Jacob Winge describes A piece of Old Florida

In 1936, brothers Bill and Lester Piper established The Reptile Gardens as a roadside attraction along the newly built Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami. For eighty-four years the Everglades Wonder Gardens has inspired, cultivated and engaged our Southwest Florida community with our one-of-a-kind experience and a new era of wonder has begun.

We have recently been energized with new leadership and would like to invite our community to join us as volunteers! We are establishing new programs and revenue streams and building key partnerships with other mission-focused organizations, our business community, PreK-12th and higher education institutions.

As the animal and botanical exhibits grew, the attraction’s name was changed to the Everglades Wonder Gardens to better reflect the experience available to guests. The Wonder Gardens also became known for its wildlife rehabilitation programs. For three generations under the ownership of the Piper family, the Wonder Gardens captured the nostalgia, history and wonder of Florida augmented with tropical flora and fauna from around the world.

In 2014, a group of residents formed the Bonita Wonder Gardens Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. With generous financial assistance, in the form of a $3.5 million loan from the City of Bonita Springs, the new organization was able to purchase the property and business assets from the Piper family in April 2015, saving it from potential commercial development. Thus, began a new chapter for this beloved historic attraction.

While preserving the very best of the historic roadside attraction, the non-profit is upgrading wildlife enclosures, nurturing the botanical beauty of the property, adding education programs and events, and further engaging the community to enjoy this jewel in historic downtown Bonita Springs. Today, the Gardens are home to rescued birds and reptiles nestled among the old growth plants.

A cultural icon, the Everglades Wonder Gardens stands as one of the few remaining keystones of Old Florida. The significance of this time period, roughly the turn of the 20th century dotted with land booms through the 1970s, has made us the Florida we are today.

Roadside attractions like the Everglades Wonder Gardens stand as a testament of time to quaint fishing towns, sepia toned postcards, and peculiar tourist attractions. Here, we tell a story there are few left to tell while educating our region on our important environment and wildlife. The mission of the Everglades Wonder Gardens is to build upon the legacy of its past and to be a botanical, historical, environmental, educational, recreational, and wildlife resource that offers residents and visitors a unique cultural experience.

Visitors can enjoy new exhibits such as The Ernie and Sandie Schaub Butterfly and Orchid Pavilion, The Terry and Arlene Riegel Lorikeet Pavilion and the Robert and Karin Moe Tea House – the perfect destination wedding and event venue!

In 2021 the Wonder Gardens will debut the new Environmental Learning Center which will host lectures, exhibits, PreK-12 programs, STEM camps, and lifelong-learning education for all ages!

Jacob Winge

We believe that volunteers are the lifeblood of our growing nonprofit. Whether you have a green thumb, a love for animals, enjoy education or just love the outdoors, opportunities abound to preserve our historical zoological park. We are seeking your support and involvement with many fun opportunities.

Please contact us at volunteers@evergladeswondergardens.com for more information. 

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