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, located at 300 Tower Road in Naples, 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

Open:

9 am - 4 pm, Monday - Friday.
NEW! Also open Saturdays from October through April.

Check our calendar for special events.

Admission:
Adults $5
Children Ages 6-12 $3
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. Sodas and a selection of healthy snacks is available in the Nature Store.

Groups and private tours

Your group is welcome to have lunch during your visit to the Environmental Learning Center. Please complete our "group booking form" if you would like a private tour or your group consists of ten people or more. 

CLICK HERE for printable coupon for admission to Learning Center.

Exhibits

Cultural Richness

The second floor of the Environmental Learning Center highlights the cultural richness of the Reserve with more than 5,000 square feet of world-class exhibits.

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Mangrove Aquarium

The 2,300-gallon mangrove aquarium interactive centerpiece allows visitors of all ages to explore and expand upon their knowledge of Florida's estuaries.

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Marine Life

The 180-gallon marine life exhibit houses more than a dozen species of marine animals for guests of all ages to discover during regular visiting hours.

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Moon Jelly Tank

This exhibit allows visitors to see the details of moon jelly up close, within a circular tank that illuminates the jellies and keeps them floating in the water column.

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2-Story Exhibit Hall

The Environmental Learning Center's exhibit hall shines a spotlight on some of SWFL's unique habitats featuring living and sculpted inhabitants, touch tank and more.

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Watercolors by Kathy Spalding

Kathy Spalding’s 70-foot "Continuum of Life" watercolor is a vivid portrait of the wildlife that is one of Southwest Florida’s greatest treasures.

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Watershed Map

This exhibit shows two images developed using GIS as part of the Restoring the Rookery Bay Estuary project to improve our understanding of the estuary.

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Annual Closures

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

ANNUAL CLOSURES

Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, Friday & Saturday)

Christmas*

New Year's Day*

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Batfish Bash for the Bay**

Memorial Day

Independence Day*

Labor 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 Friday for the Batfish Bash (mid-March, check event schedule for actual date).

 

Rookery Bay Nature Store

hats 920Welcome to the Rookery Bay Nature Store, where every purchase supports the Friends of Rookery Bay and its mission to provide resources for Rookery Bay Research Reserve’s education, research and stewardship programs.

There is an assortment of wonderful gifts to purchase for your family or maybe bring back a souvenir for yourself. You can find books, clothes, stuffed animals, souvenirs and other gifts that embody our unique estuarine environment in Southwest Florida. The Rookery Bay Nature Store also supports our local community, its businesses, and the environment. Just check out a few of the amazing causes we support below.

mang lt 250"BUY ONE. PLANT ONE" is MANG’S way of giving back to nature. Their pledge is that for every product purchased, a mangrove will be planted! We have four different styles for both men and women available for purchase. Of special interest: as a student at Florida Gulf Coast University, owner Kyle Rossin conducted his service learning project work at Rookery Bay Research Reserve, where he was inspired to support mangroves.

kids2campKids 2 Camp was established to provide scholarships to disadvantaged or disabled youth for the opportunity to attend camps. They find local youth service programs and provide funds to send children to the camps of local professional athletes administered by ProCamps, the leading sports camp manager in the USA.

  

Kayak and Boat Tour Gift Certificates Now Available at the ELC Front Desk

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! 

Kayakers-s

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 observation bridge, half-mile “Snail Trail” and viewing platform, is open to visitors during ELC hours. 

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.

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