In 1936, the Piper family established The Reptile Gardens as a roadside attraction along the newly built Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami. As the animal and botanical exhibits grew, the attraction’s name was changed to the Everglades Wonder Gardens to better reflect the experience available to guests. The Wonder Gardens captured the nostalgia, history and wonder of old Florida, augmented with tropical flora and fauna from around the world. For nearly eighty-five years the Everglades Wonder Gardens has inspired, educated, and engaged our community and visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience.
In 2014, a group of residents formed the Bonita Wonder Gardens Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The City of Bonita Springs recognized the economic, cultural and historic value of this zoological park and attraction and enabled the nonprofit to purchase the 3-acre property and assets from the Piper family, saving it from potential commercial development. The property was later purchased by the City of Bonita Springs, while our nonprofit continues to manage all operations. Thus, began a new chapter of our public-private partnership to save this beloved attraction.
Today, the Wonder Gardens is home to rescued birds and reptiles nestled among the sprawling banyan trees and plantings. While preserving the very best of Everglades Wonder Gardens, the non-profit is caring for more than 300 resident animals, upgrading wildlife enclosures, growing the botanical beauty of the property, adding education programs and events, and further engaging the community to enjoy this jewel in historic Downtown Bonita Springs.
A cultural icon, the Wonder Gardens stands as one of the few remaining cornerstones of Old Florida. Here, we tell a story there are few left to tell while educating our region on our important environment and wildlife.