When asked about his favourite part of The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, Ray Sarracino of The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau doesn’t point to the year round mild temperatures of living on Florida’s Gulf Coast or popular attractions like Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Rather, it’s the magical and serene feeling found by getting away from it all on one of the secluded stretches of beach in the area.
After hearing the word “magical” consistently get used to describe what makes the area special among locals and visitors alike, Francesca Donlan, director of communications for the CVB led our small group of Canadians on an unusual adventure for a magical experience of our own. It’s past 10 p.m. as we piled into golf carts under a starry night sky and headed to the shore on Captiva Island, which neighbours Sanibel.
One by one, we kicked off our shoes in the sand and walked to the end of the beach to witness a phenomenon in this part of the region: bioluminescence. A ripple effect set off as we splashed around and watched intently as bioluminescent sparks lit up the water like fireflies in the sky. In that moment we knew, there is indeed something special about The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Long a popular destination for those seeking a refuge from the cold winter — in fact, Thomas Edison is considered one of the first snowbirds to frequent the destination back in 1885 — the largest county in Southwest Florida offers much more than just a sunny escape. Along with hitting the beach and going shelling, here are a few memorable things for travellers to do, while visiting The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel:
Learn more about the two famous inventors who had a hand in shaping the city of Fort Myers into what it is today. Discover how Henry Ford wound up purchasing a property next door to Thomas Edison by touring the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Both inventors left a legacy in the city, and it’s believed that Edison helped put Fort Myers on the map for tourists. Set on 20 acres, the property includes a glimpse into their winter homes, several classic Ford vehicles including a Ford Model T, the first affordable vehicle in the States, and the laboratory where Edison spent his time trying to develop another method of producing rubber. For kids, there’s also a Spark Lab in partnership with The Smithsonian featuring rotating hands-on stations and activities.
Another family-friendly idea is to visit The Butterfly Estates, dedicated to preserving and protecting Florida’s native butterfly species. Step inside the 3,600-sq.-foot glass butterfly conservatory to see many colourful butterflies fluttering across the space.
There are no shortage of other options for travellers looking to get up close and personal with nature. Visiting the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve or the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge are surefire ways to witness wildlife like turtles, egrets, and, if you’re lucky, the colourful Roseate spoonbill.
Travellers can also take a tour of CROW, the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, to learn how the centre works to save wildlife. Every year the leading wildlife hospital helps no less than 4,000 injured animals with the goal of re-releasing them into the wild. Roughly 60% of its patients are birds, 30% are mammals and the last 10% are reptiles and amphibians. Between 10 to 25 new animals are brought to the clinic every day. Up to two tours are offered daily in the busy season.
Another fun excursion is to soak up the sun while searching for manatees and dolphins, and getting an overview of the area on a scenic ride with Captiva Cruises.
There has also been a push to increase year-round tourism in the destination. One of the efforts of the CVB was to introduce the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest, which has successfully made September a popular time to visit the destination as famous songwriters perform live around the area. Musicians taking part in the festival have written songs for the likes of Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood.
Ensure your clients savour their time in The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel by suggesting these tasty options: