportunity to one day bring their children to The Wonder Gardens!
I’m looking forward to visiting different parks, zoos, gardens, beaches, and towns for The Daily Artisan blog’s VISIT (occasional) series, and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about The Wonder Gardens from my visit there today.
Visit The Wonder Gardens – you’ll enjoy this natural treasure in Southwest Florida!
The Wonder Gardens is located at 27180 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs, Florida 34135. For more information, call 239-992-2591 (x205), or visit http://wondergardens.org.
VISIT is a new series of blog posts about visited and photographed locations in Southwest Florida and beyond by The Daily Artisan. The posts can be viewed on my website at:
- Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens (Punta Gorda, Florida): VISIT: Peace River Botanical & Sculpture Gardens
- The Wonder Gardens (Bonita Springs, Florida): VISIT: The Wonder Gardens