Explore Fort Myers & Sanibel Island

Fort Myers, the “City of Palms,” has a charming downtown historic district and expanding hub of urban activity that extends to shopping malls, restaurants and nightclubs.

Inventor Thomas Edison and his friend, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, decided early on to make their winter homes in Fort Myers. Today visitors daily tour their neighboring estates with Edison’s botanical gardens, laboratory and museum.

Edison came to Fort Myers because he thought the warm weather would improve his health. He must have been correct, for he lived to the age of 84. During Edison’s 46 winters in Fort Myers, he and his wife Mina hosted well-known house guests like industrialist Harvey Firestone, naturalist John Burroughs, President-elect Herbert Hoover, the Philadelphia A’s baseball team, and cereal king John Harvey Kellogg. Each February, residents celebrate the birthday of the city’s most famous resident in the Festival of Light, three weeks of events that culminate in a nighttime parade through the center of town.

Henry Ford’s home, “Mangoes,” opened to the public in February 1990 after extensive renovation to replicate the way it looked when Ford and his wife Clara lived there. Ford bought the quaint house in 1916 to spend the winter months visiting Edison. The two properties are separated by a fence the two families named “The Friendship Gate.”

Manatee Park

At Manatee Park in Fort Myers visitors can observe endangered Florida Manatees in their non-captive habitat from three observation areas during “Manatee Season,” November through March. With Manatee World you can take an educational and entertaining ecological boat safari into the natural habitat of the endangered West Indian manatee and observe manatees, along with alligators and a wide variety of bird life.


For the sports minded, public golf courses and tennis courts make southwest Florida some of the best playing turf in the state. East of downtown Fort Myers, the Lehigh Acres residential community surrounds three quality golf courses, 16 well-stocked freshwater fishing lakes and miles of canals.

Other in-town attractions include the Southwest Florida Historical Museum, river cruises from the downtown yacht basin and the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium. Visitors also like to drive the short distance to the Shell Factory in North Fort Myers and Eden Vineyards, the country’s southernmost bonded winery, to the east.

Fort Myers Beach

Because of its gently sloping shoreline, Estero Island, home of Fort Myers Beach, has long been recognized as one of the “world’s safest beaches”. The sand is particularly soft and white, akin to powdered sugar, and you can walk the entire 7-mile length of the island along these sandy shores, on the way finding fishing, shopping, dining, golf, tennis and entertainment.

Estero Bay

During the winter, Estero Bay is home to an extensive shrimp and fishing fleet. Life on Estero is especially suited for family vacations. Here one finds every imaginable water toy, from windsurfer to catamaran and parasailing. Numerous marinas operate boating and fishing charters. Local restaurants benefit from the catch, which generally includes red snapper and grouper.

Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve

Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve is a peaceful retreat on Estero Bay where visitors can explore a live oak hammock and mangrove forest on a wandering boardwalk and foot trails. An historic cottage complements the Nature Center, which chronicles the history of Fort Myers Beach.

Estero Island

In the northern section of Estero Island in the Times Square shopping, dining, and entertainment district next to the fishing pier, the Lynn Hall Memorial Park provides the perfect setting for family outings. Picnic tables, restrooms, showers, barbecue grills, and a playground are available to visitors.

Mound Key

Mound Key, just northeast of the southern tip of Fort Myers Beach, is an island, like so many in the Fort Myers/Sanibel area, constructed from shells deposited by the Calusa Indians more than 2,000 years ago.

Lovers Key on Black Island

For an afternoon picnic, there is no better spot than Lovers Key on Black Island, just south of Estero. Visitors proceed by open tram across a scenic vista of mangrove islands, arriving at a secluded beach less than 10 minutes later. Ample driftwood and seashells decorate the shore, while pesky raccoons compete for scraps with flocks of sea gulls and other shore birds.

Continuing south, and still on the peninsula, Bonita Beach occupies the southern boundary of the Lee County area. Here traces of old and new Florida peacefully coexist along gently winding beaches deemed among the best in the region. Further inland in Bonita Springs and Estero, history buffs can take a walk through remnants of the Koreshan Unity movement, an extinct religious sect that practiced equal rights for women long before the concept became popular. More modern adventurers enjoy the excitement of greyhound racing at the Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track.

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island and its little sister, Captiva Island, are connected to the mainland by an alluring three-mile-long causeway and, to each other, by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bridge at Blind Pass. They are both part of the Sunshine State known as Florida’s tropical island getaway.

They have over 15 miles of beautiful Florida shelling beaches, each with its own unique character.

Referred to as the “Sanibel Stoop.” Some fanatics attach flashlights to their heads, in an effort to be first in the daily search for top picks of the more than 400 varieties of shells found littering the beaches, particularly after an especially high or low tide. For most visitors, however, shelling is merely a delightful excuse to enjoy hours of sun worshipping along some of the finest shoreline in North America.

Periwinkle Way

Sanibel’s main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is Sunday-drive picturesque, lush with foliage and framed by a canopy of Australian pines. Interesting shops and restaurants dot the road from Sanibel Lighthouse to Tarpon Bay Road, making it difficult to complete the distance without a half dozen sight-seeking stops at the boutiques and art galleries.

Sanibel Historical Village and Museum

Sanibel Historical Village and Museum is dedicated to the pioneer families of Sanibel and Captiva and includes “Uncle” Clarence Rutland’s home, Bailey’s General Store, “Morning Glories” (a Sears/Roebuck catalog home), Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room, the 1926 Post Office, and the Burnap Cottage and the 1895 Sanibel School. All the buildings are furnished with items from the early 1900s.

A handicapped-accessible boardwalk and shell paths take visitors past a pioneer garden, antique Model T truck, surrey (fringe included), and a replica of a packinghouse with farm equipment. The Village relates the history of the islands beginning with the days of the Calusa Indians up to the mid-1900s.

Captiva Island

Captiva Island and its big sister, Sanibel Island, are connected to the mainland by an alluring three-mile-long causeway and, to each other, by a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bridge at Blind Pass. They are both part of the Sunshine State known as Florida’s tropical island getaway.

They have over 15 miles of beautiful Florida shelling beaches, each with its own unique character.

On the way to Captiva Island, located toward Sanibel’s northern tip, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to many exotic species of birds and plants. A 4-mile drive with access to walking and canoe/kayak trails offers abundant opportunities for naturalists to witness a raccoon washing up before breakfast, an alligator snatching a quick bite or long-legged wading birds stalking their prey. In all, the refuge occupies more than half the island.

The main attraction on Captiva is that there are none. Many people wile away the hours in one outdoor endeavor or another. It was here that Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, wrote her best-selling book, “A Gift from the Sea.”

At South Seas Island Resort in Captiva Island visitors can take sailing lessons with Steve & Doris Colgate’s Offshore Sailing School. Considered the world’s finest learning institution for sailing instruction, the Offshore Sailing School offers a full range of courses, from basic sailing through advanced cruising and racing. The South Seas Resort offers plenty of other outdoor activities as well including exploring the ecosystem on the barrier islands where the resort is located, kayaking, snorkeling, golfing, and much more.


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