Explore Your Reserve

Rookery Bay Research Reserve is yours to explore and enjoy. Recreational opportunities abound for kayakers & boaters, campers, anglers & shellers, beachgoers, nature photographers, birdwatchers and more!


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Access to Shell Island Road is OPEN from dawn to dusk.

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Report Violations

Toll Free: 888-404-FWCC (3922)
Local Calls: (239) 938-1800

Enjoy your visit to Rookery Bay! Just remember to practice the “Leave No Trace” guidelines and abide by the important rules above. A complete list of rules for visiting Rookery Bay Reserve can be found here.



Rookery Bay Research Reserve and neighboring parks and preserves are a prime location for birders. People come from all over the world to see the tropical birds that call the Reserve home all year-round including Roseate Spoonbills, Egrets and Herons. There are also many birds that migrate to the area in the winter or stop to rest while migrating even further south into South America.  Whether you’re on a beach, in a boat or just visiting a local park, Southwest Florida is a bird lovers paradise!
Birding | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Camping | Explore on Your Own | Rookery Bay Research Reserve


The Reserve’s 110,000 acres provide campers with access to one of the few remaining undisturbed mangrove estuaries in North America. Primitive camping is allowed in designated locations. Designated camping locations include: Dickman’s Point, Gullivan Key, White Horse Key, Hog Key, and Camp Lulu. Review the guidelines and safety tips to ensure your next camping trip is memorable.

Nature Trails

Located near the end of Shell Island Road, the “Trails Through Time” is a series of four trails, each approximately ¼ mile long. Signage along the trail helps visitors to identify various native trees.  NOTICE: trails are currently overgrown and not suitable for hiking. Please check back for updates.
Nature Trails at Rookery Bay | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Boat Tours

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is an irreplaceable natural treasure. Explore this unique ecosystem via small boat tours that offer an up-close and personal experience. With a maximum of six passengers, 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. Several different trips are available, each with a different theme.

All tours provide a chance to see a diversity of native wildlife and offer a comfortable platform for photography. Tours include free admission to the Environmental Learning Center on day of trip and proceeds support the non-profit Friends of Rookery Bay.

Paddlecraft Park

The Isles of Capri Paddlecraft Park is the only public access facility in Collier County designed exclusively for launching paddle crafts, which are non-motorized vessels such as canoes, kayaks and paddleboards. The facility features a ramp, picnic pavilions, and restrooms that are accessible to pedestrians from the nearby Collier Boulevard boat ramp. The park provides public access to McIlvane Bay, a shallow mangrove-fringed bay that provides outstanding opportunities for wildlife viewing and discovering quiet backwaters in a relatively unexplored part of the Reserve.

Explore Keewaydin Island | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Keewaydin Island

Keewaydin Island, locally known as Key Island, is a special place. It serves as a sanctuary for wildlife and a recreational destination for local residents and tourists. The 8-mile-long island is one of southwest Florida’s largest unbridged barrier islands. Least terns and loggerhead sea turtles use the island’s pristine beach as a vital nesting ground. People also enjoy the island, which provides a great opportunity to experience Florida’s natural coast. Thousands of boaters visit the island each year, boosting our local economy through rentals and purchases of boats, fishing tackle, and fuel.


Recreational fishing represents a primary public use of Reserve resources, and there are numerous charter boats, fishing guides, and boat rental services nearby to quench the thirst of sport fishermen. In the quiet backwaters of the Reserve, some of the most popular recreational species include redfish, mangrove (gray) snapper, spotted sea trout, snook and the ever-elusive tarpon.
Fishing at Rookery Bay | Explore on Your Own | Rookery Bay Research Reserve
Wildlife at Rookery Bay | National Estuarine Research Reserve

Wildlife in the Reserve

The Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters, providing habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals. From barrier island beach and mangrove forest to freshwater marsh and pine flatwoods, these habitats enable animals big and small to fill a niche on land, in the air or underwater.

Visiting Scientists

The Research Department monitors water, weather, and wildlife to detect short-term events and long-term change. Like watchdogs for wildlife and wild places, researchers can detect differences before they become problems for the environment, community, or local businesses.
Visiting Scientist in Naples | Rookery Bay Research Reserve

Reserve Rules

  • No Unleashed Pets
  • No Unattended Fires
  • No Hunting, Harassing, or Possessing Wildlife
  • No Use of Firearms or Weapons

  • Do Not Remove Natural or Cultural Resources
  • No Pollution
  • No Destruction of Property

Make a Difference

Become a Friend of Rookery Bay

Donate to help support the amazing programs and research to help sustain this truly unique ecosystem.
Drone Image of Rookery Bay Research Reserve | National Estuarine Research Reserve

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