Fort Myers treats visitors to an abundance of wildlife, attractions and memories
Fort Myers invites you to take a stroll on its pristine beaches, soak up the island atmosphere, and fall in love with nature. Sea turtle tracks lead you toward the Gulf of Mexico. Wading birds like roseate spoonbills and great blue herons move along mudflats. Bottlenose dolphins play along the shoreline and pelicans dive for fish. There is something for everyone to enjoy; from family-friendly excursions to historical sites. Find the things that matter most in Fort Myers. The possibilities are endless.
Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW)
CROW’s Visitor Education Center offers a rare opportunity to learn about one of the nation’s leading wildlife rehabilitation hospitals. Designed to inspire and educate with interactive displays, the center teaches how injured, sick and orphaned animals are admitted, diagnosed, treated and released back to the wild. Visitors follow patient cases from admission to release with daily presentations given by the CROW team. CROW veterinarians and staff treat more than 4,000 patients and more than 200 animal species at its facility each year. In addition to caring for animals in need, CROW is a teaching hospital hosting veterinarian students from around the world. Location: 3883 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Admission: members are free, $5 per adult, $15 per family. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Call (239) 472-3644, ext. 228 or visit www.crowclinic.org
Adventures in Paradise
These popular excursions have been teaching the eco-heritage of Fort Myers for 26 years. Trips include backwater fishing, sea life encounter excursions, tropical sunset cruises, lunch cruises, morning, afternoon and sunset dolphin watching, private fishing guides, shelling the outer islands and historical trolley tours. Shelling and lunch cruises to outer islands take place aboard the “Sun Princess” on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Excursions depart at 9 a.m. and return at 3 p.m. Prices: $55 for adults, $19 for children, 3 and under are free. Parking is free. Cruises depart daily from Port Sanibel Marina. Location: 14341 Port Comfort Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908. Call (239) 472-8443 or visit www.adventureinparadiseinc.com. Reservations are suggested.
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum celebrates its 20th anniversary; the most comprehensive, accredited museum in the Western Hemisphere devoted solely to shells. It has been rated a "Gem" attraction by AAA, listed in “1,000 Places To See Before You Die” and voted “Best of the Islands” in the museum category. More than 30 exhibits are devoted to shells in art and history, shell habitats, rare specimens, fossil shells, and common Southwest Florida shells. The children’s learning lab features a hands-on play area and a “live tank” with indigenous mollusks. A gift shop offers a wide variety of unique shell-themed gifts including books, ceramics, and fine jewelry. Check the website for weekly demonstrations and workshops, craft classes, beach walks, group tours, children’s camps, and special events. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $9 for adults 17 and up, $5 for youth 5-16. Children four and under are free. Handicapped accessible. 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Call (239) 395-2233 or (888) 679-6450 or visit www.shellmuseum.org.
A great island hopping experience! Visit Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Cayo Costa and Boca Grande. Enjoy daily lunch cruises to two of the area’s most unique coastal islands, Cabbage Key and Useppa Island, aboard the 148-passenger “Lady Chadwick.” Located at Mile Marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway, colorful Cabbage Key has a marina, historic inn, picturesque dining room, water tower view of Pine Island Sound and nature trails. Useppa Island, which operates as a private club, relives the glamour and history of a bygone era with pink pathways, lush vegetation, authentic “old Florida” architecture and the Collier Inn restaurant, as well as an island museum. Lunch cruises to Cabbage Key and Useppa Island run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $40 per adult, $25 per child ages 2-12 (meals on Cabbage Key and Useppa Island are not included). Dolphin Watch and Wildlife Adventure Cruise runs from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and costs $27.50 per adult and $18 per child. Other cruises offered include: the Sunset Serenade Cruise, Cayo Costa Beach & Shelling Cruise, Edison & Ford Winter Estates tour, Tarpon Lodge - Randell Research Center Eco-Heritage Cruise, Night Sky Astronomy Cruise, among others. Reservations are required for all cruises. Location: 11401 Andy Rosse Lane at McCarthy’s Marina, Captiva Island, FL 33924. Call (239) 472-5300 or visit www.captivacruises.com.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
This wildlife refuge, containing more than 6,400-acres, was established in 1945 and is one of the top birding hotspots in the nation. Named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, the preserve features wonderful bird watching spots, delightful footpath and winding canoe trails. The four-mile, round-trip Indigo Trail leaves from the Education Center parking lot. Along the trail, visitors often spot wildlife such as alligators, night herons, or white ibis. The Wulfert Keys Trail is a ¼-mile trail leading to a view of Pine Island Sound. The Calusa Shell Mound Trail is a ¼-mile, universally accessible, interpretive boardwalk where visitors learn about the ancient Calusa Indian tribe and the native vegetation while reading interpretive panels along the boardwalk.
Wildlife Drive is open Saturday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to a half-hour before sunset – and closed on Fridays. The free visitor/education center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. January through April. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May through December. Fees are $5 to drive, $1 to bicycle or walk. Dogs are permitted on a 6-foot leash. One Wildlife Drive, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. For more information call (239) 472-1100 or visit www.fws.gov/dingdarling/.
Offshore Sailing School
Operating out of South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island and Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach, Offshore Sailing School is America’s #1 Sailing School. Olympian and America’s Cup veteran Steve Colgate founded the school 50 years ago. His wife, Doris Colgate, is president/CEO with accomplishments of her own, including founding the National Women’s Sailing Association and Women’s Sailing Foundation. Offshore Sailing owns schools in five resorts and two commuter locations. Sailing certification courses include three to 10-day programs from novice to advanced skill levels, two-hour sailing lessons, performance sailing and corporate team-building programs. The school’s US Sailing-certified instructors follow a curriculum with textbooks written by the Colgates. Colgate Sailing certification is included and US Sailing certification is available. Headquarters: 16731 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33908. Call 239-454-1700, toll free 800-221-4326 or visit www.offshoresailing.com.
Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF)
SCCF’s Nature Center and trails encompass 260 acres of the almost 2,000 acres of land managed for wildlife on and around Sanibel and Captiva islands. The foundation conducts marine and wildlife research. It operates a retail native plant nursery. Visitors can walk 4 miles of trails, climb an observation tower, view freshwater aquaria and enjoy a live marine touch tank. Experiences in the butterfly exhibit, guided trail tours, wildlife education and presentations vary with the seasons. Admission: $5 adults, children under 17 are free, as are SCCF members. Note that hours change with the season: December through April, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays10 a.m. to 3 p.m. May through November, weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Location: 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Call (239) 472-2329. View www.sccf.org for up-to-date program listings, news and information.
Sanibel Historical Village and Museum
Visitors trace the footsteps of the island’s past as they meander along a boardwalk lined with historic homes moved from their original locations to be preserved in the village. Dedicated to the pioneer families of Sanibel and Captiva, the village includes seven historic buildings: “Uncle” Clarence Rutland’s home (1913), Bailey’s General Store (1927), “Morning Glories” (a Sears/Roebuck catalog home that cost $2,211 when delivered in 30,000 pieces in 1925), Miss Charlotta’s Tea Room (1926), the 1926 Post Office, the Burnap Cottage (1898) and the Sanibel School (1896). All the buildings are furnished with items from the early 1900s. Two new arrivals at the village include Shore Haven, a 1924 Sears home kit, which will serve as a welcome/exhibit center; and its Caretakers Cottages, which will serve as an exhibit honoring Sanibel’s black history.
A handicapped-accessible boardwalk and shell paths take visitors past a pioneer garden, antique Model-T truck and a replica of a packinghouse with farm equipment, similar to the one used by the Old Bailey's Store. The village relays the history of the islands from the 1880s to the mid-1900s. It is open November through April 28, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and May through mid-August, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Special tours are available. Closed mid-August-October. Admission is $5 per adult 18 and older. Children are free. Location: 950 Dunlop Rd., Sanibel Island, FL 33957. For information, call (239) 472-4648 or visit www.sanibelmuseum.org.
Sanibel Sea School This Sanibel school is a “sandy bucket” non-profit whose goal is to teach families and kids about the wonders of ocean discovery. “Hands on” experiential programs are offered throughout the year, featuring more than 30 different half-day courses that rotate monthly. Popular weekly summer camp and holiday camp programs include plenty of time “out in the field” where kids snorkel, trawl, canoe and slog their way through adventure after adventure. Adult and teen classes offered seasonally. Sanibel Sea School's vision is to create a world where all people value, understand and care for the ocean. Location: 414 Lagoon Drive, Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Call (239) 472-8585 or visit www.sanibelseaschool.com.
Tarpon Bay Explorers
Experience the extraordinary at Tarpon Bay Explorers. Learn more about the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge aboard an open-air tram, as a naturalist guide explains the refuge’s history and gives insight on wildlife living there. Tram tours cost $13 plus tax for adults, $8 for children 3 to 12. Kayak and canoe naturalist-guided tours through the mangroves are $30 per adult and $20 for children 12 and under. For the more experienced paddler, guided sunset tours to rookery islands are available and cost $40 for adults and $25 for children. There is also a 90-minute Nature and Sea Life Cruise aboard a pontoon boat, which includes the Touch Tank Exploration. This cruise is $23 per adult and $15 per child or check out the special breakfast or evening cruise, $30 per adult and $18 per child. Children under 3 are free on both the tram and boat tours. Guided fishing charters are also available and include equipment, tackle, boat, and captain. Canoe, kayak, pontoon, motorized canoe, fishing equipment, and bicycle rentals are available. Stand-up paddleboards, a new addition to Tarpon Bay’s offerings, are also available for rentals and guided eco-tours. All guided tours are by reservation. Group rates are available. Location: north end of Tarpon Bay Road inside the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge (where Tarpon Bay Road intersects Sanibel-Captiva Road) at 900 Tarpon Bay Rd., Sanibel Island, FL 33957. Call (239) 472-8900 or visit www.tarponbayexplorers.com.
Fort Myers Beach
Key West Express
Enjoy the tropical island paradise of Key West in just 3 ½ hours when you travel from Fort Myers Beach to America’s southernmost city with the Key West Express. Modern and spacious jet-powered vessels offer year-round, high-speed service to the vacation spot of pirates, poets, presidents and partygoers. Enjoy a tropical drink from the bar or a bite to eat from the galley. Watch movies from any of the many big screen satellite TVs, lounge in one of the climate controlled cabins, or take in the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico from the sundecks. Getting there is half the fun when traveling with Key West Express. Stay a day or for an extended stay - travel one-way or roundtrip. Departs from 1200 Main Street, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931. For rates and details call (239) 463-5733 or visit www.keywestexpress.us.
Matanzas Pass Preserve
This peaceful retreat, with nearly 60 acres of unspoiled sanctuary on Estero Bay, allows visitors to explore a live oak hammock and mangrove forest by a wandering boardwalk and foot trails. Slow your pace to fully enjoy this pristine, barrier island forest with its abundant wildlife and diverse, native plant species. After crossing two bridges on the entry trail, a boardwalk winds through the mangrove swamp. At the end of the boardwalk, a pavilion overlooking the water provides a spectacular view of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. Jumping fish, wading birds, even the shy manatee can be seen from the overlook. Open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk.
119 Bay Road (off Estero Boulevard), Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931. Free parking. For more information, call (239) 533-7444 or visit www.leeparks.org.
Mound Key Archaeological State Park. Just east of Lovers Key in Estero Bay, this is home of one of the state’s premier archaeological sites. The tiny but beautiful, undeveloped island was created mainly from shells deposited by the Calusa Indians, the island's first inhabitants, more than 2,000 years ago. The mounds rise more than 30 feet above the waters of Estero Bay. The site is accessible only by boat, and is a favorite with history buffs and boaters. For more details, call (239) 992-0311 or visit www.floridastateparks.org.
Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise
Step into a 90 minute interactive comedy adventure aboard the Pieces of Eight, a 65 foot replica Spanish galleon. You will be sworn in as pirates, have live cannon rounds and mutiny against the captain. The ship was built in Virginia Beach to U.S. Coast Guard requirements and took 16 months to complete. Each crew member is carefully chosen based upon their charismatic pirate personas and enthusiastic interaction with children and adults alike. Location: 2500 Main Street,Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931. Call (888) 796-6427 or (239) 463-7333 or visit www.piecesofeight.com/
The Butterfly Estates
Located in the River District of downtown Fort Myers, visitors surround themselves with thousands of butterflies at this new eco-attraction. The 3,614-square-foot glazed glass Butterfly Conservatory includes a botanical garden and butterfly habitat with cascading waterfalls, lush tropical nectar plants and butterflies. Admission: $15 for adults 17 and older, $9 for children 3 to 16 years old. Hours of operation: Tuesday – Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also open second Sundays during the summer months for brunch. Florida resident and senior discounts to the Conservatory are available. Location: 1815 Fowler St., Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239) 690-2359 or visit www.thebutterflyestates.com.
Alliance for the Arts
This 10-acre campus houses the 12,000-square-foot William R. Frizzell Cultural Centre with public galleries hosting new exhibitions each month. The 150-seat Claiborne and Ned Foulds Theatre, as well as the Margaret Morrow Frizzell Amphitheatre, present theatrical productions such as dramas, comedies, recitals, concerts and other cultural events. Offering year-round classes and workshops, the Gladys G. Land School of Arts provides instruction for both children
and adults. There is a Green Market featuring locally grown and produced items every Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Alliance for the Arts facilities are available for private events. Gallery admission is free, other program costs vary. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. Closed Sunday. Location: 10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33919.
For information about Alliance for the Arts, cultural and community events, call (239) 939-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artinlee.org.
Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall
The Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall presents a schedule of national touring Broadway productions, prominent entertainers, dance performances, popular ensembles and classical music concerts year-round. The hall is also used for business conferences, seminars, meetings and wedding receptions, with dining available. Large groups are welcome. Handicapped accessible. Box office hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. In-season hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Parking is free. Location: 13350 Edison Parkway, S.W., Fort Myers, FL 33919. Call the box office at (239) 481-4849 or visit www.bbmannpah.com.
Bob Rauschenberg Gallery
This fine art gallery was founded in 1979 on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College. The gallery’s exhibits present and interprets modern and contemporary artwork in all media. The gallery was renamed the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in 2004, commemorating the nearly 30-year association and friendship the gallery has had with Rauschenberg, the late, famed contemporary artist who lived on Captiva Island. Each year more than 10,000 people visit the gallery, attend lectures, and participate in other activities. The gallery is open (during an exhibit): Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Location: Florida SouthWestern State College, Lee Campus, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33919. For more information, call (239) 489-9313 or visit www.rauschenberggallery.com.
Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre
Broadway Palm is Southwest Florida’s premier dinner theatre! The award-winning buffet and Broadway musicals with a live orchestra, make it a great destination for anyone looking to enjoy family entertainment at a great price. Evening performances take the stage Tuesday through Sunday and matinee performances vary. Ticket prices range from $21 to $55. Group rates are available for parties of 20 or more. Broadway Palm offers catering services and meeting spaces for parties and special events of 20 to 450 people. Handicapped accessible. Location: 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33907. Call (239) 278-4422 or visit www.broadwaypalm.com.
Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium
Rustic boardwalks lead visitors on a tour of 105 acres of subtropical environment. Inside, permanent and changing exhibits of the natural history of Southwest Florida are on display Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guided trail walks are scheduled on most Tuesday and Friday mornings. Educational reptile and mammal presentations are scheduled daily. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3 to 12. The facility is also a sanctuary for injured animals unable to be released back into the wild, including birds of prey. The center has the only planetarium south of Bradenton and west of Miami. Advance notice is required for groups. Special rates apply to groups of 15 or more. Planetarium fans also enjoy the changing starlit astronomy shows in the 90-seat theater. Handicapped accessible. Location: 3450 Ortiz Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33905. Call (239) 275-3435 and visit www.calusanature.org.
Classic Air Ventures
Relive a golden era in aviation in an open cockpit bi-plane! Don a helmet and goggles and enjoy airborne sightseeing in a 1940 or a 1941 WACO UPF-7. Two passengers share the thrill of an authentic, scenic bi-plane ride, leaving Page Field in Fort Myers Monday through Saturday from charge for second person. Call (941) 505-9226 or (888) 852-9226 for information or visit www.coastalbiplanetours.com.
11 a.m. to 5 p.m., mid-October through mid-May. Several flight choices are available including the popular 45-minute flight. Reservations are highly recommended.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Both entertaining and educational, a tour of Thomas Edison’s 14-acre riverfront estate is a must-see for visitors to Southwest Florida. Steeped in history, the inventor’s charming “old-Florida” style home, laboratory and experimental gardens have been authentically maintained as a tribute to the genius of one of the world’s most remarkable men. With more than 200,000 visitors each year, it is one of the most visited national historic homes in the country.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates include nine National Register Historic buildings as well as the botanical and research gardens. The historic gardens consist of approximately 20 acres of lush tropical botanical gardens, 500 unique plants, flowers and trees, including four champion trees, federal C.I.T.E.S. orchid program and propagation greenhouse and nursery. The Estates is ADA accessible and wheelchairs are available. Also, food service and picnic areas available.
Rare antique automobiles and Edison phonographs are among the carefully preserved memorabilia. His gardens are a wonderland of rare and exotic tropical vegetation, including a banyan tree planted in 1925. It is now one of the largest banyan trees in the continental U.S. The home and guesthouse, built in 1886, are on the National Register of Historic Places. His laboratory where Edison turned goldenrod to rubber remains on the property.
After stepping back in time at the Edison Home, visitors can walk next door to the winter home of automobile industrialist Henry Ford. Ford purchased the 3-1/2-acre estate in 1916 to spend the winter months visiting his friend Edison. Ford’s home, “Mangoes,” has undergone extensive restoration to bring it back to the period when he and his wife Clara lived there. A 1914 Model T, 1919 Model T, 1917 Ford Truck, and 1929 Model A are on display.
Hours: Tours daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) include the homes, museum, laboratory and gardens. The last guided tour departs at 4 p.m. while self-guided tours run until 5:30 p.m. Garden & Estates tour is available on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.; Behind the Scene tours are available on Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. River Cruise and Lunch tours on Wednesdays and
Thursdays; Group tours and rental arrangements are available daily throughout the year.
Audio Tour costs: Homes and Gardens Tour including lab and museum, $20 for adults and $11 for children 6-12 (available in English, German, French and Spanish); laboratory and museum only, $12 for adults, $5 for children 6-12. Group rates are available for 20 or more. Location: 2350 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33901. For group rates or further information call (239) 334-7419 or visit www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.
Florida Repertory Theatre
Originally used as a Vaudeville house, this was where Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison saw his first films, along with his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Florida Repertory Theatre is a fully professional theatre company that The Wall Street Journal called "One of America's Top Repertory Companies." Location 2267 Bay Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239)332-4488 or visit www.floridarep.org.
Fort Myers Skatium
This skate-of-the-art ice facility features a full-service concession area, pro shop, and a video game room. Skate rental is $3. Public skating is $7 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. Open seven days a week. Call for public skating hours. The facility also has a well-equipped health and fitness center. Location: 2250 Broadway, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239) 321-7510 or visit www.fmskatium.org.
Imaginarium Science Center
Guests of all ages will explore science and technology through hands-on exhibits including the Hurricane Experience, IMAG-TV Studio, Sporty Science Arena virtual sports simulator, Build Your Own Coaster, Make It Move, Science In Motion, Dino Discovery, Animal Lab, Fisheye Lagoon, Backyard Nature, The Caloosahatchee Experience, SEA-to-SEE touch tanks and aquarium, as well as the Tiny Town early-childhood area with age-appropriate exploration stations. Also enjoy daily live animal encounters, science shows, and 3-D movies. Open Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission package: $12 for adults, $10 for children (3-12) and $8 for seniors (55+), which includes 3-D film. Call (239) 321-7420 or visit www.i-sci.org for more information.
The Caloosahatchee River, running through downtown Fort Myers, is the starting point for the scenic lunch and dinner cruises aboard the 500-passenger, triple-deck “Capt. J.P. Paddlewheeler,” ranging from two hours to full-day excursions. All cruises depart from the Fort Myers Yacht Basin, 1300 Hendry Street. Prices vary from $27.50 to $99 depending on cruise type and season. Reservations are required. Private charters are also available. Office location: 2313 Edwards Drive, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239) 334-7474 or visit www.jccruises.com.
Visitors observe endangered Florida manatees in their non-captive habitat from three observation areas during “Manatee Season” (November through March). In season, the visitor center and gift shop are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Interpretive naturalists work onsite presenting programs about manatees, butterflies and native plants. Kayak rentals are available daily during “Manatee Season.” Year-round recreation includes picnicking, fishing and kayak rentals Friday, Saturday and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or by appointment by calling Caloosa Blueway Outfitters at (239)481-4600. Enjoy walking the accessible paths through the restored native plant habitats and butterfly gardens. Designated as a demonstration site for the Florida Yards and Neighborhoods program, guests learn about different species of native plants suitable for their own property.
Conservative methods of irrigation are also presented. Hours: open daily, year-round 8 a.m. to sunset. ADA accessible. Manatee Park is located at 10901 SR 80 in Fort Myers. Directions from I-75: take exit 141 east 1.3 miles. The 17-acre regional park is located directly across from the FPL power plant. Pets are not permitted. Allow 1 hour minimum. Admission is free. Parking $1 an hour per vehicle, maximum $5. Call (239) 690-5030 or visit www.leeparks.org.
Manatee and River Tours
Tour boats take visitors on a narrated cruise into a natural manatee and wildlife habitat. Although seen all year in Florida, manatees congregate in the area during the cooler winter months to feed and stay warm. The area is also home to native birds, plants and animals. Location: 16991 State Road 31, North Fort Myers, FL 33905. For information call (239) 693-1434.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
Seminole Gulf Railway offers weekly, holiday and special event dinners year-round. Live shows are performed while guests enjoy a five-course meal in vintage dining cars. Wednesday through Friday and Sunday fares are $66 and $74 on Saturday (prices do not include tax or gratuity). The 3 ½ -hour train ride departs promptly at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Price includes meal, comical murder mystery show and train ride. Reservations are required. Location: 2805 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966 (three miles west of I-75, exit 136). Call (239) 275-8487 to book your journey or book online at www.semgulf.com.
Pure Florida Fort Myers
Take a River Excursion on the M/V Edison Explorer – Fort Myers’ newly built passenger vessel. See and hear from their certified captain, naturalist and historian about the Caloosahatchee River and learn about the history, and eco and water system. Sightseeing with dolphins, manatees and local birdlife along the river near the historic Railway Bridge. Take the sunset cruise and watch the sun settle down behind the western shore of the Caloosahatchee River (just as Edison and Ford did in their day from their verandahs). Charter the vessel for your private event on the water, or be in command of your own rental boat or kayak. Try a little backwater and river fishing – be it a cruise before or after a visit to the Edison Ford Winter Estates or fine eating experience at Pinchers. Visit http://www.purefortmyers.com/ for more information.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Visitors journey through this 3,400-acre wetland ecosystem on a mile-long boardwalk trail, where Southwest Florida’s diverse plant and wildlife are found including subtropical ferns and bromeliads. Watch birds like herons, egrets, ibis and anhingas. Parking: $1 an hour, $5 daily maximum. Boardwalk trail is open year-round dawn to dusk. Visit the Interpretive Center for interactive nature displays highlighting the plants and animals. Hours: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays except for holidays. Free admission with paid parking fee. Guided walks are offered daily, January through March at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and April, November, and December at 9:30 a.m. Walks at 9:30 a.m. only on Wednesdays during May through October. Handicapped accessible. Location: Six Mile Cypress Parkway, 7751 Penzance Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33966 (1 ½ miles north of Daniels Parkway, (exit 131 off I-75). Call (239) 533-7550 or visit www.leeparks.org.
Southwest Florida Museum of History
Travel back in time to prehistoric Florida and see the giant creatures that lived with the first humans including a 12-foot giant sloth. Proceed through time and explore the 21st century via the people and events that shaped our area today. Step aboard a 1929 private Pullman railcar or peak into an authentic pioneer house. Explore the museum in depth with a bilingual audio tour.
Walking tours of historic downtown Fort Myers and escorted bus trips to other historical and state sites are also offered. Admission fee is $9.50 for adults, $8.50 for seniors (65+), $5 for students (3+). Group rates for 10 or more are available. Audio tour included in admission. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Location: 2031 Jackson Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239) 321- 7430 or visit www.MUSEUMofHISTORY.org.
Sun Harvest Citrus
Squeeze in a visit to this family-owned and operated, 27,000-square-foot packinghouse and retail store that offers in-season Indian River citrus fruit, five varieties of freshly squeezed juices year-round, and in-season gift fruit shipping. Enjoy soft-serve ice cream, fruit smoothies, key lime pie, and baked goods. There is a wide selection of distinctive Florida foods, candy, and unique gifts. Samples of juices are complimentary. Open year-round, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Location: 14810 Metro Pkwy., Fort Myers, FL 33912 Handicapped accessible. Call (239) 768-2686 or (800) 743-1480 or visit www.sunharvestcitrus.com.
Zoomers Family Amusement Park
Zip past your friends on the Slick Go-kart Track, or whirl around in the Tilt-a-Whirl with the family. With wild to daring thrill rides, Zoomers offers fun for all ages. The amusement park also features an 18-hole mini-golf course, arcade, and mini-bowling. Party packages and corporate events are available. Location: 17455 Summerlin Road, Fort Myers, FL 33908 (on the way to Fort Myers Beach). For more information on prices and hours of operation, call 239-481-9666 or visit www.zoomersamusementpark.com.
Bonita Springs & Estero
Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs
The Center for the Arts has been bringing “art for everyone” for more than 50 years. The arts center sits on a 10-acre campus and offers an expanding visual and arts programs for all ages and abilities. Recently it opened a performing arts center that features a 400-seat theatre, a 200-seat film center, culinary center and studios for dance, music, theatre and more. Call (239) 495-8989 or visit www.artcenterbonita.org
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
This 13,000-acre wildlife sanctuary, owned and operated by the National Audubon Society, offers visitors a gentle, pristine wilderness that dates back more than 500 years. A 2.55-mile boardwalk meanders through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh and into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. These impressive trees, relatives of the redwood, tower 130 feet into the sky and have a girth of 25 feet. Their massive branches are draped with mosses, lichens, bromeliads and ferns.
The forest is also home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer and red-bellied turtles. A wide variety of wading birds, songbirds, and raptors can be seen throughout the year with migratory birds including the painted buntings during winter months. Location: 375 Sanctuary Rd., Naples, FL 34120. Take I-75 to exit 111 (Immokalee Rd.) and drive 15 miles east. Call (239) 348-9151 or visit corkscrew.audubon.org.
Great Florida Birding Trail
A bird lovers’ paradise, the trail identifies top birding sites in South Florida. With the gateway to the loop located at Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, the trail includes prime bird watching sites in Southwest Florida. Information: www.floridabirdingtrail.com.
Koreshan State Historic Site
At Koreshan State Historic Site, the curious find remnants of a religious sect that practiced equal rights for women long before the concept became popular. They lived by the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and created a communal lifestyle that included shared ownership of property. Doctor Cyrus Teed, a Union Army Medical Corps veteran, founded The Koreshan Unity in 1894. He was inspired in 1869 by a vision that told him to change his name to Koresh, meaning Cyrus in Hebrew, and move to Southwest Florida. The city they envisioned would be be home to 10 million people. It never quite materialized, but at its peak, the settlement had 250 residents. Of the original 50 buildings, 13 remain, including Teed’s home. Visitors also see a one-of-a-kind globe, illustrating Koreshan belief that man resides on the inside surface of the earth, gazing at the solar system within. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset, 365 days a year, and the historic settlement is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Guided tours are available Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. for $2 per adult, $1 per child.
Take advantage of the area’s nature trails, boat ramp, canoeing, fresh and salt water fishing, and camping. Park entry fee is $5 per vehicle (two - eight people); $4 for a single occupant vehicle. Camping fees: $26 plus tax per night. Reservations can be made at www.reserveamerica.com or by calling toll free (800) 326-3521. Location: S. U.S. 41, Estero, FL 33928 (2 miles west of I-75, exit 123, on the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Corkscrew Road). To request a schedule of special events, call (239) 992-0311 or visit www.floridastateparks.org/koreshan.
Cape Coral Historical Museum
See exhibits, displays and a visual presentation of the former Rose Garden, once a popular attraction in this community. Attractions include a Native American room with an award-winning shell collection, Calusa/Seminole artifacts and a military exhibit with uniforms and relics from WWII. See a replica of a turn-of-the-century Cracker house and browse the gift shop. Donation is requested. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Hours: Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1 to 4 p.m. Closed July and August. Location: 544 Cultural Park Blvd. (near city hall), Cape Coral, FL 33915. Call (239) 772-7037 or visit www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org.
Mike Greenwell’s Bat-A-Ball and Family Fun Park
This family amusement center features eight batting cages, four go-cart tracks, 19-hole miniature golf, fish feeding dock, paintball field, an arcade, snack bar and playground. Birthday parties and group rates are available. The park recently added the “Dugout Sports Bar & Grill.” Open Sunday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from to 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Handicapped accessible. Location: 35 Pine Island Rd. NE, Cape Coral, FL 33909. Call (239) 574-4386 or visit www.greenwellsfamilyfunpark.com.
Wicked Dolphin Artisan Rum
Take a tour of this Cape Coral distillery plant and sample some award-winning rums. Learn the steps of how they source their ingredients, cook, ferment, distill and create its unique color and taste. After the tour, sample a variety of different rums. Tours are available throughout the week. Location: 131 S.W. 3rd Place, Cape Coral 33991. Call (239) 242-5344 or visit www.wickeddolphin.com
Sun Splash Family Waterpark
Slide into fun at Sun Splash Family Waterpark, offering 14 acres of watery adventure for all ages. Enjoy three speed slides, including Thunder Bump, Terror Tube and X-celarator; as well as the popular Main Stream River inner tube ride, Lily Pads and a Tot Spot kiddie area, sand volleyball and Birthday Splash Zone. Lounge chairs, life jackets, changing rooms and rental lockers are available. Schedule: mid-March through mid-October. Call or visit online for operating schedule. Admission: $17.95 plus tax for adults 13 and older; $15.95 for children 3 – 12; $15.95 for senior citizens 60 and older; infants 23 months and under are free. Discounts apply for company outings and groups of 20 or more. Location: 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral, FL 33991. For more information, call (239) 574-0558 or visit www.SunSplashWaterpark.com.
Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer Islands
Barbara Sumwalt Museum
Originally built in 1890 as a cottage, the historical museum features exhibits, in chronological order, that tell the story of man on Useppa Island for 11,000 years. The signature pieces of the museum include the forensic restoration of “Useppa Man,” unearthed during an archaeological dig by the University of Florida in 1989, and the forensic restoration of “Useppa Woman,” found during the restoration of the Collier Inn. Visitors are treated to displays on Useppa’s role in the
Seminole War, the Civil War and the Bay of Pigs. Location: Useppa Island (accessible only by boat). For boat transportation to the island, contact: Captiva Cruises at (239) 472-5300. Lunch at the Collier Inn not included in cruise price. For museum information, pricing and hours, call (239) 283-9600 or visit www.useppahs.org
Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum and Visitors Center
The renovated museum contains exhibits of the first Native Americans to arrive at Boca Grande as well as the Calusa Indians who appeared later. Exhibits explore the arrival of the Spanish to the area, the development of commercial fishing and the introduction of the railroad. Stories of Boca Grande’s two lighthouses top the tale of the development of Port Boca Grande. The evolution of Boca Grande from fishing village to a thriving community is in part due to its status as the “Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World.” Exhibits of shells and bones of native species can be found in the “Nature Room” of the museum. Location: 880 Belcher Rd., Boca Grande, FL 33921. For more information, hours of operation and pricing, call (941) 964-0060 or visit www.barrierislandparkssociety.org.
At Channel Marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway, accessible only by boat, lies Cabbage Key, a tiny island alive with charm and history. Built atop an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound, the cozy inn was constructed in the mid-to-late 1930s by the son of playwright and novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart. Today, the old house contains six rental rooms, a lounge and a picturesque dining room wallpapered with thousands of autographed $1 bills. The island also features seven rental cottages, a marina with overnight dockage, a nature trail and a wooden water tower to climb for a great view of Pine Island Sound. Visitors will not find cars or paved roads, instead winding nature trails for exploration and relaxation. Lunch cruises and scheduled water taxi service are available. For boat transportation contact Captiva Cruises at (239) 472-5300 or Tropic Star of Pine Island at (239)283-0015. Location: Channel Marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway. Call (239) 283-2278 for information or visit www.cabbagekey.com.
Museum of the Islands
From the ancient Calusa Indians to early fishing pioneers, Pine Island’s rich, unusual history plays out in fascinating, colorful exhibits. This showcase of the past features an authentic palm-thatched kitchen with utensils and other household items from the early settlers, remnants from the lives of Calusa Indians, and exhibits on how archaeologists conduct historically-significant explorations. The natural history of the region is evidenced in fossils dating back millions of years, primitive artwork and animals native to Pine Island. There is also a gift shop with Pine Island arts, crafts, books and T-shirts. Hours: May through October, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; November through April, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Closed on Mondays. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children. Location: 5728 Sesame Drive, Bokeelia, FL 33922. Call (239) 283-1525 or visit www.museumoftheislands.com.
Randell Research Center
The world of the Calusa is the focus of tours offered at this important archaeological site on Pine Island. For more than 1,500 years, the Calusa Indians occupied the 200-acre site, leaving behind enormous shell mounds. Visitors to the Randell Research Center (RRC) can tour the Calusa Heritage Trail, a nearly one-mile interpretive walkway that leads visitors through the mounds, canals, and other features of the Pineland archaeological site. In addition, volunteers and students often participate in ongoing research programs. The Center is a non-profit program of the Florida Museum of Natural History located in Gainesville.
The Calusa Heritage Trail includes interpretive signs that offer detailed information on the Calusa, their culture and environment, as well as the history of Southwest Florida after the Calusa were no longer part of the area. The trail also features observation platforms atop the site's tallest shell mound. Restrooms and picnic facilities are also provided. The Calusa Heritage Trail is open for self-guided walks daily from sunrise to sunset. Guided tours are offered January through April on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Groups may also schedule guided tours at other times by calling the RRC at (239) 283-2157. The bookstore, gift shop, restrooms and classroom are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Requested donations from visitors to the Calusa Heritage Trail are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children. Location: 13810 Waterfront Dr., Pine Island, FL 33945. For information call (239) 283-2062 or visit www.flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc.
Tropic Star of Pine Island
Tropic Star of Pine Island offers a variety of on-the-water adventures from Pineland Marina. The 59-passenger “Tropic Star” offers full-day and half-day narrated nature cruises to Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key. On the way, guests encounter two natural bird rookery islands, along with dolphins, manatees and other wildlife. Learn about the ecosystem, mangrove islands and history of this unique area. Reservations are required. Rates are $30 for adults and $20 for children 12 years and younger. Also available for group charters. The state appointed passenger ferry transports visitors for a day or overnight to Cayo Costa State Park to enjoy magnificent beaches, shelling, nature trails and swimming in the Gulf of Mexico. Rates: same day, $25 for adults and $20 for children 12 years and younger. Reservations are required. Call for information on the more frequent seasonal schedule. Rates do not include taxes or marina parking.The Tropic Star also offers private water taxis for island hopping adventures to Boca Grande, Cabbage Key, Cayo Costa, North Captiva and other coastal islands. For a true eco-experience, explore the pristine waters and aquatic preserves surrounding Pine Island in a rented kayak or canoe. Rentals and tours are available from Bokeelia and Cayo Costa. Parking fee at the marina is $10 per day. Location: Jug Creek Marina, 16498 Tortuga St., Bokeelia, FL 33922. Call (239) 283-0015 for times and reservations or visit www.tropicstarcruises.com.
North Fort Myers
Babcock Wilderness Adventures
Enjoy a taste of real Florida – the excitement of a true wilderness adventure. Travel 90 minutes with your knowledgeable guide through several different eco systems, including the Telegraph Cypress Swamp. See alligators, cracker cattle, native birds, wild turkeys, snakes and other wildlife in their natural setting. Year-round swamp buggie tours are by reservation only. Swamp buggy tours are $22 plus tax for adults (13 - 64 years old), $21 for seniors (65+), $14 for children ages 3 to 12, ages 2 and under are admitted free. Group rates are available. Call for group rates, as well as special summer rates. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. Location: 8000 S.R. 31, Punta Gorda, FL 33982. For information and reservations, call toll-free (800) 500-5583 or visit www.babcockwilderness.com.
ECHO Global Farm Tour
This unique attraction was formed by a Christian ministry working to fight world hunger. Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization(ECHO) invites visitors to tour its working demonstration farm and discover how unique agricultural solutions are being used by those working with the poor in over 180 countries. See and taste a variety of rare and nutritious foods from an exotic collection of tropical fruit trees and edible plants, which is the largest in the continental United States. This “living classroom” provides ideas that can be used in your own backyard, with many of the seeds and plants available for purchase in the edible landscape nursery and bookstore. Tours take approximately two hours. $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 are free. Discounts available for seniors, AAA members, students, military and groups of 10 or more. Open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed on Sundays and holidays. Location: 17391 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, FL 33917. Call (239) 543-3246 or visit www.echonet.org.
The Shell Factory & Nature Park
A local institution for 76 years, the Shell Factory is billed as the “world’s largest
collection of rare shells, sponges, coral, fossils and sea life specimens,” featuring more than 5,000,000 shells and shell-related gifts. This attraction boasts 68,000-square-feet of retail space with “something for everyone,” each visit is like a treasure hunt. Food services include Capt’n Fishbones Seafood Grill. Special group rates are available for lunch and dinner. The Christmas House is open all year.
Outside, visitors enjoy bumper boats, bumper cars, and fast ball pitching. Check out the pitching cage and try a round of miniature golf. The Groovy Stop Video Arcade offers games for everyone. Visitors can also experience the Nature Park, featuring alligators, snakes, swans, turtles, exotic birds, bobcats, raccoons, and more. New attractions: The Money Museum, McShells Company Mining Rig, and Lorikeet Aviary. Recently they have added The Soaring Eagle Zip Line. You and your entire family can soar high above North Fort Myers.
The Money Museum is free and displays coins and notes from around the world dating back to the Roman Empire. Visitors may pan for gemstones or fossils in the mining rig’s sluice or feed nectar to the colorful lorikeet birds. “Waltzing Waters” (now known as Liquid Fireworks) entertains with a water, music and light presentation each evening after sunset. Handicapped accessible. Hours: 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. daily. Location: 4 miles north of the Caloosahatchee River at 2787 N. Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), North Fort Myers, FL 33903-2787. Call (239) 995-2141 or (800) 282-5805 or visit www.shellfactory.com.
For details about all of these attractions and the latest information on packages
and special vacation values in Florida’s unspoiled island sanctuary, visit Fort Myers at www.FortMyersSanibel.com. All attractions, tour times and rates are subject to change.