Boat Tours at Rookery Bay | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Explore the Diverse Backwaters of Southwest Florida!

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is an irreplaceable natural treasure. You can now explore this unique ecosystem on a 6-passenger boat tour that offers an up-close and personal experience. These on-the-water adventures are the only Rookery Bay tours conducted by our exclusive eco-tour partner, Rising Tide Explorers.

The relaxed pace and emphasis on learning is designed to help visitors develop a true sense of place and a deeper connection to this unique coastal wilderness, while providing a chance to see a diversity of native wildlife and offer a comfortable platform for photography.


Life's A Beach Barrier Island Shelling

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Tour Info

Take the opportunity to explore a remote part of Keewaydin Island, a natural, living barrier island with an incredible diversity of life and some of the best shelling in Naples and Marco Island.

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Location: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL
  • Rates: Per Person: $109

Essence of the Estuary Eco-Cruise

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Tour Info

This 3-hour nature cruise captained by a local biologist will allow you to immerse yourself into some of the most beautiful areas of wild Southwest Florida.

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Location: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL
  • Rates: Per Person – $109

High Points Ancient Island Excursion

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Tour Info

Cruise through back bays and winding mangrove creeks to visit one of the most remote and unusual places in the Rookery Bay Reserve.

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Location: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL
  • Rates: Per Person: $109

Sunset to Starlight Cruise

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Tour Info

This one-of-a-kind tour takes guests to visit a remote section of Keewaydin Island, renowned for its shell-strewn beaches and pastel sunsets. As darkness gradually enfolds you, begin the leisurely cruise through the back bays of the Reserve, becoming immersed in the sights, sounds and sensations of night.

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Location: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL
  • Rates: Per Person – $109

Sunset Bird Rookery Boat Cruise

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Tour Info

This nature cruise captained by the areas only active local biologist captains will allow you to surround yourself with some of the most beautiful wildlife Southwest Florida has to offer!

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Location: 10 Shell Island Road, Naples, FL
  • Rates: Per Person: $89(ages 6+)

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About Our Boat Tours

  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Registration is required.
  • The minimum age is 12 years old.
  • Meet at the launch site 30 minutes prior to the scheduled start time.

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Cancellations & Weather Info

  • Customers will receive a full refund or credit with 48 hours notice of cancellation.
  • In the event of severely inclement weather, your trip leader will contact you on the morning of the trip at the phone number you provide when registering, and you will receive a full refund

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What to Bring

  • Wear closed-toed shoes and clothes that you do not mind getting wet
  • Bring a hat, sunglasses, sun block, bug spray and a water bottle
  • Leave all electronic equipment locked in your car, as you may get wet

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the tours suitable for children?

On all regularly scheduled tours, the minimum age for passengers is 12. This is based on your captain’s years of experience as a professional educator and as a long-time instructor in the Florida Master Naturalist Program. Some of the interesting environmental science covered during these tours is oriented toward, and preferred by, an adult audience. Interpreting the natural and cultural history of the area for young children requires a different approach than for adults. Trying to do both at once means neither is done well. Private charters may be arranged for families with young children.

Can I come without a reservation?

Advance reservations are required. These tours are designed to be a unique and intimate natural experience and are limited to no more than six passengers. Special private charters may also be arranged. Please call to inquire.

Can I take photos?

Absolutely. Rookery Bay Reserve has always considered photography and art to be a meaningful and effective way to gain a “sense of place”. The light, colors, textures and wildness of this area make it a fantastic natural setting for photographers.

Can the general public access these same places?

Yes and no. Most locations in the Reserve require a boat to get to and there are some locations that are restricted.

Do you offer private charters?

Sorry, but no. Our current schedule prevents us from offering any additional tours.

Is the tour boat handicapped accessible?

If you require specific accommodations , please contact us in advance at 239-530-5972.

May I bring my own refreshments on the boat?

It’s okay to bring your own refreshments, but alcohol is not permitted. You are responsible for carrying your items to the beach and back (a short hike, in the dark). Big coolers are a bad idea, and on the boat, your captain will ask guests to be careful that nothing blows overboard (plastic bags).

How can I receive a discount?

Our tours are intimate, nature-viewing and learning experiences, limited to ONLY six passengers per tour. Our tours are competitively priced, and proceeds support the Friends of Rookery Bay. For this reason, the only discount offered on these tours is 10-20% off, available to Friends of Rookery Bay members. Learn more about membership.

What kind of boat is used?

The boat is a 24-foot Carolina Skiff specially outfitted for this purpose. The boat is extremely stable and perfect for negotiating the narrow creeks and shallow backwaters of the Reserve. There are comfortable individual seats for each passenger (maximum of six), a fully shaded canopy, a very quiet four-stroke Yamaha outboard engine and all required safety equipment.

What kind of wildlife might we see?

It depends on the time of year (for migrating birds), which trip you are on and the luck of the day. Other visitors on these trips have seen: bottle-nosed dolphins, manatees, wild hogs, deer, raccoons, bald eagles, magnificent frigate birds, peregrine falcons, black-crowned night herons, roseate spoonbills, spotted sandpipers, American oyster catchers, gopher tortoises, mangrove tree crabs, sea slugs, Bartram’s hairstreak butterflies and a host of interesting native plants and wildflowers.

Make a Contribution to Protect Our Coastal Treasure

Become a Friend and Save 10%

Friends of Rookery Bay Members receive a 10% discount on all boat tours. With eight membership options, you’re certain to find the perfect opportunity to contribute to the protection and research programs of Rookery Bay Research Reserve.

Memberships start at $20 per year.

About Rising Tide Explorers

Rising Tide Explorers was founded in 2016 by a group of local biologists looking to raise the bar of the outdoor industry in Southwest Florida and share their passion for Florida’s unique ecological landscape. In 2019, Friends of Rookery Bay partnered with Rising Tide Explorers to continue providing memorable and educational boat and kayak adventures in Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Proceeds support education, research and conservation.

Kayak Tours in Rookery Bay

Rookery Bay Kayak Tours from Rising Tide Explorers | National Estuarine Research Reserve