The Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets that stretch from Everglades City to Flamingo at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The northern area is part of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge; the southern part lies in the Everglades National Park. Ten Thousand Islands is a misnomer—the islands actually only number in the hundreds—but semantics aside, the area embodies the serenity and complexity of the Everglades. The islands are mostly uninhabited now, but evidence of Native American inhabitants can be found underwater and on some of the islands.
The best way to see the area is by boat, either on a guided tour or by canoe. There are guided eco tours led by naturalists or you can rent a kayak or a canoe and strike out on your own. The 99-mile (159 km) long Wilderness Waterway is the longest canoe trail in the area, but there are shorter trails near Flamingo if you’re looking for an easier paddle. The area is navigable and pleasant if you adhere to the NOAA tide and nautical charts: shallows are common and tides can make or break your trip. The area is home to a world of gamefish including tarpon, permit, snook and redfish; above the water you might see roseate spoonbills, heron, white ibis, snowy egrets, black skimmers and bald eagles.
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is
located between Marco Island and Everglades City, Florida. The refuge is
best accessed by boat; the two more popular boating access points are
found in Goodland and Port-of-the-Islands. Take U.S. 41 south out of
Naples and drive 12 miles to Hwy 92, turn right and drive 5 miles to
Goodland, or continue on U.S. 41 for 5 miles to Port-of-the-Islands. The
headquarters for the refuge is located at 3860 Tollgate Blvd in Naples,
within the Comfort Inn at Exit 101 on I-75.