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Rookery Bay Naples

A couple of weeks ago I took the kids to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve here in Naples, FL. I have to be honest, I didn’t have high expectations. Honestly, I just thought it would be something cheap to do to entertain the kids for an hour or two. I was wrong, it was so awesome!

We ended up spending a few hours there and had the best time! I can’t believe how many times I have driven past Rookery Bay in all of my years in Naples, and never thought to visit. Which is exactly why I wanted to share with you why you should take your kids to visit Rookery Bay!

Rookery Bay Why Rookery Bay should be on your list of Things to Do With Kids in Naples

As I mentioned, I have driven by this place countless times. I never realized it was more than a research center for wildlife experts. Then, a couple of months ago we attended an event at CJ’s on the Bay on Marco Island and Rookery Bay had a table set up there. On their table they had a giant sea turtle shell which immediately attracted the kids over. The people attending the table were so nice. They told us all about what they do and how family-friendly it is, and invited us to come check it out.

At that point, I put it on my mental to-do list. When I started trying to plan more “field-trips” for homeschool, I remembered that I wanted to check this place out, so we did! As we arrived, the kids were really excited to stop and get their picture taken with basically everything we saw. If you are a mom who likes to take pictures, you can imagine that felt like a good omen.

Things to do Naples



Why Rookery Bay should be on your list of Things to Do With Kids in Naples

We were greeted by a very friendly woman at the front desk. When we told her it was our first visit, she took her time to explain everything. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the kids (5 and under) were free and our total admission was only $5. The kids couldn’t wait to start exploring. The main room has several fish tanks and fun things for the kids.

Kids activities naples

There is also a boat area for the kids, where they can pretend to drive the boat, with actual sound-effects. The kids played in this area for a while!

Kids things to do Naples

Part of the boat has buttons to make different bird noises. The kids loved doing this, over and over! In the boat there are also buckets where the kids can sort out different sea-life by category. Fun and educational, I like it.

Educational kids naples

We ventured upstairs, but even our trip up the stairs was filled with lots to see for the kids. They were excitedly pointing out every thing they saw on the walls!

Rookery Bay Naples Fl

Upstairs we found a cute reading area for the kids, which was a nice surprise! All this time I thought that this was just a place for wildlife experts. I wish I had known how family-friendly it is!

Family friendly activities Naples

Nature trails in Naples, FL

From upstairs we took the door out to a bridge over the water, where we spent a while looking at fish down below. They call this the Observation Bridge, which is fitting.

Observation Bridge Naples

Then we ventured farther onto the path to find that there is a half-mile trail, called the Snail Trail! Strollers and wheelchairs can take this trail, too! We weren’t exactly prepared for a nature trail hike (flip-flops and no bug spray), so we just went a little ways and turned back around.

Nature trail naples

We headed back towards the Learning Center and decided to stop for a snack. There is an awesome shaded picnic area outside. The friendly woman at the front desk let us know that you’re welcome to bring your own food and drinks. Next time, I will definitely pack a full lunch for a picnic. This time, however, we sat in the shade and enjoyed some snacks, and then the kids ran around in the large grassy area.

Kids activities naples fl

After our snack, we went back inside and this is where it got really, really good. Seriously, guys, there is an angel who volunteers at Rookery Bay and the kids absolutely loved her. She spent so much time with them and they were just totally fixated on her and all she was teaching them.

She showed them the turtle shells, taught them all about turtles, and even let them wear the turtle shells on their backs.

The best touch-tank experience we’ve ever had

fun for kids naples

Next she took them over to the touch-tank. You guys, we have been to a lot of aquariums all over Florida and other states, and we have never actually learned as much as we did at the touch tank at Rookery Bay. 

Touch tank naples

We have also never seen such large, cool snails in a touch tank before! The kids got to touch them and see how they squirt water at you!

Touch tank naples kids activities

Our touch tank guide was so prepared, she even had an iPad ready with videos of some of the things the touch-tank inhabitants do when we’re not looking, like a shrimp protecting it’s favorite rock by snapping it’s claw at it’s roommates.

aquarium naples

There is so much more to do at Rookery Bay, too! There are:

If you haven’t been to Rookery Bay with your family yet, I encourage you to plan a day to visit, pack a picnic, and check it out!

Visit their website here or find them on Facebook!

things to do naples fl


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