visit the learning center

event list

kayak and boat tours

Watch the video below to see all the things that you can enjoy during your visit!

The Environmental Learning Center is a 16,500 square-foot facility with four research laboratories, classrooms and 140-seat auditorium, and two story visitor center. The visitor center offers a variety of hands-on experiences, including 2,300-gallon aquarium and interactive exhibits addressing research and stewardship efforts ongoing within the Reserve, as well as a nature store, gallery and picnic area. The Environmental Learning Center is also designated as a Coastal Ecosystem Learning Center! Find out more.

Hours of Operation


WINTER HOURS (Oct. - April) 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, Monday - Saturday
SUMMER HOURS (May - Sept.) 9:00 am - 4:00 pm, Monday - Friday

Adults $5.00
Children Ages 6-12 $3.00
Children Under 6 FREE
Friends of Rookery Bay members FREE
Military personnel and family (up to four) FREE from Memorial Day through Labor Day

Dogs are not allowed in the ELC building or on the nature trails.

The Environmental Learning Center is designed for self-guided tours.

Coastal Connections daily programs are available with admission.

Tour Guides for Groups:

$100/guide for 45-60 minute tour of facility. Up to 15 visitors per guide.

Your group is welcome to have lunch during your visit to the Environmental Learning Center. Lunch space reservations and fee required. A vending machine with sodas and a selection of healthy snacks is available. Please bring bag lunches in a cooler for your group.

Reservations for tour guides are required – call 239-530-5940 to book your group tour.

CLICK HERE for printable coupon for admission to Learning Center.

Annual Closures

We are closed on Federal holidays and some other days too.


Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Friday & Saturday)


New Year's Day*

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Batfish Bash for the Bay**

Memorial Day

Independence Day*

Labor Day

National Estuaries Day ***

Veteran's Day*

* If the holiday falls on Saturday, the center will be closed on Friday. If the holiday falls on a Sunday, the center will be closed on Monday.

** The center will be closed on Saturday for the Batfish Bash (mid-March, check event schedule for actual date).

*** National Estuaries Day is on the last Saturday of September. We are OPEN that day, but closed for 2 weeks immediately prior for cleaning and maintenance.


Palmetto Patch Nature Store

Find books, souvenirs and gifts from the estuary at the Palmetto Patch Nature Store. Find out how you can save 10% on your purchase during your next visit to the Environmental Learning Center!

Below are some items you can purchase from the Palmetto Patch. Online purchasing is not available at this time.

tote-bag-green-sRookery Bay Tote:
Show your support for Rookery Bay by carrying this bright green tote bag around town! Perfect for carrying groceries, crafts, gym equipment, or going to the beach. $12  


tee-shirts-sRookery Bay T-shirts:
Show your support for Rookery Bay with a comfortable and colorful t-shirt. Choose from golden rod, lavender, khaki, neon pink, tropical blue, neon dark blue, and other assorted colors. Sizes range from unisex small - 2XL. $18


polo-shirts-sRookery Bay Polos:
Support Rookery Bay in style with a great polo shirt! Choose from blue, moss, lilac, light pink, and other assorted colors. Sizes range from men's small - XL and women's small - 4XL. $28 - $35 


Fishing-shirts-sRookery Bay Fishing Shirt:
Pick up a great shirt for when you're out on the water and support Rookery Bay at the same time! Choose from white shirts that feature a fantastic fish design by local artist, Nora Butler, or a colorful, unadorned version. They are UPF 30+, moisture wicking, and wrinkle resistant. Choose from short or long sleeves in unisex sizes small - XL. $42 - $53


Palmetto-Patch-Birding-Guides250Birding Field Guides from ABA, Sibley's, Peterson and others:
Perfect for the birdwatcher in your family. Prices range from $9.99 to $25.99.


Palmetto-Patch-Drawing-Books-Hammond250Drawing and Painting Instruction Books by artist Lee Hammond:
Covers pencil, acrylic, animals and portraits. Book  prices range from $19.99 – 26.99. Does the artist on your list need more help? Register them for Hammond's classes on the same topics at Rookery Bay in January and February. Cost $375, gift certificates available.


Palmetto-Patch-FishPlatter2-250Clay Pottery with Fish Motif:
Created, signed and dated by Naples  potter James Rice. Sizes range from sauce fish to fish pitcher, $10 to $40.


Palmetto-Patch-Science-Toys-2504M Science Toys and Kits:
Choose from Potato Clock, Weather Station, Eco Science
Toys or Clean Water Science. $15.



Kayak and Boat Tour Gift Certificates:
Give the gift of educational relaxation with a gift certificate for a guided kayak or boat tour! Both tours are taken in small groups and there are many different types of boat tours available! Our guides are experienced Rookery Bay staff members and naturalists and they will ensure that your trip is fun and relaxing!
Find out more about kayak tours and boat tours.  

Art Gallery

The art gallery hosts several exhibitions each year. A partnership with the United Arts Council of Collier County enables annual exhibitions of painting and photography juried by local art experts while other showings feature works by local students, Rookery Bay Reserve friends & family, and occasionally individuals. Most of the works are available for purchase. Learn more about the art gallery.

Observation Bridge and Snail Trail

Observation Bridge

The new observation bridge, half-mile “Snail Trail” and viewing platform are now open to visitors during ELC hours. Guided tours/Nature Walks are scheduled several days a week.

The immerse experience begins on the mezzanine of the exhibit hall’s second floor. The Observation Bridge transports pedestrians across the creek with educational signs luring visitors to explore their surroundings, such as looking down at the water passing under the bridge to see which way it is flowing. Salinity is the name of the game here, and summer rains across the watershed fill the creek with rushing waters, diluting the salinity and triggering creatures of the estuary to reproduce. From the bridge it’s possible to see manatees, tarpon, and even sharks when conditions are right.

As the bridge begins to slope down to meet the ground visitors experience a brief trek through tangled mangroves, palms and oaks. Resurrection ferns, bromeliads, and even orchids can be seen growing along the furrowed cracks of oak tree bark. Looking up it is easy to see the pockmarks of pileated woodpeckers and other insectivores in the upper reaches of expired pine snags.

Along the Snail Trail it is easy to forget you’re less than ten miles away from the city limits of both Naples and Marco Island. The trail winds past an old homestead dating back to post-Civil War times when squatters began to farm this rugged terrain. Evidence of their existence includes a primitive swale system designed to drain the land during driving summer rains, some sanseveria (an ornamental plant commonly associated with early homesteads) and a cement rainwater storage cistern, still intact. The cistern collected rainwater running off the old home’s roof and stored it through the dry winter months, when it could be used for cooking and watering livestock. A ½-mile walking trail with surface suitable for strollers and wheelchairs, the snail trail invites visitors to explore the mysteries of mangroves and pine flatwoods. The trail encourages explorers to use all their senses to connect intimately with the natural world, meandering slowly like a snail, and includes a boardwalk/viewing platform at the water's edge. Two more half-mile, unsurfaced trails connect to the Snail Trail for the more "adventurous" explorers.

CLICK HERE for Snail Trail map with primitive trail loops

CLICK HERE for printable coupon for admission to Learning Center.

Chickee Hut

Chickee Hut

With a generous donation to the Friends of Rookery Bay, Patricia Duffy-Johnson helped the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve add a new structure to the Environmental Learning Center facilities. An authentic Seminole chickee has been erected on the grounds in honor of the late Harold Johnson. Mr. Johnson enjoyed being outdoors and was always interested in learning more about the coastal environment, so Mrs. Johnson decided to provide a shady location for the Estuary Explorers fourth grade students and other educational programs that are conducted at the Environmental Learning Center. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for Mrs. Johnson and her closest friends on Saturday, March 24, 2007 in advance of the Southwest Florida History and Archaeology Festival.

CLICK HERE for printable coupon for admission to Learning Center.

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