What to Know Before Visiting the Wonder Gardens
The Bonita Springs area is home to many fun ways to enjoy nature. Whether it’s spending a day relaxing on the beach or kayaking through Lovers Lake State Park, this area offers something for everyone. If you’re interested in close encounters with wildlife and experiencing Bonita Springs’ history, consider visiting the Wonder Gardens. Our team at Bonita Springs Mitsubishi created this guide to help you learn more about everything this exciting attraction has to offer.
History of the Wonder Gardens
The Wonder Gardens has a rich history dating back nearly 100 years. It was originally called the Reptile Gardens, and the Piper family opened the attraction in 1936 when it was common for families to stop to enjoy roadside attractions, making its location along the Tamiami Trail the perfect spot. This roadside attraction grew to include more botanical and animal exhibits, helping visitors to learn more about the wildlife, flora, and fauna in Florida and from around the world. The Piper family eventually renamed the attraction the Wonder Gardens, and they operated the park for nearly 80 years until its brief closure in 2013.
Local conservationist and photographer John Brady soon took over the Wonder Gardens property as a tenant and reopened the park for the community to enjoy. He and Ellie Krier eventually formed the Bonita Wonder Gardens, a 501©(3) non-profit organization with nearly a dozen board members. A few years later, in 2015, the City of Bonita Springs supported the organization’s purchase of the property and assets from the Piper family. While the City of Bonita Springs later purchased the property from the organization, the Bonita Wonder Gardens non-profit organization continues to manage the attraction’s operations.
Today, the Wonder Gardens remains a family-friendly attraction that is a haven for non-releasable and rescued birds and reptiles to live in. The multi-acre property is home to more than 300 animals that live among gorgeous botanical wonders. This old Florida landmark has welcomed a record 80,000 visitors, and it continues to welcome visitors from all walks of life to enjoy the exhibits.
The Wonder Gardens is home to dozens of exhibits and wildlife enclosures that showcase its family of reptiles and birds. Stop by the ‘Gator Hole to see some real-life American Alligators. These amazing reptiles cool off in the water or relax in the heat of the Florida sun. When you’re at the exhibit, learn about the safe feeding options that let you feed an alligator yourself.
Another option for safely feeding animals is to go see the ducks and ibises at Flamingo Beach. Visit this idyllic spot to take in the bright colors of the beautiful birds, fauna, and flora. Watch the birds enjoying the lagoon and beach, and perhaps even spot the flamingos searching for food.
If you want to meet more birds, visit the Parrots and Parasols exhibit. This exhibit is home to various rescue parrots, including different types of macaws and amazons. These colorful residents are pretty vocal, and if you greet them during your visit, they may even say “Hello” to you.
The Wonder Gardens offers a few ways for you to have personal experiences with its residents. One option is the Wild Wonders Animal Encounters, which allows you to meet and feed the lorikeets and sulcata tortoises. Another option is the Alligator Interaction Experience. This gives you an exclusive chance to feed the American alligators and provides unique photo opportunities. It’s a good idea to book your animal encounters in advance because Wonder Gardens limits daily participation at each site.
One of the core aspects of the Wonder Gardens’ mission is to provide educational opportunities to visitors of all ages. Throughout the year, it provides a variety of summer- and day-camp options for students aged 6 to 12. During the school year, it’s the perfect destination for a field trip or special tour for a Scout group. The Wonder Gardens offers nearly a dozen educational programs for you to choose from, and it can customize any program to any grade level. It also provides virtual programs.
Adult learners may enjoy one of the other tour or program options. For example, Wonder Gardens offers guided tours that teach you more about the wildlife throughout the zoological park. It also offers off-site presentations with animals, which may be exciting for community groups or local events.
Admission and Membership
The Wonder Gardens is open daily, but hours vary seasonally to best accommodate Florida weather. While park admission is free for children under the age of three, prices are $7 for non-members between ages 3 and 12, $12 for non-members between ages 13 and 64, and $10 for non-member seniors aged 65 and older. Military personnel and first responders receive a $2 discount per ticket. Although not required, you may pre-purchase your tickets online before your visit. Bonita Springs residents can also enjoy free admission on the first Sunday of each month with proof of residency.
If you plan to visit the Wonder Gardens often or are looking for a great way to support the attraction, consider getting an annual membership. A flat membership fee provides you with free admission for a year, 20% off at the gift shop, and free or discounted admission rates to hundreds of other participating nature centers and botanical gardens throughout Florida and the United States. Membership options include:
- General: $50 for one adult.
- Plus One: $75 for two adults.
- Family: $100 for two adults and up to six children.
- Extended Family: $165 for four adults and up to six children.
- Student: $25 for one student with a valid ID.
We’ve reached the end of our guide discussing all the exciting things the Wonder Gardens has to offer. At Bonita Springs Mitsubishi, we’re proud to be a part of and serve our local community, and we hope you enjoyed learning about this local landmark. Feel like we left out important details? Drop us a line to share your recommendations about the Wonder Gardens. We may even update our article to include your ideas.