Best Bird Watching Destinations In Florida (Free & Paid)

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Birding In Florida

Whether you are visiting the Sunshine state or are a resident birdwatcher, you might be looking for the best destinations and clubs for birding in Florida. In this article, you find the top Florida birdwatching destinations, free & paid, as well as birding clubs in Florida.

We also have birding resources for Florida’s neighboring states of Georgia and Alabama.

So get ready to explore Florida birding locations with complete information such as hours of operation, physical addresses, videos, hiking trails, and social media info as well. Use this valuable resource to find the perfect birding destination to check out in This great state!

Bird Watching Destinations In Florida: Free Destinations

Do you plan to vacation in Florida in the near future? There is a wide range of incredible bird watching opportunities in the Sunshine State. Keep reading to discover the best birding hotspots in this tropical region.

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge – Free Bird Watching

This scenic wonderland is a 6400-acre wildlife refuge located near Fort Myers on Sanibel Island. In Florida, this is one of the most popular birding locations in the entire state. You’ll discover lots of greenery, wetlands, Bailey Tract, and Wildlife Drive, which is filled with a plentiful array of beautiful wild birds in their natural habitat.

Location:

1 Wildlife Dr.
Sanibel, FL 33957
Phone: 239-472-1100

GPS: 26.4643Β° N, 82.1137Β° W

Hours Of Operation:

Visitor & Education Center – open six days a week between 9 AM and 4 PM but closed on Sundays. Wildlife Drive is open daily except for Fridays all year round even if there is a holiday.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Mangrove Cuckoo
  • Greg Kingbird
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Black-Whiskered Vireo
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Short-Tailed Hawk
  • Osprey
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • American White Pelican
  • Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron
  • Reddish Egret
  • Great Heron
  • Black Skimmer

Hiking Trails:

Experience beautiful adventure filled hiking trails the next time you visit JN Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. These trails vary in length and degree of difficulty. And most important of all, they are the gateways to viewing some of the most stunning and exotic birds that you’ll ever see.

The names of the hiking trails include:

  • Bailey Tract – the terrain at this hiking trail is very easy to walk along and navigate. The total length of the trail is 2.1 miles, which should take around 50 minutes to complete.
  • Wulfert Keys Trail and Calusa Shell Mound Trail – also an easy to navigate trail, the total distance is 1.5 miles. It should take a person walking at an average speed of around 35 minutes to finish the trail from beginning to end.
  • Commodore Creek Canoe Trail – this trail provides moderately difficult terrain, so it’s certainly a bit difficult to walk along. The total distance is 2.4 miles, which should take around an hour to complete.
  • Ding Darling Indigo Trail – this wildlife refuge trail has terrain that’s very easy to walk along, but it’s relatively long at 4.4 miles. Overall, it should take around an hour and 45 minutes to walk the entire trail.

Dry Tortugas National Park – Free Entrance Days, Paid Days

This National Park is made up of seven islands and 70 miles of land in Key West, Florida. Florida residents and vacationers love visiting the area because it’s known for its shipwrecks, beautiful marine wildlife, and plentiful arrays of birds. It’s truly a sight to behold, with beautiful clear blue water and amazing wildlife.

Location:

40001 SR-9336
Homestead, FL 33034
Phone: 305-242-7700

GPS: 24.6285Β° N, 82.8732Β° W

Hours Of Operation:

The National Park is open every day from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Brown Noddy Tern
  • Magnificent Frigatebird
  • Masked Booby
  • Brown Booby
  • Sooty Tern
  • Caribbean Short-Eared Owl
  • Roseate Tern
  • Brown Pelican
  • Golden Warbler
  • White-Tailed Tropicbird
  • Shiny Cowbird

Free Days and Entrance Fees:

  • Free Days – visitors can enter the park for free on six days of the year this year. They include Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act, National Park Service birthday, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
  • General Admission – $15 for seven consecutive days
  • Individual Campsites – $15 per night
  • Group Campsite – $30 per night

Hiking Trails:

Although there’s plenty of area to cover, there aren’t too many hiking trails at this location. But the two that I’m going to tell you about certainly provide great opportunities to see many wonderful birds in their natural habitat.

The hiking trails in question are called:

  • Bush Key Trail – this trail is very easy to navigate with clear terrain that is easy to walk along. The total trail is 1 mile long and it takes about 25 minutes to complete.
  • Fort Jefferson Loop – the flat terrain is also easy to walk along on this trail, which is 0.5 miles in total distance. It should take about 12-13 minutes to finish this trail.

Big Cypress National Preserve – Free Entrance

This tract of land is 729,000 acres long and it’s filled with habitats and lots of wildlife. It’s similar to Everglades National Park, but less people visit it each year, so it’s a more intimate and secluded experience for families, friends, and loved ones. You’ll discover a plethora of different types of birds as you walk along the free hiking trails.

Location:

Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center
33000 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141
Phone: 239-695-4758

Oasis Visitor Center
52105 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141
Phone: 239-695-4111

Big Cypress National Preserve Headquarters
33100 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, FL 34141
Phone: 239-695-1103

GPS: 26.0486Β° N, 81.0755Β° W 

Hours Of Operation:

Big Cypress National Preserve is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and even on holidays.

The visitor centers, on the other hand, are open seven days a week between 9 AM to 4:30 PM and they’re closed on Christmas Day and other holidays.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Wood Stork
  • Purple Gallinule
  • Anhinga
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Kill Deer
  • Mottled Duck
  • White Ibis
  • Common Loon
  • Blue Jay
  • Purple Martin
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Sedge Wren

Hiking Trails:

There are many wonderful hiking trails for you to peruse when you visit Big Cypress National Preserve. All in all, there are 19 total trails to experience and enjoy. These trails are great for birdwatching, hiking, biking, and more.

The names of the trails include:

  • Florida Trail: Tamiami Trail to high-75 – 29.5 miles, 11 hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Gator Hook Trail – 4.7 miles, 1 hour and 55 minutes to complete
  • Florida Trail 3: Alligator Alley to L-3 Canal – 12.8 miles, 5 hours and 10 minutes to complete
  • Fire Prairie Trail – 4.5 miles, 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete
  • Loop Road Scenic Drive (County Road 94) – 43 miles
  • Tree Snail Hammock Loop – 0.2 miles, 5 minutes to complete
  • Turner Road, Wagon Wheel Road, and Birdon Road Scenic Drive Loop – 20 miles
  • Everglades National Park: Carnestown to Chokoloskee Scenic Drive – 16.1 miles
  • Turner River Unit: Windmill Trail, Burns Lake North, Concho Billie, Land H Loop – 24.5 miles
  • Corn Dance Unit OHV Route: Rock Rd., North Raccoon Point, Oasis Loop – 75.5 miles
  • Turner River Rd., North, Concho Billie, Bamboos Loop – 46.9 miles
  • Sea Grape Drive Canoe Trail – 2 miles
  • Turner River Unit: Monument Road, Little Deer, Boot Hill West – 38.4 miles
  • Bear Island Mountain Bike Loop – 20.3 miles
  • Florida Trail: Loop Road to Oasis Ranger Station – 7.9 miles, 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete
  • Turner River and Halfway Creek Canoe Trails – 23.8 miles
  • Loop OHV Road – 43 miles
  • Kirby Storter Roadside Park – 0.8 miles, 20 minutes to complete
  • Florida Trail: Blue-Orange Trail – 14.9 miles, 6 hours to complete

Myakka River State Park – Minimal Entrance Fee

Located in Sarasota, FL, this gorgeous state park is home to a wide array of Florida bird species including songbirds, waterbirds, and everything in between. Besides the beautiful scenery, there’s also 38 miles of hiking trails, kayaking and canoeing, a wetland Boardwalk, and a suspended walkway that takes you through a forest canopy.

Location:

13208 State Rd. 72
Sarasota, FL 34241
Phone: 941-361-6511

GPS: 27.2023Β° N, 82.2498Β° W

Hours Of Operation:

This state park is open from 8 AM to sunset every day of the year and it doesn’t even close on holidays.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck
  • Bald Eagle
  • Osprey
  • Northern Harrier
  • Turkey Vulture’s
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Least Tern
  • Wood Stork
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Great Blue Heron

Hiking Trails:

The hiking trails for birding are absolutely astounding in this gorgeous state park. There are many trails to walk along with easy to moderate difficulty, and they vary in length as well. You’ll discover a plethora of gorgeous birds while walking these adventurous hiking trails.

The names of the trails include:

  • Lower Myakka River Paddle – 12.4 miles
  • Myakka River from Park Drive – 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Mossy Hammock, Myakka Hiking Trail Loop – 11.6 miles, 4 hours and 45 minutes to complete
  • William S Boylston Nature Trail – 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Lake Myakka Trail – 10.2 miles, 4 hours and 10 minutes to complete
  • Deep Whole Trail – 4.4 miles, 1 hour and 45 minutes to complete
  • Mossy Hammock and Bee Island Loop – 4.2 miles, 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete
  • Bobcat Crossing Loop – 18.7 miles, 7 hours and 35 minutes to complete

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Free Admittance, Paid Parking

Located right near the Kennedy Space Center, there are more than 350 species of birds congregating on Merritt Island. This amazing location has freshwater and saltwater wetlands, forests, pine woods, dunes, and beaches. It’s the perfect location to visit to see your favorite birds, wildlife creatures, and more and it’s great for hiking.

Location:

1987 Scrub Jay Way
Titusville, FL 32782
Phone: 321-861-0669

GPS: 28Β°31β€²N 80Β°40β€²W

Hours Of Operation:

The hiking trails and refuge roads are open seven days a week from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center is normally open from 9 AM to 4 PM on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, but it is currently closed due to the pandemic.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Bald Eagle
  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Florida Scrub Jay
  • American Kestrel
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Osprey
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White Ibis
  • Great Egret

Hiking Trails:

There are many beautiful hiking trails to walk along when visiting Merritt Island State Park. These engrossing trails are filled with a plethora of local and migratory birds.

The names of the trails include:

  • Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center Boardwalk – 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Marsh Bay and Dummit Creek Loop Trail – 9.7 miles, 3 hours and 55 minutes to complete
  • Timberline Dike Trail – 10.4 miles, 4 hours and 10 minutes to complete
  • Conrad Creek Loop Trail (Private Property) – 7.6 miles, 3 hours and 5 minutes to complete
  • Gator Creek Loop – 7.1 miles, 2 hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Scrub Ridge Trail – 0.9 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • Black Point Wildlife Drive – 7.7 miles, 3 hours and 5 minutes to complete

Bird Watching Destinations In Florida: Paid Destinations

Everglades National Park – Paid Entrance, Paid Parking

The Everglades are a large stretch of land that spans 1.5 million acres in South Florida. There are three main areas to access the park, and there are four Visitor Centers for your ease and convenience.

As a visitor to the Everglades, you can explore the fauna, flora, different types of land, and excellent birding opportunities in the region. There’s so much to discover and do in the Everglades, so be prepared for an exciting trip.

Location:

Flamingo Visitor Center
1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy.
Homestead, FL 33034
Phone: 239-695-2945

Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
40001 State Rd. 9336
Homestead, FL 33034

Shark Valley Visitor Center
36000 SW 8th Street
Miami, FL 33194

Gulf Coast Visitor Center
815 Oyster Bar Ln.
Everglades City, FL 34139
Phone: 239-695-3311

GPS: 25.7459Β° N, 80.5550Β° W

Website: https://www.nps.gov/ever/

Hours Of Operation:

  • Flamingo Visitor Center – open between 8 AM and 5 PM, seven days a week. Sometimes there is limited staffing, and the center closes between noon and 12:30 PM during these periods.
  • Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center – open between 9 AM and 5 PM from mid-April through mid-December. Open between 8 AM and 5 PM from mid-December through mid-April.
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center – open between 9 AM to 5 PM seven days a week.
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center – open between 9 AM and 5 PM from mid-April through mid-November. Open between 8 AM and 5 PM from mid-November through mid-April.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Roseate Spoonbill
  • Wood Stork
  • White-Crowned Pigeon
  • Anhinga
  • Short-Tailed Hawk
  • Bronzed Cowbird
  • Black-Whiskered Vireo
  • Shiny Cowbird
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Snail Kite

Hiking Trails:

The Everglades are filled with a plethora of beautiful hiking trails for all to enjoy. In fact, there are actually 28 known hiking trails scattered throughout the various sections of the Everglades.

The trails include:

  • Anhinga Trail – 1.5 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • Gumbo Limbo Trail – 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Pa-Hay-Okee Overlook Trail – 0.2 miles, 5 minutes to complete
  • Long Pine Key Trail – 15.5 miles, 6 hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Eco Pond Trail – 0.5 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Bobcat Boardwalk Trail – 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Guy Bradley Trail – 1.1 miles, 25 minutes to complete
  • West Lake Trail – 0.3 miles, 7 minutes to complete
  • Three-in-One Hiking Trail – 0.7 miles, 15 minutes to complete
  • Flamingo to Coot Bay – 7.5 miles, 3 hours to complete
  • Flamingo Campground – 2.2 miles, 55 minutes to complete
  • Old Ingraham Highway Trail – 21.3 miles, 8 Β½ hours to complete
  • Christian Point Trail – 5.2 miles, 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete
  • Double Dome Wet Walk – 0.5 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Flamingo Bayshore Loop – 1.5 miles, 35 minutes to complete
  • West Lake Canoe Trails – 17.1 miles, 6 Β½ hours to complete
  • Fakahatchee Island – 19.7 miles, 7 hours and 15 minutes to complete
  • Rowdy Bend Trail – 5.2 miles, 2 hours and 5 minutes to complete
  • Wilderness Waterway – 88.9 miles
  • Bear Lake Trail – 7.8 miles, 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete
  • Otter Cave Hammock Trail – 0.3 miles, 5 minutes to complete
  • Nine Mile Pond Paddle Route – 5.5 miles
  • Everglades National Park East Entrance to Flamingo Scenic Drive – 40.3 miles
  • Everglades Coastal Prairie Trail – 17 miles, 6 hours and 50 minutes to complete
  • Pinelands Trail – 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Snake Bight Trail – 3.6 miles, 1 hour and 25 minutes to complete
  • Mahogany Hammock Trail – 0.4 miles, 10 minutes to complete
  • Shark Valley Trail – 15.8 miles, 6 hours and 25 minutes to complete

Entrance & Parking Fees:

  • Per Person/Cyclist – $15
  • Per Vehicle – $30
  • Per Motorcycle – $25
  • Commercial Motorcoach – $200
  • Commercial Minibus – $100
  • Commercial Van – $75
  • Commercial Sedan – $25 plus $15 per client
  • Everglades National Park Annual Pass – $55

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary – Paid Bird Watching

Visiting Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary puts you on an adventurous journey into the ecosystem that is part of the Everglades. There’s a world-famous 2 Β½ mile boardwalk that takes you through marshland, flat woods, and wet prairie. While here, you’ll experience a wide range of wildlife including otters, deer, turtles, and a variety of bird species as well.

Location:

375 Is Sanctuary Rd. W
Naples, FL 34120
Phone: 239-348-9151

GPS: 26Β°25β€²4.41β€³N 81Β°32β€²18.33β€³W

Hours Of Operation:

The sanctuary is open from 8 AM to 3 PM each day. Admission to the park ends at 1:15 PM, so show up early.

Popular Birds Found At This Destination:

  • Sandhill Crane
  • Barred Owl
  • Bald Eagle
  • Tricolored Heron
  • Limpkin
  • Painted Buntings
  • Swallow-Tailed Kite
  • Anhinga
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Wood Stork

Hiking Trails:

As you can undoubtedly imagine, there are some stunning hiking trails to walk along as you visit the swamp sanctuary. These gorgeous trails are filled with lots of wildlife, plant life, and a wide array of various waterbirds, songbirds, and more.

The 4 trails that I’d like to tell you about today include:

  • Cypress Dome Hiking Trails: White Loop – this is the most difficult trail because it’s moderately tough terrain to walk across, but it isn’t overly hard or impossible. The whole trail is 3.5 miles long and it should take around an hour and 25 minutes to finish.
  • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Trail – this trail has easy terrain and it’s easy to navigate. The total length is 2 miles, which should take around 45 minutes to complete from beginning to end.
  • Cypress Dome Hiking Trails: Yellow Loop – the terrain on this trail is also very easy to walk along and navigate. All in all, the trail is 1.4 miles long and it should take someone walking at average speed 35 minutes to finish.
  • Marsh Trail – this is an easy to navigate trail and there is no rough terrain to speak of. The overall trail is 3 miles long, which should take the average person about an hour and 15 minutes to complete.

Entrance Fees:

  • General Admission – $17
  • National Audubon Member – $14
  • Military – $14
  • Full-Time College Student – $10
  • Children Aged 6-14 – $6
  • Children 5 and Under – Free
  • Field Guide – $3

Florida Birdwatching Clubs

The state of Florida is one of the best places to live as far as birdwatching is concerned. There are so many gorgeous birds in this sunny region that you’ll have no trouble seeing your favorites at just about every turn. The great thing about living in a sunny climate is there are bird watching groups that have events happening all year round. Keep reading to find the perfect birdwatching club to meet your needs.

The Audubon Society of the Everglades

Audubon Everglades is located in Palm Beach County, Florida. It covers the northern part of the Everglades as well as Arthur R Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. This group originally formed in the 1950s, and since then they’ve taken many field trips, spend time together in various activities, and they even focus on conservation, day trips, monthly meetings, and more.

Past and Future Events

  • Spanish River Park – in the Fall of 2019, Audubon Everglades held an event that took members of the organization to this beautiful park. The event was hosted by Linda McCandless and Kathy Walters. It began at 8 AM and went until 10 AM. During the event, bird enthusiasts enjoyed hiking, birdwatching, and companionship with other fellow avian devotees.
  • Juno Dunes – also in the fall of 2019, Steve and Melanie Garcia hosted an event that took the group to this beautiful location on Juno Beach. While there, they walked along their favorite hiking trails and saw lots of gorgeous birds as they soaked up the sun and strode along the sandy shores.
  • Osprey Pond Lake – in December 2019, Bob Deitch, Dave Smith, and Doreen LePage took the group to this beautiful lake for some winter birdwatching. It was truly a beautiful event and attendees took up hiking, birdwatching, and they even shared breakfast together when they met from 6:30 AM to 9:30 AM on the 21st right before Christmas.

Membership Fees

  • Individual Membership – $25
  • Senior Membership 62 Years and Older – $20
  • Student Membership – $10
  • Household Membership – $35
  • Patron Membership – $75

Please fill out this form to complete your online registration and payment on the World Wide Web.

Orange Audubon Society

The Audubon Society in Orange County, Florida is a very active group as you can imagine. Their goal is to take as many birdwatching trips and host as many events as possible as they get together as a community. Join this lively group and experience fun, excitement, and birdwatching all rolled into one.

Regular Field Trips

  • Econ River Wilderness Area, Oviedo – free event on September 19
  • Mead Botanical Garden, Winter Park – free event on October 17
  • Lighthouse Point Park, Ponce Inlet – free event on November 21
  • Ferndale Preserve, Claremont – free event on February 20
  • Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka – free event on March 20
  • Mead Botanical Garden, Winter Park – free event on April 17 
  • Lake Lotus Park, Altamonte Springs – free event on May 22

Membership Fees

Are you ready to become a member of the Orange Audubon Society? It’s pretty easy to get started. Print out this membership form and mail it into the PO Box that I’m about to share with you below.

Make the check payable and mail to:

Orange Audubon Society

PO Box 941142

Maitland, FL 32794

  • Individual Membership – $20
  • Student Membership – $15
  • Wren Membership – $35
  • Hawk Membership – $50 
  • Jay Membership – $100
  • Owl Membership – $250
  • Eagle Membership – $500

Caloosa Bird Club

The Caloosa Bird Club has a long and storied history in Southwest Florida. The group was originally formed in 1958 and is still very active to this very day. They take regular field trips, bird walks, and have regular monthly meetings as well. The group was officially incorporated in 1960 and it’s a real privilege to become a member of this prestigious organization.

Past and Future Events

  • Babcock Webb – this event originally took place on March 9, 2020. 11 members of the club went on this trip and they saw 57 different bird species including Northern Flickers, Pied-Billed Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and more.
  • Pine Island – this trip took place on March 5, 2020 and 11 members also attended this fun filled and informative event. The main reason they went was to see the local barn owl, but there are also 77 other species of birds on the island that they had the chance to view. Some of the other birds include the Pileated Woodpecker, American Kestrel, Tricolored Heron, Little Blue Heron, Muscovy Duck, and more.
  • NW Cape Coral – this event took place on February 17, 2020 and 11 members and four guests were in attendance. They went here with the aim to see the Eastern Towhee, but they were also treated with discovering 46 more bird species as they walked through the beautiful wildlife area. Other birds in the area include the Loggerhead Shrike, Florida Scrub Jay, White Ibis, Turkey Vulture, Little Blue Heron, and more.

Membership Fees

Please print out the membership application found here, fill it out, and then mail it in to the following location with a check payable to the Caloosa Bird Club.

The address is as follows:

Caloosa Bird Club
c/o Is Cloak
11542 South Carolina Dr.
Bonita Springs, FL 34135

Membership dues are $10 for the first year and $12 each additional year if you intend to renew.

Final Thoughts On Locations & Resources For Birding In Florida

Well, there you have it! I hope you find a great new Florida birding destination to explore

And…

Please contact us to add new locations, destinations, or birding clubs if you come across a Florida birding resources that you think we should add to this page. Our goal is to provide the best Florida birdwatching resources for our readers!