With more than 6,500 acres of Broward County Parks, 23 miles of clean, sparkling coastline and countless animal and plant species, Greater Fort Lauderdale is the perfect destination for visitors and residents alike to explore some of the world’s most diverse landscapes and ecosystems.
Starting in the depths of the ocean, Broward County is making waves in ecological preservation. Greater Fort Lauderdale’s coastline hosts 25 permanent research sites under constant observation, monitoring both naturally occurring and artificial reefs, essential parts of South Florida’s aquatic ecosystem. Since 1982, the County has installed more than 112 artificial reefs that have created new underwater habitats while protecting existing reefs from boats, anchors and other dangers. These unique sites are popular among divers as many can be accessed and explored right off the beach, without the necessity of a boat. Year-round temperatures in the coastal waters range from around 72 to 80 degrees, allowing divers and snorkelers to explore year-round.
A pioneer not only in ocean preservation, Greater Fort Lauderdale also protects endangered species on land. Nearly 90 percent of sea turtle nesting in the U.S. occurs in Florida, and from March through October these creatures will return to their home beaches to lay eggs. The Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program works to raise public awareness and protect the natural nesting areas of threatened and endangered native turtles, and several organizations offer guided turtle walks in the summer to watch as hatchlings emerge and head towards the ocean.
Greater Fort Lauderdale is the gateway to the Everglades, where wild beauty makes up almost two-thirds of the destination’s total area. Several organizations in the Everglades are dedicated to raising, protecting and relocating alligators and other wildlife in the region, including Billie Swamp Safari, Sawgrass Recreation Park and Everglades Holiday Park, home to the famous reptile rescuers from Animal Planet’s hit show “Gator Boys.” For an up-close look at the exotic wildlife, from alligators to Florida panthers, take an airboat ride through the sawgrass, available at Billie Swamp Safari, Sawgrass Recreation Park, or Everglades Holiday Park.
To explore Greater Fort Lauderdale’s natural side, visit any of the destination’s top environmental exhibits, programs and preserves:
- Anne Kolb Nature Center – explore 1,500+ acres of mangrove wetlands that have shaped the unique ecosystems of South Florida by foot or on one of three kayak trails guided by experts. Anne Kolb also offers a sea turtle program in the summer.
- Flamingo Gardens & Wray Botanical Collection – traverse 60 acres of diverse native plants and trees, a Bird of Prey Center with a free-flight aviary, and the chance to view alligators, flamingos, bobcats and Florida panthers.
- Butterfly World – see the largest butterfly aviary in North America, as well as an impelling insectarium and a “buzz-worthy” hummingbird environment.
- John U. Lloyd Beach State Park – discover one of the area’s most important turtle nesting beaches located in Dania Beach featuring a sea turtle awareness program.
- Hugh Taylor Birch State Park – rent a canoe and paddle a freshwater lagoon, fish from the seawall, hike, bike, or relax in a hammock at this state park.
- Scuba Dive in Greater Fort Lauderdale – see the dozens of dive sites throughout the county.
- Markham Park – hike more than 10 miles of wooded trails.
- Quiet Waters Park – walk 7.1 miles of fully renovated trails under the supervision of the International Mountain Biking Association.
For more information on Greater Fort Lauderdale’s ecological sites, programs, and activities visit www.sunny.org/ways-to-play/natural-wonders/.