Secret Woods Nature Center in Dania Beach is a wonderful natural oasis in an urban area. The park and nature center were brought about through the efforts of local citizens wishing to preserve their "Secret Woods" from development. With the help of the Nature Conservancy and Broward County in the 1970s, the first nature center in the county was opened and the almost 57 acres of land were saved.
The area consists of 3 major communities influenced by the New River which originates in the Everglades and passes through: cypress and maple wetlands, mangrove and pond apple wetland and the laurel oak hammock. This "Urban Wilderness Area" allows visitors access to all three types of habitat via very well-maintained trails.
The Laurel Oak Trail is a short mulched trail that travels through the oak hammock to the tidal marsh area. See native flora and fauna including various oaks, palms, wild coffee, beautyberry and cocoplum. The trail has a series of four bridges that allow access through a tidal marsh where you can see leather ferns, pond apple trees, white mangroves, and a variety of palms. Delight in the little critters that inhabit this area like crabs, lizards, birds and squirrels.
The longer New River Trail is better suited to visitors needing a consistent surface. The recycled plastic "lumber" boardwalk journies through 3 ecosystems. See the hard wood hammock, tidal marsh area and up over the water of the New River. See the fish that hover right below your feet on the little river overlook.
Near the entrance is the Butterfly Island which is a walk-through butterfly garden filled with over 20 different species of butterfly friendly plants. Get some ideas for what to plant in your own yard or just enjoy searching for the hidden chrysallis. Keep an eye out for several kinds of native butterfly: queen, zevra longwing (the state butterfly), monarch, gulf fritillary and swallowtails.
The Monarch Interpretive Center offers interactive interpretive displays with a working beehive, live snakes, and a theater with presentations on the Everglades. Three computer kiosks feature interactive programs about plant, animal, and marine life, as well as weather and soil. There is information on local Native American tribes that once inhabited the area as well.
The charming Julia Hall may be rented for private events with a capacity of about 100 people and a fully equipped kitchen. Wi-Fi is available in the hall. There is an adjacent open air amphitheater. The rental fee for the Hall includes chairs and tables. The Swallowtail Classroom can be reserved for a fee via the park office and offers an environmental education classroom for up to 20 occupants. Staff can also provide educational lesson plans on request.