Visitors to Southern Florida will delight in the exploration of its beachfront parks, its museums, and its beautiful botanic gardens. Families can swim with dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium or go snorkeling at the first undersea park in the US as they explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Southern Florida's museums offer a world of information about art, science, nature, and the fascinating history of the region. From Miami to Key Largo, Southern Florida is the perfect destination for a sunny respite from the cold, with attractions that suit visitors of all ages and interests.
1. Naples Botanical Gardens
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The Naples Botanical Gardens aim to present and conserve a space for its visitors to experience plants native to the tropics. It consists of 170 acres of beautifully cultivated land and contains within its grounds over one thousand distinct species of plants. The gardens are separated into seven sections, each of which represents a particular ecosystem. Tours of the Naples Botanical Gardens are offered year round at 11am, and from February until November, a second tour is also offered daily at 2pm. The space is fully accessible for guests in wheelchairs, and it is recommended that guests wear appropriate clothing for the weather and also bring a bottle of water with them.
4820 Bayshore Drive, Naples, FL 34112, Phone: 239-643-7275
2. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
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At Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, visitors can swim, play, and go boating on the Atlantic. The beach at Bill Baggs is rated one of the top ten beaches in America, and with over a mile of picturesque, sandy beachfront, it's not difficult to see why. The Lighthouse at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is the oldest of its kind in the region. Built in 1825, it provides a stately and distinctive sight for visitors, set against the gorgeous backdrop of the park and beach. Guided tours of the lighthouse and the connected cottage for the lighthouse keeper are offered two times a day.
1200 South Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, FL 33149, Phone: 305-361-5811
3. Naples Museum of Art
© Naples Museum of Art
The Baker Museum, part of the Artis--Naples center for the performing and visual arts, is located in a gorgeous, 30,000 ft. space with a glass-dome conservatory. Inside the Baker Museum, guests will find 15 galleries that host travelling exhibitions as well as permanent collections. With an emphasis on modern art and contemporary art, the Baker Museum is one of the most prevalent fine arts museums in the region, with pieces by artists such as Albert Paley and Dale Chihuly. Free tours of the museum are offered to the public on certain days. Next read: Things to Do in Naples
5833 Pelican Bay Blvd, Naples, FL 34108, Phone: 239-597-1111
4. Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium
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The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium is a park, museum, planetarium, and so much more. Located on 105 acres in Fort Meyers, the Calusa Nature Center offers various exciting activities and exhibits for its visitors to learn about the natural history of Southern Florida. Guests can meet some of the center's resident animals, including skunks, raccoons, and the inhabitants of the Butterfly and Audubon Aviaries, which feature birds of prey like hawks, eagles, and owls. In the museum, guests can learn about native Florida wildlife and then take to one of the three nature trails at the center to see some with their own eyes. The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium is open seven days a week.
3450 Ortiz Avenue, Fort Myers, FL 33905, Phone: 239-275-3435
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5. Edison and Ford Winter Estates
© Edison and Ford Winter Estates
In the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, visitors will find museums and gardens on the grounds of the adjacent historical homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Visitors can tour the homes of both of these illustrious inventors, wander the botanic gardens on the museum's 20-acre property, or visit the Estates Museum to learn about two of the most influential men in American history. Visitors will learn about their lives, inventions, and influences with fascinating and interactive galleries, displays, and exhibits. The site is also home to the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory, and the stunning botanic gardens that both influenced Edison in his research.
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901, Phone: 239-334-7419
6. Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium
© Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium
At the Imaginarium Hands-on Museum and Aquarium, kids can experience science and marine life in a way unlike any other. The establishment is located in Fort Myers, and admission to the Imaginarium grants access to over 60 hands-on exhibits like the Touch Tank, where kids can see and touch sea life like stingrays, the Dino Dig fossil lab, and the Animal Lab, which includes everything from ball pythons and alligators to prairie dogs and Mexican axolotls. The Imaginarium's exhibits are fun and educational, and the museum also offers educational programs and shows where kids can meet and learn about live animals or explore their creativity and engineering skills.
2000 Cranford Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33916, Phone: 239-243-0043
7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
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While its sparkling blue ocean views and swaying palm trees are beautiful, the real draw at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park lies under the surface of the ocean. The bounds of Pennekamp Park stretch for three miles into the Atlantic Ocean, and with a glass-bottom boat tour, visitors can look into reefs teeming with fish and other wildlife from the comfort of a dry boat. For a closer look at the water, the park also offers canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding, as well as snorkeling and scuba diving. Back on dry land, visitors are welcome to enjoy the park's beaches, trails, and picnic areas.
102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5), Key Largo, FL 33037, P.O. Box 1560, Phone: 305-451-6300
8. Jungle Island
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Visitors to Jungle Island will get up close and personal with a wide variety of animals and tropical plants. This interactive zoological experience offers live shows where guests can learn and even have their photo taken with tigers, primates, or birds of prey. While playing with lemurs or hanging with some two-toed sloths, guests will learn about the habitats and conservation efforts surrounding some of the earth's most unique creatures. Jungle Island is open 365 days a year and offers different entry packages that include shows, animal interactions, tours, and special programs.
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami, FL 33132, Phone: 305-400-7000
9. MDC Museum of Art and Design
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The Miami Dade College's Museum of Art and Design is located right in downtown Miami in the National Historic Landmark Freedom Tower. The Museum of Art and Design (MOAD) is the permanent home to over 1900 works of art across all mediums, including photography, painting, sculpture, film, and many more. At the Museum of Art and Design, visitors will see works by famous artists as well as those by rising artists and student artists. They will also find works that have significant influence in the world of contemporary art. On the third Saturday of every month, the museum hosts a children's program called GOGO MOAD!, which is located in various settings around the city of Miami.
600 Biscayne Blvd, Miami, FL 33132, Phone: 305-237-7700
10. Miami Children's Museum
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At the Miami Children's Museum, every exhibit is designed with a specific learning goal in mind. From the Construction Zone to the Ocean Odyssey to the Music Makers Studio, kids will love the wide variety of exhibits that promote not only learning, but also play. The museum was created in conjunction with real school curriculums, and its mission is to take the lessons that kids learn in classrooms and turn them into real, lasting experiences. Kids of all ages will love the museum and the many layers of learning and fun that it offers.
980 MacArthur Causeway, Miami, FL 33132, Phone: 305-373-5437
11. Miami Seaquarium
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Miami Seaquarium is a marine themed entertainment park that emphasizes education and conservation along with fun for the entire family. At the Miami Seaquarium, guests can swim with dolphins, learn about a penguin's habitat, and see endangered manatees and sea turtles. The Seaquarium offers eight unique and fantastic animal shows, where audience members can watch dolphins jump and flip high in the air, and laugh at the silly antics of sea lions. Each show is designed to teach its audience about the animals they are watching, as well as conservation efforts that everyone can take part in. The Seaquarium recommends that its visitors allow a visit of at least four hours in order to fully enjoy everything they have to offer.
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149, Phone: 305-361-5705
12. Murphy-Burroughs House
© Murphy-Burroughs House
Located right in the center of downtown historic Fort Meyers, the Murphy-Burroughs house is a beautiful piece of Georgian Revival architecture that was built in 1901. Set on a gorgeous property overlooking the Caloosahatchee River, the home is open for guided historical tours. Visitors can enjoy the peaceful gardens and listen to the relaxing flow of the river or explore every room of the house while learning about the history and stories of the lavish social events that once took place within its walls. Guided tours are available to the public with an advance reservation.
2505 First Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901, Phone: 239-337-9505
13. Museum of Discovery and Science
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Inside the Museum of Discovery and Science, visitors can dig for fossils, navigate the skies in cockpit simulators, meet alligators, iguanas, and a 12-foot long snake, and so much more. The Museum of Discovery and Science is located in Fort Lauderdale, and it is designed to teach children and adults of all ages about science and nature through a wide array of interactive exhibits and shows. At the EcoDiscovery Center, families can feel the forceful gale of hurricane winds, play with adorable river otters, and ride the Everglades Airboat Adventure. Other exhibits will teach visitors about the power of the human body, life in the Everglades, and going green.
401 SW 2nd St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, Phone: 954-467-MODS
14. Bonnet House
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The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is the historical home and studio of American artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, and it was built in 1920. Located in Fort Lauderdale, the Bonnet House today is home to a vast collection of art, as well as the personal belongings of the Bartlett and Birch families, all of which are available for viewing individually and by guided tour. Bonnet House is built on 35 acres of a beautiful coastal barrier island, and its grounds and gardens offer its guests the opportunity to explore the natural ecosystem of Southern Florida, complete with native wading birds and even manatees.
900 North Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, Phone: 954-563-5393
15. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
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The Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is located on a tract of land that was once designated for a condominium development but was instead preserved because it contains more West Indian tropical hardwood hammock than anywhere else in the United States. Inside the park, visitors will find over eighty species of protected plants and animals. From wild cotton to the American crocodile, the park is abundant with wildlife, and its trails are perfect for sightseers, photographers, hikers, or cyclists. Self-guided tours are available through a series of informational signs along the six miles of trails within the park, and ranger-guided tours are also available by appointment.
County Road 905, Mile Marker 106, Key Largo, FL 33037, Phone: 305-451-1202
16. Naples Zoo
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The Naples Zoo was instituted in 1919 as a tropical botanic garden. When the space was re-outfitted to house animals, it was done with the utmost care to preserve the historic garden setting, and the result is a unique and beautiful space complete with not only exotic animals but also rare tropical plants and trees that have grown in the Naples Zoo for almost a century. The Naples Zoo features a mile-long paved walking path that will lead visitors through exhibits where they will find lions, bears, and giraffes as well as primates, reptiles, and some rarer creatures like fosas from Madagascar.
1590 Goodlette Road, Naples, FL 34102, Phone: 239-262-5409
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17. NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
© NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
Located right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale just a short walk from shops and restaurants and at a convenient driving distance from both Miami and Palm Beach, the NSU Art Museum provides access to a wealth of exhibitions and programs depicting all aspects of visual art throughout history. With over 6,000 items in its permanent collection and seasonal or travelling exhibitions on display, the NSU Art Museum of Fort Lauderdale aims to educate its visitors through a diverse selection of art.
1 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, Phone: 954-525-5500
18. Old Fort Lauderdale Village & Museum
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The Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum contains a historic 1907 house museum as well as three more historic houses and structures that date back to 1905. In the New River Inn History Museum, visitors can see artifacts from the Seminole Indians, early Pioneers of the region, and items from railroad workers and military movements in the area. The King Cromartie House is the painstakingly preserved home of two pioneer families, and the Ivy Cromartie Schoolhouse is a detailed replica of an 1899 schoolhouse, complete with period-appropriate desks and teaching equipment. Visitors to the Village & Museum can explore the property on a guided or self-guided tour during its operating hours.
219 Southwest Second Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, Phone: 954-463-4431
19. Pérez Art Museum Miami
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Located on the stunning waterfront edge of Biscayne Bay, the Pérez Art Museum exhibits contemporary and modern art, with an emphasis on international art. In the Pérez Art Museum, visitors can explore the galleries on their own or with a free guided tour. The Pérez Art Museum is part of the City of Miami's Museum Park, which is also home to the Miami Museum of Science. Visitors to the Pérez Art Museum will also enjoy the park's hanging gardens, as well as the museum's gift store and the delicious dining at Verde, the museum's waterfront restaurant. The Pérez Art Museum is closed on Wednesdays. Admission to the museum is free on the second Saturday of every month and the first Thursday of every month.
1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132, Phone: 305-375-3000
20. Stonewall National Museum & Archives
© Stonewall National Museum & Archives
The Stonewall National Museum and Archives aims to highlight the proud culture of LGBTQ history and the impact that it has had on the world. In the Stonwall National Archives, visitors can find pulp fiction, LGBT ephemera, oral histories and personal records amongst the 30,000 items. The Stonewall National Library is the largest of its kind in the US and contains over 26,000 books and DVDs. At the Stonewall Museum Wilton Manors Gallery, visitors can learn about the history of the LGBTQ community and culture as we know it today and the role it plays in modern society. Admission to the museum is free, with a suggested donation.
1300 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, Phone: 954-530-9337
21. Stranahan House
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Frank Stranahan was the founding father of the city of Fort Lauderdale, and his home built in 1901 is the oldest surviving structure in the region. Over the years, it has served a variety of uses including a post office, a trading post, and the home of the Stranahans. Guided tours of the Stranahan House are offered daily at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm and last approximately 45 to 60 minutes. Each tour will provide visitors with a ticket to the past, back to the days of historic Southern Florida when Fort Lauderdale was nothing more than a small frontier town. Stranahan House is located on 6th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale on the New River just off of Las Olas Boulevard.
335 Southeast 6th Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, Phone: 954-524-4736
22. The Bass
© The Bass
Located in Miami Beach, the Bass is a beacon for contemporary art in the region. The Bass highlights international contemporary art of both emerging and established artists and aims to represent the culture and spirit of Miami beach though a variety of mediums including fashion and architecture alongside more traditional art mediums. Though a series of educational and outreach programs for art lovers of all ages and levels of experience, the Bass IDEAS initiative uses art to inspire creativity within its community. Within the museum, visitors will find a rotating display of works from the Bass' permanent collection as well as a rotating schedule of temporary exhibits.
2100 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139, Phone: 305-673-7530
23. The Kampong
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Once home to Dr. David Fairchild, one of the most famous and influential horticulturists in the United States, the Kampong is home to a colorful collection of flowering and fruit-bearing trees and plants. Some of the rare and exotic fruits grown on the property include cocoplums, peanut butter fruit, and more than 50 types of mango. Visitors will stand awed by a Tanzanian baobab tree that weighs almost 50 tons, and they can appreciate the scents of the flowers and plants they may recognize from beloved perfumes. The Kampong allows self-guided tours with an informational brochure and map and also offers guided tours by reservation from September through June.
4013 Douglas Rd, Miami, FL 33133, Phone: 305-442-7169
24. The Wolfsonian
© The Wolfsonian
More than 180,000 objects make up the collection at the Wolfsonian, which include artifacts from the Industrial Revolution through the era immediately following the end of World War II. Furniture, ceramics, paintings, and textiles are just some of the items that visitors can see when visiting the Wolfsonian, which is renowned for depicting life in a bygone era through these objects and its exhibits. The Wolfsonian aims to educate its visitors about the future through a study of the past. Admission at the Wolfsonian is free to the public.
1001 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139, Phone: 305-531-1001
25. Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
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Built in the early 20th century as a subtropical version of an Italian villa, Vizcaya was once the winter residence of James Deering, one of the founding fathers of Miami and is located just south of the city on the shores of Biscayne Bay. The house's gardens are some of the most exquisite in the entire country, reminiscent of Italian and French gardens from the 17th and 18th centuries. The hedges, fountains, and mazes in the tiny tropical paradise will charm visitors, who can also enjoy the 34 lavishly furnished rooms of the main house. Audio tours and guided tours of the house and gardens are available.
3251 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33129, Phone: 305-250-9133
Attraction Spotlight: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
If you have ever wanted to experience the Everglades, but were too scared to venture out for fear of disturbing a sleeping alligator or stepping on an unsuspecting snake, then you have to visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
With a 2.5 mile boardwalk that will take you safely through marshlands, pine flatwood and wet prairies, you will be amazed by the wildlife you will come across. Grab your camera before you head out as you will be able to capture some never-seen-before shots of all the inquisitive animals, such as the red-bellied turtles, the famous white-tailed deer, songbirds and of course the infamous alligators.
If you aren’t yet convinced, stop off at the Blair Audubon Visitor Center, which boasts to be cutting edge, solar powered and environmentally friendly to boot. The center has a Nature Store, for all your gifts, souvenirs including books, clothing and jewelry, as well as their Gallery Café, where all sorts of snacks and drinks are sold.
There are many guided walks to choose from at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. If you are particularly a bird lover, then you have come to the right place. The Swamp is part of the Atlantic Flyway for bird migration and also the Great Florida Birding Trail. In addition, they are a Ramsar designated Wetland of International Importance.
Early Bird Walks
The guided Early Bird Walk takes place, as the name indicates, early morning. Not too early, mind you, but early enough when the birds are at their perkiest and most verbal.
Brush up on the local birds or grab a copy of a bird sanctuary booklet so you can seek and discover these wondrous beauties. You will be educated on the bird’s habitat and their habits, from how they build their nests, to when their mating season is. In addition, the naturalist guides will tell you why these birds are so important to the upland and freshwater wetlands.
At reasonable rates and kept to a maximum of 8 people, the Early Bird Walk is perfect for all walks of life, but note that only 16 years and older may join in.
Complimentary Guided Boardwalk Tours for Visitors
And who says that things in life aren’t free?
Corkscrew’s Complimentary Boardwalk Tour is offered most days from November month through to March, beginning at 10:30am; and during the months of April to October from 9:30am.
A slightly bigger group than the Early Bird Walk, this tour will have you ‘ooing’ and ‘aaing’ from start to finish. The professional guide will take you from the wilderness forest, which is over 600 years old, to the dense pine thickets and magnificent lettuce lakes. With over 200 species of birds, which includes the anhinga, the heron, the egrets and the limpkins, to mention a few, you will be enthralled and delighted from start to finish. And if you are very lucky you will get a gander at the barred owls that generally reside close to the boardwalk area. Listen out for his characteristic hoot and try and see if you can spot him amongst the foliage.
The Bald Cypress Forest is a definite must on your bucket list of ancient hideaways to experience. The Ancient Forest Walking Tour will ensure you get to see this majestic and the largest bald cypress forest.
Back in1954 this old forest was added to the list of forests protected from logging. For 2.25 miles you will be exposed to the wondrous history of that comes with this legendary forest. The trip takes about 3 hours and with only 10 people on board, it will prove to be quite a personal guided tour.
Guided Walks and Interpretive Programs for Adult Groups
If you prefer, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary hosts private guided walks as well for adults. This allows the smaller group to receive a more comprehensive experience. One can then ask all the questions you want from the experienced naturalist guide without delaying the tour. Popular groups that take advantage of this type of guided tour are many business groups, especially the sales team; nature clubs, small family units and other associations.
The program can be adjusted to suit each group. So if you would prefer more of a bird watching session this can be arranged. Or maybe you love the flora or want a specific night walk; all you need to do is request this.
Now, if you still have a real interest in being closer to the swamplands, then the Corkscrew Swamp Walks are where you want to go. Moving beyond the safe boardwalk may seem daunting to even the most adventurous fellow, but this walk takes you deep into the Everglades. When we say deep we mean about 1.5 miles in and idea is to get your feet a little wet.
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Bring your wellington boots, and possibly even a walking stick; and be prepared for at least 3 feet of water terrain. The walk covers topics such as the bald cypress trees, other rare plants such as the bromeliads, ferns and orchids, as well as all the wildlife that frequent the area.
Corkscrew offers many workshops and it’s where you can literally get your hands dirty learning a new skill or honing in on a new hobby. Here are the workshops on offer:
Lunch and Learn Workshop
For all science or nature related topics you want to hop on board the next Lunch and Learn Workshop, which are held occasionally throughout the year, mostly between November and April months. Corkscrew employs the expertise from local professionals who will enthrall and delight you with all they know, whilst you have some delicious lunch at the Tea Room Café. The Workshop is free to the public, so be sure to book your seat soon and well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Python Patrol Training Workshop
Whether you have a love for the cold blooded belly crawlers or freak out at the thought of them, the Python Patrol Training Workshop is a must do at Corkscrew. Learn how to identify the Burmese python, a regular inhabitant of the Everglades, and also how to deal with them in the most humane and safe manner. These workshops are free to the public but get pretty full, so book early to avoid being left off.
Corkscrew Swamp Meditation Sessions
While this may seem like an unusual pastime in the middle of the Everglades, the meditation sessions, held by the Spiritual Coach Bethany Gonzalez, are very popular. You won’t be seated in the middle of the Everglades, so no worries there. The amphitheatre, enveloped by the rich cypress forest, is where you will place your pillow and blanket, and be taken into a peaceful world of meditation. At $20 a class, be sure to book early and take part in this unique experience.
The Outdoor Macro Photography Workshop
Amazing things can be discovered from behind a camera lens. Book yourself on this eye-opening workshop and take a magical journey with professional photographer Mike Matthew. He will take you off the boardwalk path into the Everglades to get up close and personal with the natural habitat and wildlife. This is an experience not to be missed, no matter whether you are a professional or amateur photographer. The cost of the workshop is $150 and places fill up fast.
The Indoor Macro Photography Workshop
Mike Matthews, the in-house professional photographer at Corkscrew, will take you on a mind-boggling tour of about 10 types of frog, lizards and snakes. Be prepared to be wowed by the Red-eyed Tree Frog and many other species. You will have the opportunity to hone your photographic skills on all these reptiles and amphibians, including many different flowers and plants.
Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is open daily from 7:00am to 5:30pm and their entry fees are very reasonable. Adults pay $14, full-time students $6, kids aged 6 to 18 years $4 and the under 6 year olds enter free.
In addition, tickets are valid for 2 consecutive days giving you plenty time to explore and learn.
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375 Sanctuary Rd W, Naples, Florida 34120, Phone: 239-348-9151
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