It’s the Amazon of North America, catching orchid lover’s fancies thanks to the best-seller The Orchid Thief (and its bizarre movie version, Adaptation). Protecting more than 85,000 acres, Fakahatchee Strand is Florida’s largest state preserve and most certainly our wildest.
Fees: free. $3 to drive Jane’s Scenic Drive. Donation appreciated at Big Cypress Bend
Open: 8 AM until sunset daily
Leashed pets welcome
The botanical delights of this watery wilderness include the largest number of the United States rarest species, including a record number of Florida royal palms, endemic freshwater sponges, fourteen types of native bromeliads and 44 different species of orchids, including the holy grail of orchid-lovers, the elusive ghost orchid (Dendrophylax lindenii).
Exploring this vast wild place takes a bit of nerve and wilderness savvy, except for one gentle introduction: the Big Cypress Bend boardwalk off US 41 west of Everglades City. This half mile elevated walkway winds between ancient bald cypress shaggy with bromeliads.
Inside the main entrance, Janes Scenic Drive off SR 29 is the primary access to the wild, a narrow road where you just enjoy the drive, or pull off in a few designated spots to walk out on an old logging tramway into the tropical hammock.
Guided walks are offered during certain seasons; call ahead or check in at the park office for details.
Explore the park
- Adding to the Life List- Although John is a native Floridian, our research trip to South Florida became an opportunity for him to see many natural "firsts" in Florida that most people have on their life lists.
- Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk- East of Naples, the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park offers a peek into a notable natural landmark, a stand of virgin cypress.
- Stranding Steves at Fakahatchee- Exploring Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park for a chapter of a new book we're writing, a pair of park rangers named Steve guide us to the park's beauty spots
- The Ghost Orchid- On a guided swamp walk into the Fakahatchee Strand, I discover how difficult it is to spot a ghost orchid on your own, let alone keep your bearings in this tangled tropical wilderness