The Ten Thousand Islands archipelago covers more than 35,000 acres (14,164 hectares) of Florida’s southern tip. The eponymous national wildlife refuge lies in the northern portion, while the southern part is in Everglades National Park. The islands—which number in the hundreds, not thousands—are a perfect place to decompress in nature.
You can explore the archipelago’s remote islets in a variety of ways, either with a tour or solo if you’re an experienced boater or paddler. Take a canoeing or kayaking ecotour to discover the diverse flora and fauna of the region up close. Boat safaris offer a more relaxing journey and the chance to discover native wildlife like manatees, river otters, and bottlenose dolphins. Fishing expeditions are also available, where you can enjoy a private charter boat and cast a line to catch local gamefish.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Ten Thousand Islands are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Bring plenty of water, sun protection, and insect repellant.
- There are no facilities available on the islands, so take this into consideration before heading out to explore.
- Camping within the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is free but accessible only by boat.
How to Get There
Ten Thousand Islands is located between Marco Island and Everglades City, on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The islands of the refuge are best reached by boat, kayak, or canoe, with access points found in Goodland and Port-of-the-Islands, just off US 41 from Naples, as well as from Chokoloskee Island, just south of Everglades City. You can also drive to the Marsh Trail, 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) east of Collier-Seminole State Park and with an 18-space parking lot.
When to Get There
For all-day adventures, visit Ten Thousand Islands between October and May, when the weather is cooler and drier—and there are fewer mosquitos. If going between June and September, book your hikes and boating adventures for the morning to avoid the hottest parts of the day and frequent afternoon thunderstorms.
The First Settlers
Native Americans inhabited the Ten Thousand Islands region more than 3,500 years ago. Many shell rings and a few settlements have been found in or next to the region, such as the Horr’s Island archaeological site, but have been flooded by rising sea levels. The area was once good for fishing and trading, but after European settlers arrived in the area, the native populations were wiped out by foreign diseases and disputes.