The Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters surrounding Marco Island, and has a mission to promote informed stewardship of estuaries through research and education. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center is a two-story exhibit hall that showcases the southwest Florida environment through hands-on exhibits, observation bridge, nature trail, daily educational programs, an art gallery, gift shop, daily guided kayak tours (registration required) and more!
300 Tower Road (off Collier Boulevard just south of US41) Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday Saturday. $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 6-12 and free for members. Admission fee included with all tours; preregistration required at www.rookerybay.org or 239.417.6310.
Explore the unique ecosystem of Rookery Bay Reserve via small boat tours, each with a maximum of only six passengers. These tours provide a chance to see and learn about a diversity of native wildlife, and offer a comfortable platform for photography. Tours are led by Rookery Bay Reserve’s former Assistant Manager Randy McCormick, a Certified Interpretive Guide, instructor in the Florida Master Naturalist program and fifth generation Floridian. $69 for Friends of Rookery Bay members, $79 for nonmembers. Proceeds from boat and kayak tours support the non-profit Friends of Rookery Bay, Inc. For schedule and registration visit www.rookerybay.org or call 239.417.6310.
(Nov. 5, 19)
Cruise the back bays and winding creeks of the Rookery Bay Reserve to visit one of the most unique areas of Southwest Florida. After disembarking, take a short hike to one of the highest points in Collier County, an ancient sand dune relic from the Pleistocene Era that is 25 feet above sea level. The view from the top of Sand Hill is remarkable in this predominantly flat landscape, where visitors can see and appreciate this rare and fragile coastal scrub. Access to this sensitive area is restricted to protect it from damage, so this tour allows guests the opportunity to experience this unusual place that very few visitors ever get to see. Participants must have the physical ability to get into and out of a boat tied up to the shore.
NEW! Treasure Island Boat Tour
(Nov. 6, 14, 20)
The treasure on this remarkable island isn’t gold, silver or pirates’ booty. It is the amazing ecological treasure of a very rare tropical hardwood hammock. Having been diminished due to past human activity, this rich biological community should be elevated from rare to priceless! Accordingly, the Reserve restricts public access to this area to protect it from damage. However, as our guest you will travel by boat to the island, disembark, and hike about ½ mile on primitive trails in a shaded forest dripping with ferns and bromeliads. This tour lasts approximately three hours and requires the physical ability to get into and out of a boat tied up to the shore and to walk ½ mile on uneven terrain. Closed-toed shoes are required.
History Mystery Boat Tour
(Nov. 7, 13, 21)
Explore Rookery Bay Reserve’s human and natural history during this 2 ½ hour small boat trip through the area and learn the mystery of how, where and why the people, plants and animals have been able to survive. Discover how the Calusa Indians responded to the arrival of Ponce de Leon and his fellow Spaniards. Find out where birds such as night heron go during the day. Discover why sea pork makes lousy bacon and what a “snack in the wrack” is all about. From early Native Americans to mullet millionaires, and from mud crabs to manatees, this tour is about exploring the mystery of history.
Participants must have the physical ability to step on and off of the boat at a dock.
Life is a Beach Boat
tour (Nov. 8, 15, 22)
Take a naturalist-led small boat tour and explore Keewaydin Island, a natural, living barrier island with an incredible diversity of life and some of the best shelling in Florida. Learn about waves, dunes, dune plants, drift algae, bivalves, crustaceans, corals, sea squirts, snails, sponges, worms, fishes, birds, reptiles and more. The 2 ½-hour trip includes time to stroll the beach with the naturalist and a cruise through the Rookery Bay mangrove estuary, one of the richest and most productive ecosystems on the planet. Participants must have the physical ability to step on and off of the boat at a dock.
Sunset to Starlight
This naturalist-led small boat adventure takes place once a month during the full moon, taking advantage of magical sunset hours when scores of birds fly back to their roosts in Rookery Bay Reserve. Stroll along a remote section of Keewaydin Island, renowned for its shell-strewn beaches and pastel sunsets. During the leisurely return cruise through the back bays of the reserve, become enveloped in the sights, sounds and sensations of night in a mangrove-forested estuary.
This tour lasts approximately three hours, and participants must have the physical ability to step on and off of the boat at a dock.