Located in southwest Florida between Naples and Fort Myers, Bonita Springs is known for its pristine stretches of beach and is a magnet for golfers, fishermen, and all-around lovers of the great outdoors.
Bonita Springs is in Lee County, and at the time of the last census, had a population of slightly more than 43,000 residents.
With a variety of state parks nearby as well as cultural, art, and historical attractions, finding fun ways to fill your time won’t be a problem, regardless of your budget and interests.
Below are 15 fun and educational things to do in and around Bonita Springs, Florida.
1. Riverside Park
Located along US Route 41 in Bonita Springs, Riverside Park is on the scenic Imperial River. In addition to its natural beauty and variety of outdoor recreation options, it’s also well-known as the venue for a variety of shows, festivals, and live entertainment events that take place at various times of the year.
The park’s amenities include an outdoor amphitheater, plenty of covered seating areas, and restrooms. It’s the perfect place to spend a few hours.
There’s also a historic hotel from the ‘20s, part of which functions as a museum. On the fourth Wednesday of each month, there’s a popular art night that brings artists and art lovers together as few other places do.
2. Bonita Fairways Golf Course
For golf loving travelers, the Sunshine State’s near overabundance of courses can be mind-boggling. For those visiting Bonita Springs who’d rather not spend a fortune, Bonita Fairways Golf Course would be a great option.
Though it features 18 holes, it’s short at just 3,400 yards, which makes it the perfect course for those who don’t want to spend four or five hours of their day chasing around a little white ball.
Most rounds can be played in significantly less time than on a 6,000 or 7,000-yard course, and it’s okay if you’d rather just play nine holes.
Lessons are available and may be booked in increments of one to five days.
3. Mound Key State Park
Nearly 500 years ago, the first Spanish explorers set foot on Florida’s shores. Back then, the land around Bonita Springs was inhabited by the Calusa Native Americans.
Their name means ‘fierce people,’ and they probably weren’t too thrilled with having a bunch of strange looking Europeans showing up uninvited.
Mound Key State Park is comprised of more than 100 acres on Estero Bay and is home to the famous mounds created by the Calusas.
Mound Key is an island and is best reached by guided tour. There are a few options available; most depart from nearby Key and Koreshan State Parks.
4. Barefoot Beach Preserve
Located on Barefoot Beach Boulevard in nearby Naples, Barefoot Beach Preserve is Collier County’s premier destination for those looking to experience nature that’s remained largely unchanged by the hands of man.
Comprised of over 300 acres, the beach preserve is on a barrier island and is about as undeveloped as you’re likely to find anywhere in the area.
Visitors won’t find Ferris wheels, stylish coffee shops, or Gucci outlets, but for sunbathers, shell collectors, and all-around nature lovers, it’s the place to be.
The preserve includes bathrooms, a few food and drink concessions, and ample parking.
Visitors are reminded not to feed any of the preserve’s animals.
5. Everglades Wonder Gardens
With a history that dates back nearly eight decades, the Everglades Wonder Garden was the brainchild of two brothers who wanted to build a reptile zoo as an attraction for visiting tourists.
Located on Old 41 Road in Bonita Springs, Everglades Wonder Gardens has evolved into a small zoo and botanical gardens that all these years later are still popular attractions.
The gardens are the perfect place for families with children to spend a few hours. In addition to their gardens and live animals, the staff offer a variety of educational, engaging, and interactive activities that are appropriate for children of most ages.
6. Flamingo Island Flea Market
For visitors with the time and patience required to sift through acres and acres of items, flea markets can be a fun activity; you never know when you’re going to stumble across the proverbial diamond in the rough.
Featuring more than 500 vendors selling everything from jewelry, tools, and vintage clothing to records, books, and sports equipment, the flea market may have precisely what you’ve been looking for – then again, it may not, but not knowing is half the fun.
There are plenty of eateries and traditional retail stores nearby worth checking out when you’re finished. The Flamingo Island Flea Market hosts a variety of special events as well, so check online or ask a local before heading out.
7. Congo River Golf
Sporting an African exploration theme that hearkens back to the days of Stanley and Livingstone, Congo River Golf is a popular, family-friendly destination that’s the perfect place to spend a few hours when you’re tired of the sun, sand, and surf.
Each of the course’s holes features fun and tricky hazards that make them challenging, to say the least. Waterfalls, caves, and dense jungles are all part of the scenery.
Like most mini-golf courses, Congo River can get jam-packed during peak times, so if you’d rather avoid the masses, consider stopping by during the week or when they first open.
8. Rodes Fresh and Fancy
Located on Bonita Springs Road SW, Rodes Fresh and Fancy is part farmer’s market and part full-service restaurant, both of which are popular for their friendly and laidback atmospheres, reasonable prices, and a wide variety of fresh, locally-grown produce and prepared food items like jam and salsa.
They’re particularly well-known for their Florida key lime pies and some of the city’s most fantastic seafood.
The farmer’s market portion of the facility is open every Saturday from October until April. In addition to fruits and vegetables, you can find arts and crafts and other locally-made odds-and-ends that make perfect gifts and keepsakes.
9. Bonita Jet Ski and Parasail
For those looking to experience Florida’s amazing coastal vistas in more unique and exhilarating ways than by just walking along the beach, parasailing and jet-skiing would be perfect.
Bonita Jet Ski and Parasail has been in business since 1988 and has a long list of happy customers; many of them come back year after year.
For less hearty travelers who are intimidated by powerful machines and towering heights, there are alternative recreation options as well; they include guided dolphin watching tours, paddleboard excursions, and sailboat trips.
Check out their website for hours, prices, and a full list of options.
10. Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly Garden
Located on Rose Garden Road in Cape Coral’s Rotary Park, Tom Allen Memorial Butterfly Garden is comprised of cultivated gardens and a variety of environments, where different butterfly species hatch and mature before being released back into the wild.
For those traveling with kids, there are few better places to visit; children are mesmerized by the colorful insects, and it’s one of those rare places that’s both engaging and educational.
Tours are offered on Monday, Friday, and Saturday mornings and guests will learn about the insects’ lifecycles and the amazing migrations some of them make every year.
11. Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library
Cape Coral’s Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library is focused on honoring the area’s long military tradition, especially the men and women who’ve served bravely in a variety of roles over the years.
Items on display include photographs, weapons, and the first-hand accounts of those who’ve served in nearly every conflict dating back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Admission is free, making it an especially attractive destination for military and history buffs who are traveling on limited budgets.
The museum hosts an array of special events throughout the year and is located on Leonard Street in Cape Coral.
12. Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery
Florida and the nearby Caribbean islands have always been rum country; for centuries, the coastline was crawling with smugglers transporting the popular liquor that was distilled with island sugarcane.
Though Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery doesn’t employ pirates to transport their products, it’s well-known to locals that there’s no better place to check out for those looking to experience rum in all its fiery and tasty forms.
The distillery is located on SW 3rd Place in Cape Coral If you’d like a facility tour, they’re offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
It’s a fascinating look at an age-old process that miraculously transforms mundane ingredients into a yummy intoxicant.
13. Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve
Featuring a variety of Florida critters like snakes, turtles, eagles, and wading birds, Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is spread over more than 350 acres. It includes areas of marshland, forests, and river that are wonderlands for outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes.
The preserve sports a network of trails that are open to hikers and bikers, and the waterways are best explored by kayak, which are available to rent on site.
Check out the visitor center first to get an overview of the area. Waterways can be confusing for the directionally challenged, and rescue by Coast Guard helicopter is nothing short of embarrassing.
14. Big Storm Coffee and Creamery
Clearwater’s Big Storm Coffee and Creamery is known for its mind-numbing array of coffee products, and they’re all made with craft-roasted beans.
From cappuccino and espresso to a good old carafe of traditional French press java, there’s a little something for every one of your caffeine-addicted travel companions – they offer tasty baked goods too.
Not surprisingly for a creamery, they’re also well-known for their homemade ice creams, many of which come in crazy beer-inspired flavors that are alcohol-free and one-of-a-kind concoctions that you won’t find elsewhere.
Stop by for jolts of sugar and caffeine after a long day of visiting the area’s tourist sites.
15. Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
At more than 25,000 acres, the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge is large by any standards; it’s the state’s largest tract of preserved land that’s dedicated to protecting the rare Florida Panther.
Though refuge visitors rarely see the elusive cats, that’s a good thing, because male Florida Panthers can weigh more than a grown man and they aren’t too particular about what they eat.
The trails are well-marked and lead through a variety of environments; it’s not uncommon to see lots of forest animals.
The refuge’s entrance is near the junction of Interstate 75 and State Road 29.