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A New Era for The Wonder Gardens: Exciting Renovations Ahead

SUSAN KOSCHALK June 28, 2024

The Wonder Gardens and the City of Bonita Springs are teaming up to renovate Southwest Florida’s oldest roadside attraction!

The Wonder Gardens has been a cherished landmark in Bonita Springs since its opening in 1936. This garden pays homage to Old Florida by providing a sanctuary for a vast variety of native plants and over 300 animals. The animals residing in the Wonder Gardens have been rehabilitated and are unable to be released back into the wild, making this garden a safe haven for them.

While the Wonder Gardens has faced numerous challenges, its future looks promising. Devastated by Hurricane Irma and sustaining further damage from Ian, the garden has shown remarkable resilience. In 2015, facing potential redevelopment threats, a group of Southwest Florida residents formed the nonprofit Bonita Wonder Gardens, LLC, and purchased the property with the help of a $3 million loan from the city to save it from developers. After defaulting on the loan, the city reclaimed the title in 2018. Now, the Wonder Gardens and the City of Bonita Springs are joining forces to breathe new life into this historic attraction.

According to the new operating agreement, the nonprofit will pay the city $50,000 annually for the next 10 years and will invest at least $3 million in capital improvements. This comprehensive agreement paves the way for the Wonder Gardens to proceed with a master plan to renovate existing exhibits and introduce exciting new ones. Recently, the Wonder Gardens unveiled their preliminary site plans at a city council meeting. These plans include transforming the former Twisted Tangle Cafe into an education center and adding a host of new features such as a new otter exhibit, a treehouse/canopy experience, a nature-based playground, an event space with a walk-through aviary, and an animal care facility. The otter exhibit is currently under construction, with more projects set to commence soon!

Stay tuned as the Wonder Gardens embarks on this exciting journey to renew and revitalize one of Southwest Florida’s most treasured attractions. CLICK HERE for the preliminary site plans!

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