Past, Present & Future
Educating our region about the environment & wildlife
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 Wonder Gardens to appeal to visitors. The Wonder Gardens captured the nostalgia, history and wonder of old Florida, augmented with tropical flora and fauna from around the world. For eighty-five years the Everglades Wonder Gardens has inspired, educated, and engaged our community and visitors with a one-of-a-kind experience.
In April of 2013 the Piper’s closed the Wonder Gardens and local photographer and conservationist, John Brady took over the property as a tenant and reopened the park. With the help of Ellie Krier, they started the formation of the non-profit 501(c)(3), Bonita Wonder Gardens. The founding board members were, Ray Carrol President, Scott Klabunde board member and John Brady, and soon after, Dennis Gilkey, Trish Leonard, Jacke McCurdy, and Marjory Rubacky.
In July of 2015 the City of Bonita Springs recognized the economic, cultural and historic value of this zoological and botanical attraction, and made a loan, enabling 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 charitable organization continues to manage all operations. Thus, began a new chapter of our public-private partnership to save this beloved attraction.
today & beyond
Today, under the leadership of our Executive Director, Neil Anderson and our board of directors, the Wonder Gardens is home to rescued and non-releasable birds and reptiles nestled among the sprawling banyan trees and plantings. While preserving the very best of The Wonder Gardens, the charitable organization cares 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.
An historic icon, the Wonder Gardens stands as one of the few remaining cornerstones of Old Florida. Here, we tell a story of The Wonder Gardens’ past, present, and future, while educating our region about our environment and wildlife.
Throughout its history, the Wonder Gardens has been supported by the community. Our partnerships with educational partners and businesses has allowed us to be contributing members of redeveloped and growing Bonita Springs. Attendance and membership help us to provide for the professional care of our resident animals. Generous donor support allows us to improve and expand our exhibits. If area residents have not visited in some time, we hope they will enjoy the gardens along with our record 80,000 visitors.