While my husband and I leisurely vacationed without the kids in the Fort Myers area of Florida’s Gulf Coast, we relaxed in charming cottages on Sanibel Island, ate some marvelous seafood at three restaurants in Cape Coral, Pine Island, and Fort Myers Beach, collected shells on Sanibel’s famous white-sand beaches and spotted some nifty wildlife on our bike rides, walks and kayak adventures in the area. Here are a few more activities we experienced in and around Fort Myers:
We had a ball kayaking on our own at the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel but were thrilled to have a private kayak tour with super-knowledgeable Dominick Greco, who owns Kayak Charters. While Dominick offers kayaking trips right from the marina at Cape Coral’s Resort at Marina Village (our host hotel for two nights), he suggested that we put in about a half-hour away for a more pristine, custom-guided adventure. Indeed, from our individual Ocean Kayaks (which were quite comfortable), Dominick led us through red, white, and black mangroves, spotting osprey, heron, and ibis above the water, and blue-claw crabs, mullet, and tarpon below. I missed the stingray, but my husband saw it!
In addition to kayaking “eco-tours,” Kayak Charters offers kayak fishing trips, for beginners or experts. Dominick carefully watches the weather and tide charts to determine the best put-in places around the Fort Myers area each day. He is intimately familiar with the Great Calusa Blueway — 190 miles of paddling trails throughout southwest Florida’s Lee County. Eco tours with Kayak Charters cost $50 per person.
Ice Cream at Great Licks
After our two-hour kayak adventure, it was past noon, and we high-tailed it over to The Waterfront Restaurant on Pine Island for some ice-cold beer. To access Pine Island by car, you must pass through the teeny tiny island community of Matlacha, which basically consists of pretty pastel-colored buildings that house art galleries… and one really good ice cream shop. I gobbled up my cone of creamy coconut Queenie’s Homemade Ice Cream from Great Licks. Well worth the $5 for a two-scoop cone.
Six Mile Slough Preserve
We were so hoping to see the baby alligators that had recently been born at this wildlife preserve in Fort Myers, but they were hiding from us somewhere amid the wetland as we walked the flat, one-mile boardwalk trail. The Six Mile Slough Preserve covers 2,500 acres, and it is an opportunity to see wildlife in its natural habitat. While we missed out on the alligators, we did spot turtles, frogs, heron, and woodpeckers. It is free to walk the boardwalk through the slough (“slough” rhymes with “through” and it roughly means “stagnant swamp” but it doesn’t sound as pretty); you do pay $1/hour for parking at the site. I’d caution bringing young children into the preserve; people here are serious about their wildlife viewing, and may not take kindly to a toddler screaming “BIRD! FISH!” in his outside voice.