Trails with a Twist

    These unique paths put a fresh spin on classic nature walks and museum tours.

    Specialty trails depart from the mainstream, revealing a lesser-known side of Florida. Here, visitors can make like an ancient Calusa warrior, join the circus (or tour its Floridian roots), explore architectural treasures and listen to nature sounds on command.

    Situated along Wildlife Drive at J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge in Sanibel, the iNature Trail’s 10 signs feature 23 QR (Quick Response) codes. When scanned with smartphone or tablet apps, the codes link to interactive videos and informative websites that allow visitors, young and old, to learn more about the refuge.

    They’ve also jumped on the QR trend at Gainesville’s University of Florida. Visitors to the Natural Area Teaching Lab trails at the Thomas J. Walker Conservation Area can scan more than 50 codes to gain insight into the area’s ecological diversity. Hear recordings of katydids, crickets and birds; or watch videos of other wildlife filmed on-site.

    Moving from smartphones to quirky Old Florida, the Circus Heritage Trail self-driving tour explores Sarasota County’s “big top” heritage. Stops include the Circus Bridge in Venice and the John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, mansion and circus museum on Sarasota Bay.

    Another trail with distinct Florida charm, South Beach’s Art Deco Walking Tour shows off the district’s trademark early 20th century gems – saved from bulldozers by local building-huggers – on daily guided tours. The urban trail features more than 100 historic structures to view during 90 minutes and 20 stops.

    Step way back in time on Pine Island’s Calusa Heritage Trail to tread the path of Florida’s original peoples. Climbing to the top of a 2,500-year-old shell mound is one highlight along this 3,700-foot interpretive walkway that leads through the Pineland archaeological site.