The Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is an old Florida roadside attraction. The Gardens opened in the 1930’s and operated as a botanical garden, zoo with both exotic and native wildlife, and animal rehabilitation center until April 2013.
Charming hand-painted signs are found outside and inside the park
The park closed briefly this spring, but a new lease was arranged by a local wildlife photographer, John Brady, who aims to save and modernize the attraction.
Everglades Wonder Gardens entrance
While in transition, the park re-opened on June 15th. Arthur and I paid a visit on June 24th. Many of the park’s larger resident animals had already been moved to bigger accommodations at other Florida parks. During our visit we noticed that animal enclosures were being opened up or transformed into new exhibits. Some permanently injured birds and both native and exotic turtles and tortoises remain from the old days, along with a flock of flamingos. New animals were also moving in; a small flock of fancy domestic chickens had arrived the day prior to our visit. The park grounds hold onto a lot of old charms while the updates improve life for the resident animals and transform the park into a more modern attraction..
An enclosure formerly used for Burmese Pythons will house orchids
Fancies getting used to new digs
Non-releasable native birds have a permanent home at the Gardens
Flamingos have been a fixture at the park since it first opened
Murphy, a 12-year-old Double Yellow-headed Amazon
Small gators in the gator pool
Gator detail; photo by Arthur de Wolf
Butterfly garden in progress
The small gift shop and museum were in transition, too. A portion of the exhibit space displays Brady’s beautiful Florida nature photos, while old kitschy specimens and other educational displays remain.
Gallery and shop
Taxidermy above the main entrance
An old map of the grounds revealed the large number of animals on display in the past. Older exhibits and resident animals included wild boar, black jaguar, rattlesnakes, a Bald Eagle, an otter pool, Black and King Vultures, a deer yard, and more.
Old hand-drawn map of the park (above is several digital images roughly stitched together; click to see bigger @ Flickr)