The Peace River Wildlife Center is the area's premier wildlife rescue & rehabilitation agency & a Five Star TripAdvisor Attraction. Its mission is the rehabillitation of Florida wildlife. The Wildlife Center opens their zoological facility to the public.
Some of the beautiful residents of the Wildlife Center include Bald Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Cranes, Falcons, Osprey, Pelicans, Egrets, & Herons. They take in roughly 2,000 animals annually & release most of them back to the wild. At present they have approximately 125 residents.
The Wildlife Center is located at Ponce de Leon Park which is situated on 10 acres on Charlotte Harbor. The park boasts a quarter mile raised boardwalk through a wetlands/mangrove area, educational signage, 2 fishing piers, playground, beach, shelter, picnic tables, & a beautiful view.
On this 2 and 1/2-hour cruise, we'll search for wildlife and give you the chance to do the following:
- Tour the manatee habitat of the basins of Burnt Store Marina. There we will pass close to 2 island rookeries
- We continue north on Charlotte Harbor, home to an abundance of fish and dolphin. The Captain will orient passengers to the Harbor, pointing out Cape Coral, Pine Island, Gasparilla Island, Cape Haze, & Punta Gorda.
- The Calusa Queen will then enter Alligator Creek & dock at Ponce de Leon Park. Passengers will have 1 1/2 hours to tour the Wildlife Center, hike the wetlands boardwalk, and wade at the beach.
What Is Not Included?
- Food and beverages are not included in the price of your ticket.
- Transportation to and from the boat is also not included.
- Do I have to purchase tickets in advance?
- Advance purchase is strongly recommended as our trips sell out. To maximize your chances of getting the day and time you prefer, book well in advance. Tickets can only be purchased in advance with a Visa, MasterCard or American Express.
- Is there an age limit?
- No, there are no restrictions and guests of any age are welcome to join us on board the Calusa Queen. Please note, however, that all guests must have a ticket regardless of age as our passenger capacity is limited by safety and comfort considerations, as well as by the US Coast Guard.
- What type of ticket should I buy if I'm bringing a very young child?
- Every guest, regardless of age, needs a ticket. We offer reduced-price Child tickets for children ages 3 through 16. Children ages 2 and under are welcome to attend for free but must have a free "Lap Pass."
- What happens if it rains?
- Your captain and crew watch the weather forecasts and conditions closely to ensure that your trip is safe, enjoyable, and memorable. In the event that current or predicted conditions require us to cancel, we will contact you as soon as possible so you can join us at another date/time. When purchasing your tickets, be sure to provide a good local contact number or cell phone number where you can be reached.
- What wildlife do we see on the trip?
- Charlotte Harbor provides a habitat for dolphin, manatee, alligators and a wide variety of fish and coastal birds including wood storks, great white egrets, roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, tri-colored herons, black-crowned night herons, ibis and osprey. We will view many of these animals in the wild and up close at the Wild Life Center.
- Will we see a manatee?
- There are many manatees that inhabit the Charlotte Harbor Estuary. 17 live in and around Burnt Store Marina. We see manatees about 80% of the time, however, because this is a true wildlife environment, we cannot guarantee sightings.
- How close can we get to the dolphins?
- While we never chase the dolphins, we will move to within a respectable distance. Often, though, they will spot us and come right up to the boat. They especially enjoy playing and frolicking in the wake created by the hulls and the engines. We strictly adhere to all regulations and will not contact, feed, touch or harass the dolphins.
- Do we see mothers and babies?
- Sometimes. Male dolphins are often observed alone, while pods of dolphins are usually females and young. Manatees are generally seen in small groups of 3 or 4, including adults and young. In the nesting season, the rookeries are packed with adult birds and their chicks.
- Can we see wildlife on the islands from the boat?
- Yes we can! We recommend that you bring binoculars for ease of viewing.
- Do we get off the boat?
- Yes. During this tour we will dock the boat at the Peace River Wild Life Center and spend about 1 and 1/4 hours there. You will be able to participate in a guided tour, and walk the mangrove board walk and beaches.
- Are food or drinks served on the trip?
- Food and drinks are not included with your trip, but we sell water, lemonade, and iced tea on the boat if you'd like to purchase a drink during your trip. Please note that we can only accept cash on board. Guests are also welcome to bring a small cooler, or pick up something to eat at the deli located at the marina. Please note that beer and wine are permitted, but we ask as a courtesy to other passengers that guests consume alcohol in moderation on public cruises.
- Can I bring a cooler, picnic basket or other large items?
- You can bring a small cooler or picnic basket that you can keep in your seating area. However, due to weight restrictions we cannot stow large items on board.
- What should I wear?
- Dress seasonally according to the weather conditions. Please note that the sun is much stronger on the water and although the boat does have a roof that provides shade we generally recommend sunglasses and sunscreen. You'll want to wear soft soled rubber bottom shoes or sandals on the boat. It is always cooler on the water so you may want to have a jacket, sweatshirt or fleece with you.
- Is there any shade on the boat?
- Yes. The Calusa Queen has a roof that provides shade for all passengers.
- Is the boat handicap accessible?
- Boats are not typically handicap accessible, however, we have been able to accommodate almost all passengers in wheelchairs. We recommend that you arrive early so that the crew will have time to assist you. Please note that some water levels prohibit us from being able to bring a wheelchair aboard safely and there are weight restrictions that may limit the type of equipment that we can bring on board. Also keep in mind that the restroom is not wheelchair accessible. If you have any concerns about accessibility, please click on the "Contact CalusaQueen" link to discuss before purchasing your tickets.
- Is the cruise suitable for pregnant women?
- We travel in fairly calm waters, so there are no restrictions against pregnant women attending.
- Is there a bathroom on board?
- Yes, there is one head (bathroom) on board. It serves both men and women. Unfortunately the head is not wheelchair accessible.
- Will I get wet?
- If it's a windy day you may get some occasional spray from the river. The boat is fully covered for protection from rain.
- Is the boat safe? Are there life jackets?
- The Calusa Queen is a 30 passenger US Coast Guard inspected and certified vessel. It is a large pontoon boat with a flat deck and is extra stable. Comfortable cushioned bench seating is provided, and railings are fitted all around. There are life jackets available for all passengers, including infant life jackets, though guests are not required to wear them during the cruise.
- Will I get seasick?
- Our passengers usually find the Calusa Queen to be a very stable vessel. However, we advise that you consult with your doctor about preventative measures beforehand if you are prone to motion sickness.
- Is smoking allowed?
- Smoking is allowed where it does not disturb other passengers.
- Are pets allowed to come?
- Pets are allowed on some of our cruises, but they are not allowed on this cruise because they are not allowed at Ponce de Leon Park.
- Is there parking available?
- Yes, there is ample free parking available at the marina.
- Is gratuity included in the ticket price?
- Gratuities for your Calusa Queen crew are not included in your ticket price. If you have a great time and wish to recognize the contributions of the crew, you are welcome to give any one of them a tip to be shared by all. We are occasionally asked what a good tip is and while it is entirely up to you, 15% of the ticket price is common. Please note that the captain and crew donate 10% of all tips to an organization that supports servicemen wounded in combat, a worthy charity we wish to support.
- Are gift certificates available?
- Yes, we do offer gift certificates! Nature Cruise to the Peace River Wildlife Center gift certificates are a great gifts for any occasion. We can accommodate a variety of special requests. Please click on the "Contact CalusaQueen" link to the left of the page to inquire further about your options.
- Can I book a private trip or charter?
- Yes! We offer private trips that are perfect for both personal and corporate events. We can accommodate a variety of special requests. Please click on the "Contact CalusaQueen" link to inquire further about your options.
- Non-refundable, cannot be rescheduled.
- Once purchased, tickets cannot be refunded and cannot be rescheduled because your space is being guaranteed at the event.
- Activity may be cancelled due to severe weather.
- The activity usually runs in light rain and other moderate weather conditions, but the seller may cancel the activity up to an hour before the start time in the event of severe or unsafe weather conditions. If the seller cancels the event, ticket-holders will be allowed to reschedule tickets (subject to availability) or receive credit for a future event.
- All participants are required to have tickets for this event.
- Our boat is United States Coast Guard documented for a certain amount of passengers and we cannot exceed the capacity. This means that all passengers including infants and toddlers must have a ticket.
Captain Will Olds is a US Coast Guard Master Mariner who has driven charter boats on Lake Superior and taught safe boating for the Chapman School of Seamanship. He is also a historian and naturalist, and has given hundreds of tours of the Peace River. His combination of skills come together to offer passengers narrated tours of Charlotte Harbor that are always enjoyable and informative.
After running nature tours exclusively on the Peace River, Captain Will wanted to show guests some of the other amazing things to see in Charlotte Harbor and is now offering a number of different tours. Join him as the Calusa Queen leaves from Burnt Store Marina to explore Matlacha, Pineland, Jug Creek, Cape Haze and even up the Peace River.
You will always have fun on the water, whether its viewing the wildlife and the marine environment in a new way or learning some history about the natives, explorers, and settlers of southwest Florida. Or if evening fun is more your style, feel free to take a relaxing sunset cruise aboard the Calusa Queen. It's one of the best ways to spend an evening on the Gulf Coast!