For the last month or so, we have driven past the Everglades Wonder Gardens without giving it much thought and assumed it to be just another tourist trap. Well, I suppose on some levels that is exactly what it is. But after reading about the place, we decided to take the plunge. The Gardens is one of the oldest attractions in south Florida, opened to the public in 1936 by two brothers who had a bit of a reputation including rumors of their former occupation as bootleggers. Bill and Lester Piper were referred to as mountain men of the Everglades.
They settled along the Imperial River in Bonita Springs , raised their families there and started collecting various animals of the area and any exotic species that came their way. Many were rescue animals in need of rehabilitation. That tradition continues until today. It remains a classic tourist site with 1930 style animal enclosures, an animal parts museum and many exotic trees and plants from around the world.
A guide with a sense of humor guides you through all the exhibits providing information about each of the animals. The stuffed remains of a huge alligator is preserved on the premises who lived in the park for over around 50 years and when he died was 18 feet long and weighted an estimated 4000 pounds!
It turned out that it is a lot more fun and entertaining than the visit to the Naples Zoo. Flat Stanley came with us and really enjoyed it a lot. The lady at the entrance said that he had been there several times in the past. Apparently, he had forgotten about those visits.
The park remains in the family with a grandson and his wife now running the place.