While your family may be more familiar with the world-famous Disney park and luxury beaches of Florida, the Sunshine State has an even wilder side to it. Yes, Miami nightlife, but also, the plethora of wildlife sanctuaries and rescues. Take the family for a walk on the wild side, visiting resident rescues and National Wildlife Refuges. Maybe you’ll inspire your young naturalist brood to take up a cause of their own.
What may sound more like a school mascot than a National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Panther is actually a wildlife reprieve for endangered species, like the puma. Bring the kids through to see the beautiful big cats and other resident rescues, like Florida Black Bear and white-tailed deer. Sightseeing is kept at a safe, yet interactive distance through the park’s two hiking trails. You’ll feel a lot like a wildlife viewer stalking through the bush, but with all the safety of a zoo.
Pay a visit to the non-profit, donation-based organization Busch Wildlife Sanctuary. This stop welcomes families and guests of all ages to visit rescued wildlife along habitat trails. Your future vets and wildlife caretakers will appreciate the medical side of the tour, as some rescues will be on the mend or in recovery. This is a working wildlife hospital, so every day is different, but there will be plenty of rescued residents and temporary guests.
Watch resident rescued big cats enjoy feeding time and playing together like kittens in an oversized watering hole, cleverly named Catty Shack Ranch. This sanctuary is home to lions, cougars, leopards, tigers, bobcats and Arctic foxes, among many other species. Check in on the resident big cats as they enjoy a safe environment with professional, attentive care, but with freedom to roam and play. The sanctuary is a non-profit, forever home for the cats and never breeds, sells or trades its residents.
Over in Palm Beach County, McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is home to rescued and rehabilitated birds, tigers, lions, bobcats, panthers, reptiles and many others, but requires an appointment to visit. The exclusivity of this tour is actually a really special experience and, as the resident rescues are like family, some even let guests pet them. Read up on the FAQs before booking.