Greater Fort Lauderdale may be known for its gold-sand shores, but beaches are just the start of the vast natural beauty the destination has to offer. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the area is home to natural attractions like the Everglades, pine flatwoods, lakes, and other wetlands. Nature preserves dot nearly every corner of Greater Fort Lauderdale, and many include nature trails, picnic tables, paved walking paths, and overlooks with sweeping panoramas of the wild wonders below.
Out west, in Coral Springs, the 66-acre Tall Cypress Natural Area features the last remaining stands of basin swamp and pine flatwoods, plus tons of different types of wildlife and birds, from land turtles and lizards to white peacock butterflies and bluejays. Over in Davie, the high hammock forest on Pine Island Ridge has the highest natural elevation in Broward County and is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, 489 sites throughout the state with fantastic bird watching—so be sure to bring your binoculars!
Also part of the trail is Snake Warrior’s Island in Miramar, dotted with archeological islands and eight created wetlands that attract wading birds and ducks. While strolling along the 1,154-foot elevated boardwalk at Woodmont Natural Area in Tamarac, you’ll also spot different species of hawks, wood warblers, owls, and woodpeckers, while over in Deerfield Beach, Military Trail Natural Area—originally a dirt access road for soldiers during the Second Seminole War in the 1800s—features one of the rarest plant communities in the county, with scrubby flatwoods, oak-dominated scrub, and sand pine scrub.
Coconut Creek, nicknamed “Butterfly Capital of the World,” was the first in the state to be a certified Community Wildlife Habitat, and it’s home to the largest butterfly park on the globe, Butterfly World, as well as two nature preserves: Hillsboro Pineland, with an elevated boardwalk and nature trail, and the small Helene Klein Pineland Preserve. Even though it only spans 13 acres, Helene Klein Pineland Preserve boasts 55 species of wildlife, like spotted skunks and giant swallowtail butterflies, as well as a cypress swamp and two small marl prairies.
Nearby, Pompano Beach, named after the inshore tropical game fish found in the bordering warm waters, is home to a rare sand pine community at Crystal Lake Sand Pine Scrub, where wildlife includes gopher tortoises, five-lined skinks, and zebra swallowtail butterflies. Also in Pompano, Highlands Scrub is another nature preserve with one of Broward’s last remaining pine scrub communities—part of the 2% of this type of habitat left in the county. Previously called the Jungle, this preserve now features 1,800 feet of concrete tails with benches and shelter, so you can sit and spend the day admiring the many migratory birds, gray foxes, gopher tortoises, and racerunners that call this habitat home.