Page 1

A Canadian’s Guide To

The Beaches of

Fort Myers & Sanibel A Birder’s


Paddling Trails

Nature Preserves Shells By

The Seashore A S P E C I A L S u pple m e n t T o T h e N ov e m b e r 2011 I ss u e O f

A Canadian’s Guide To

Inside: Another Pace, Another Time – This Is The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Fort Myers Offers Boasts A Perfect Blend Of Endless Sunshine & Exceptional Beaches Wildlife Thrives on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

4 6 14

Golf, Fishing, Paddling, Baseball & Hockey – Get Beyond The Beach Visiting With Notable Citizens & Historic Heroes A Look At The Communities Of Fort Myers & Sanibel

31 Canadian Traveller

16 18 21

november 2011


Some of the best fishing grounds in Florida.

Thomas Edison, one of the first snowbirds.

Paddling into amazing wildlife viewing. Just one of scores of excellent golf courses.

Everyone is a partner in preserving the local environment.


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 32

By Donna Carter Sandwiched between Sarasota in the north and Naples in the south, the Fort Myers area, often described as an “unspoiled island sanctuary”, has been attracting tourists since the early 1900s. The city of Fort Myers, along with eight neighbouring communities and several idyllic islands, including Sanibel and Captiva, offer up a return to days gone by with a relaxed ambiance and some of the best shell collecting on the planet. The guaranteed sub-tropical weather, award-winning beaches and an international airport that is the gateway to Florida’s southwest coast could easily have been turned this family vacation destination into a theme park bonanza and concrete jungle with wall to wall development. That hasn’t happened. Instead, there is an Old Florida charm mixed with an extensive inventory of eco-tourism opportunities, nature-based activities and a rich historical heritage. Protecting its remarkable natural assets is a high priority and visitors are encouraged to become partners in helping preserve the area’s pristine environment and abundant wildlife.

Apparently, this is exactly the kind of vacation destination many people love – more than two million visitors were recorded last year alone. Moreover, no place in the state can precisely duplicate what The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has to offer. The treasure trove of attributes begins with miles and miles of sugary sand beaches the colour of marshmallow cream, where there’s everything from family-oriented beaches to some so serene it’s like being alone on an undiscovered shore. With beaches come watersports that include everything from some of the best fishing grounds in Florida to diving, kayaking, sailing parasailing, houseboating and jetskiing. Eco-tourism is a huge attraction with plenty to offer including dolphin tours, awesome wildlife viewing, several nature preserves and a profusion of ecosystems to explore. There are bald cypress forests,

virgin wetlands, meandering rivers, oak groves, pine woodlands and, of course, 80 kilometres of white sand beaches where there are literally millions of shells and fossils. Among a number of park preserves, Manatee Park is one of the top spots in the nation to observe manatees in their natural habitat and the JN “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island has been recognized among the best bird-watching locations in North America. The region’s well-rounded character includes outstanding dining opportunities not just in the communities of Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel and Captiva, but throughout the entire area. Likewise, there are scores of excellent golf courses and Fort Myers is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. There is also a host of engaging historical attractions including the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. A bonus: a trip to Orlando and its theme parks is less than three hours’ drive from Fort Myers. c For more information: Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel 2201 Second Street, Ste 600 Fort Myers, FL 33901 Telephone: 800-237-6444 Website:

Another Pace, Another Time – This Is The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel 33 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


The Greater Fort Myers Area Boasts A Perfect Blend Of Endless Sunshine & Exceptional Beaches By Donna Carter


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 34

35 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


There’s no question Mother Nature achieved perfection when she crafted The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel where the quality of the sand is second to none. Pure, white and silky-soft, professional sand sculptors from around the world claim it’s the best on the planet from which to create their artwork. Don’t take my word for it, hundreds of thousands of tourists deliver an even more convincing verdict by returning year after year to enjoy the outstanding beaches where no two are exactly the same.

The Sanibel Stoop and the Captiva Crouch.

Bring your love... If romance means moments together in a place that radiates love, welcome to Casa Ybel Resort. Hold hands while strolling among beach-front palms. Worship the sun together poolside. Laze on your private lanai with serene views of the sea. Enchant each other over dinners in our Thistle Lodge restaurant.


november 2011

2255 West Gulf Drive . Sanibel, Florida 33957 800.276.4753 .

Canadian Traveller 36

A great day at the beach means different things to different people and in this regard the Fort Myers area and its offshore islands have all the bases covered. More than 80 kilometres of beaches, washed by the calm blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, offer beaches to suit every possible taste. There are beaches for families, quiet beaches, high-activity beaches and completely unspoiled stretches where visitors can be one with nature. There are also the area’s unique beaches such as those found on the renowned islands of Sanibel and Captiva. The majority of Florida’s coastal islands lie parallel to the coast in a north-south alignment, however two of the exceptions are this sister duo connected to the mainland by a five-kilometre, scenic causeway. Lying off the region’s southwest shore and sometimes referred to as Florida’s Tahiti, their unique east-west orientation is a catch-all for seashells that continually wash up on their beaches – often as thick as leaves on a forest floor. Shelling here is so popular that the names “Sanibel Stoop” and “Captiva Crouch” have been applied to the posture of people, young and old, who comb the islands’ beaches in a bentover position searching for Angel Wings, Lion’s Paws and Sand Dollars. Those lucky enough to find a Junonia – la crème de la crème of the region’s shells – have scooped

The Only Thing We Overlook Is The Beach

Beach Vacation



• 213 beachfront suites all with Gulf views • Rejuvenating full-service spa • Beachside dining • Adventures at Kidds Kampp®

275 Estero Blvd, Ft Myers Beach, FL . (855) 392-6710 .


800.778.7748 • 239.463.9392 Two Pools & Tiki Bar

In Times Square

Daily, Weekly, Monthly Rates available. Residence Inn Fort Myers- Sanibel is located just minutes from the gateway into Sanibel/Captivia Island, Fort Myers Beach and is 16 miles from Southwest Florida International Airport. Our convenient location is minutes to restaurants, golf courses, local attractions, hospitals, movie theatres and museums; and is within walking distance to Tanger Outlets Shopping Center and Publix Grocery Store. • FREE hot breakfast buffet • FREE high-speed Internet access • Studios, 1 & 2 bedroom suites with fully-equipped kitchens, suites sleep up to 6 • Outdoor pool, whirlpool, grill & fire pit • 24-hour business & fitness center • Pets welcome (for a fee)

Residence Inn by Marriott® Fort Myers Sanibel 20371 Summerlin Rd Ft. Myers, FL 33908 T 239-415-4150 : F 239-415-4151

Across from the beach and fishing pier! • 10 Different Roomstyles • Suites with Fully Equipped Kitchens • Wireless Internet Access Available

l›Ÿ›˜ @b•›šŒ—›ˆ@h•šˆ’ l•†„šˆ‡@Œ”@š‹ˆ@hŒ™š•˜Œ†@rŒœˆ˜@ dŒ™š˜Œ†š@Œ”@fšN@m ˆ˜™@f’•˜Œ‡„ RSYMSSWMSTTV žžžN‹•šˆ’‰š“ ˆ˜™N†•“

Live Entertainment Nightly Poolside at Lighthouse Resort

Happy Hour & Drink Specials Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner 1051 5th Street, Ft. Myers Beach

Another perfect day at the beach.

Visit Southwest Florida to experience a real Florida vacation Nature, beaches, theatre and history Find out more at

Photography and support provided by

Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau Charlotte Harbor Visitor & Convention Bureau


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 38

one of the most sought after varieties. Regarded among the best shelling spots in the world, Sanibel Island is also home to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, a remarkable repository containing an enormous collection of shells and mollusks from around the globe. Canadian actor Raymond Burr (Perry Mason, Ironside) was a frequent visitor to the area in the early 1990s and was instrumental in starting the Museum, where you can see part of his private collection. Shelling fanatics head to Cayo Costa, one of Florida’s most unspoiled barrier islands. Reachable by boat service, more than 14 kilometres of exquisite sand shoreline offer the same variety of shell species found on Sanibel and Captiva. Overall, visitors to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel can shell hunt on their own or employ the services of area outfitters who offer charters to some of the region’s prime locations. However, vacationers not interested in stooping and crouching can visit the Shell Factory, a shell supermarket north of Fort Myers that boasts one of the world’s largest collections. This is souvenir heaven for folks wanting to pick up a bag of exotic shells,

Beach fun is not just water fun, biking is a great option.

inexpensive shell jewelry and other ocean-related novelties. In addition to shelling, the region is also noted for its enviable inventory of superb family-oriented beaches. Among the many noteworthy is the beach at Bonita Beach Park at the mainland community of Bonita Springs south of Fort Myers. Everything for a great family day is here including a children’s playground, picnic tables, grills, volleyball court, watersport rentals and guided walks on a mile-long nature trail. At the northern end of Fort Myers Beach, the Bowditch Point Regional Park is a recreational playground and nature preserve, and just one of numerous family-friendly, waterfront playgrounds offering exceptional sand beaches, shaded picnic areas, fishing and watersports. Located in the heart of Fort Myers Beach, Lynn Hall Memorial Park is another excellent location containing all the beach amenities a family could want. It also has a reputation as a great place to view astounding sunsets. And Lynn Hall has the added benefit of being right next door to the shops and restaurants located at the town’s Times Square pedestrian mall. The barrier islands also have a bounty of beaches popular with families. One of them is Lighthouse Beach Park on the eastern tip of Sanibel Island where a stretch of scenic beach, shallow water and a boardwalk nature trail are highlighted by an operating lighthouse that has been a beacon to mariners for 127 years. Also popular on Sanibel is pristine Bowman’s Beach, often touted as one of the finest in the state. Here, there is relative seclusion where there are no homes, condos or hotels to detract from the


Gr e at R eso a lue! V l a n o i t p e c Ex




M an

l a e D a l R e T he rts, Vi

d R e s o rt

Fort Myers Beach • Naples • Cape Coral |

Unique Resorts. Spacious Suites. Gorgeous Views! • 877-247-5250

39 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


beauty of this stunning swath of sand shore where, at day’s end, sunset views are nothing short of magical. Visitors looking for romantic getaway beaches can pick from just about any stretch of sand on Sanibel and Captiva. Among the host of good choices is Blind Pass Beach on the north end of Sanibel at the filled-in pass that once separated the pair of sister islands. This is a relatively quiet beach that invites long romantic walks and where there are several Old Florida-style cottages perfect for love nest sojourns and serene honeymoons. On Captiva, just north of Blind Pass, Turner Beach stretches eight kilometres to the northern tip of the island. Known for great fishing and shelling, beach visitors here can count on gorgeous romantic sunsets. By its name alone, Lovers Key State Park suggests it’s a romantic beach destination although it’s popular with adults and children alike. Lovers Key is one of four barrier islands making up Lovers Key State Park. Located off the mainland coast just north of Bonita Springs, the park is accessible via a causeway built in 1965. It boasts several pristine beaches and waters teeming with bottlenose dolphins, West Indian manatees, shellfish and rays. Motorized vehicles are not allowed within park waters, however, visitors can rent canoes, kayaks and bicycles. The park also has almost 13 kilometres of hiking, biking and nature trails and four kilometres of awesome beaches. c

Lovers Key State Park

Gulf Views from Every Unit!


. Sandalfoot Co n d o . c o m • 800.725.2250

One of the Top Beaches in the United States 671 East Gulf Drive - Sanibel Island, Florida 33957


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 40

Come Coastin g With Us Get the Free mobile app at

Your Home Away From Home

2 bedroom, 2 bath fully equipped condos

Sanibel & Captiva • Ft. Myers Beac h VisitFor


ONLY 20 TWO BEDROOM VACATION CONDOS DIRECTLY ON THE BEACH Heated Pool with Sun Deck Gazebo Deck with Gas Grills Private Lighted Tennis Courts Shuffleboard, Beach Chairs & Umbrellas

Directly Across From The Beach 2840 W. Gulf Drive Sanibel Island, FL 33957 Toll Free: (800) 533-4486


500 feet of Private White Sand Beach on Sanibel Island!

An Old Florida-style resort of 33 units located directly on the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Side Condos From $133.33 per night*

*Excluding Holidays and peak periods.

2823 West Gulf Drive • Sanibel, FL 33957 Tel: 239-472-1353 • Reservations: 800-995-1242

2 Bed, 2 Bath Gulf-to-Bay Condos 827 East Gulf Drive • Sanibel Island


Wildlife Thrives on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Strolling magnificent stretches of white sand are just the first step to experiencing the natural side of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. There are more than 400,000 hectares of nature sanctuaries to explore, and most have paths and boardwalks that allow event the most timid of adventurers to get out and see an abundance of wildlife going about its everyday business in a most natural setting. The J.N. “Ding� Darling National Wildlife Refuge, named for Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist and pioneer environmentalist Jay Norwood Darling, sits on the northeast side of Sanibel Island. Footpaths, winding canoe/kayak trails and a 6.4-kilometre scenic drive, lush with seagrape, wax and salt myrtles, red mangrove, cabbage and sabal palms are all options to get out and see white pelicans, roseate spoonbills, manatees, wood storks, bald eagles, American peregrine falcons, ospreys, herons, American alligators and Atlantic loggerhead turtles. Canoe Adventures, Tarpon Bay Explorers and Captiva Kayak & Wildside Adventures rent canoes and kayaks. A guided tour with a naturalist is essential for maximum appreciation of the refuge. You can see many of the same species at the nearby Sanibel-Captiva Nature Conservation Foundation, which

One of the best ways to see local wildlife is from a kayak. Join a guided tour or rent one and head out on your own.


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 42

also features a nature centre, native plant nursery, gift shop and more than seven kilometres of nature trails. Or head over to the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium on Ortiz Avenue southeast of Fort Myers. It boasts bird and butterfly aviaries, a short boardwalk through a natural swamp and several exhibits in a central building. At Lovers Key State Park on Black Island, just south of Fort Myers Beach, you can hop aboard a delightful tram that runs along a rustic boardwalk, crossing picturesque Oyster Bay past mangrove isles, to one of the most private public beaches anywhere. On the unspoiled beach you can cast at surf line, picnic with raccoons, bird

watch and search the shoreline for seashells, among other things. Near Fort Myers Beach, stroll the elevated boardwalk for views of unspoiled live oak hammock and mangrove shoreline at Matanzas Pass Wilderness Preserve. Nearby, Mound Key, constructed from shells deposited by Calusa Indians centuries ago, is a favourite with professional archaeologists, history buffs and picnickers. The 1.6-kilometre boardwalk through the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve lets you interact with a variety of fauna and flora, mammals and reptiles in a wetland ecosystem. The Preserve is a natural “drainage-way” that cleans rainfall runoff from the local watershed area as it runs to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve. One of the best ways to see all these aquatic attractions is to join a guided kayak expedition. Several companies can lead you through the wonders Matlacha Pass, North Captiva Island and unspoiled Cayo Costa Island State Park. Birders head to internationally recognized Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary southeast of Bonita Springs, owned and

operated by the National Audubon Society, to see varieties of wading and migratory birds and other wildlife along nature trails through the largest virgin bald cypress forest in the US. It’s also a gateway to the Great Florida Birding Trail. Further afield, the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Swamp, home of the National Audubon Society, are a convenient day-trip from anywhere in the vicinity. On Sanibel, the recently opened, Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife’s (CROW) new Healing Winds Visitor Education Center offers a rare opportunity to learn how one of the nation’s leading rehabilitation hospitals rescues and cares for injured and abandoned wildlife; and the Sanibel Sea School teaches kids and adults about the marine ecosystems of both Sanibel and Captiva islands. Found in local waters year-round, “Manatee Season” is November through March, when they congregate in local waters to feed and stay warm. View these gentle sea mammals in a non-captive habitat at Manatee Park. Interpretive naturalists work onsite presenting programs about manatees, butterflies and native plants.

Birding is spectacular and accessible here, on walking paths and beaches in parks and sanctuaries around the region.

Everglades Wonder Gardens, established in 1936, is one of Florida’s earliest wildlife attractions. Watch guides feed giant gators, take in an otter show and view the park’s other residents including Florida panthers, Florida black bear, American crocodiles and alligators, white tail deer, bobcats, hawks, owls, snakes and wild boars. Botanists often refer to its lush tropical tree gardens as one of the finest in the world. There is also a unique natural history museum with artifacts and relics ranging from prehistoric through Calusa Indian eras. Finally, if bugs are your thing, head to The Butterfly Estates in downtown Fort Myers, and stroll through butterfly habitat with cascading waterfalls, lush tropical nectar plants and thousands of butterflies. For more information, visit c

The Natural Setting for a Beachfront Vacation

Get the Free mobile app at

Botanical Gardens ~ 1, 2 & 3 Bedroom Suites ~ Two Pools ~ Bayside Boat Docks Reservations: 1-800-237-5144 • Online: 845 East Gulf Drive Sanibel Island, Florida 33957 43 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


Golf, Fishing, Paddling, Baseball & Hockey – Get Beyond The Beach To The Fore

Start with golf, where the options are amazing. In fact, the National Golf Foundation has given The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel one of the top holes-per capita rankings, because of the endless list of choices and quality layouts. And staying true to the area’s green spirit, many local clubs have won awards for their commitment to the preservation of the environment, and all have worked to protect the area’s wildlife. The Old Corkscrew Golf Club in Estero is one of the area’s stand-outs. It is the only standalone Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in area; it’s also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Not only can you enjoy great golf, you can view nesting colonies of wood storks, egrets and herons set amid stands of cypress, towering pines and mature oaks.

Inshore, off-shore, freshwater, saltwater – your options are endless and the fish are always biting.


november 2011

Canadian Traveller 44

Other courses of note include Raptor Bay, designed by Raymond Floyd, at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs; the redesigned Captiva Island Golf Club at South Seas Island Resort, ranked one of the Top-Five Short Courses in the world by the Professional Golfers Association; and the Pete Dye-designed course at the Gasparilla Inn & Club in Boca Grande. These are just a few choices, there are many, many clubs that welcome visitors and municipal courses where the public can play.

Angler’s Eden

Fishing is huge in the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel In fact, Field & Stream editors named Pine Island among the 25 hottest American fishing destinations. Inshore, off-shore,

Freshwater fishing in the area runs all year long, with bass, crappie, blue gill and catfish as well as shellcrackers and Oscars always The National Golf Foundation has given The Beaches in season. And they of Fort Myers & Sanibel one of the top holes-per capita bite everywhere. The rankings, because of the endless list of choices. Caloosahatchee River is the prime fishing spot among hundreds freshwater, saltwater – your options are of kilometres of canals and natural and endless and the fish are always biting. manmade lakes and ponds throughout On dry land, the inshore saltwater fishing hot spots are mangrove shorelines, beaches, Lee County. Knowledgeable guides can be contacted through local tackle shops. open flats, bridges, piers, docks and the many passes and inlets to the Gulf of Mexico, where you can cast a line for snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, sheepshead, jack crevalle and mangrove snapper. Offshore fishing is as an excellent way to hook into shark, grouper, bonito, barracuda, permit, black fin tuna, cobia, and Spanish and king mackerel. And then there is tarpon. Fighting tarpon are one of the world’s most sought after fish and sports-fishing for them has a long history as a favourite Lee County visitor activity.

There’s More

Not into fishing? Head out onto the water for kayaking, boating, sailing and windsurfing action. Kayaking is particularly popular here, and the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail is just about the best way to see local wildlife and plant life in its natural glory. This 300-kilometre marked canoe and kayak trail meanders through the coastal waters and inland tributaries of Lee County. Join a guided tour or make your

own way through mangrove forests and along beaches and shoreline.

Hangin’ With The Pros

Baseball has a long and grand tradition in Lee County. The area’s first baseball team organized in1896, and was followed in 1925 by the Philadelphia Athletics who were the first major league club to hold spring training in Fort Myers. Today, both the Minnesota Twins (William H. Hammond Stadium) and the Boston Red Sox (JetBlue Park) play in the Grapefruit League. Over the years the Cleveland Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals have all held spring training in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel area – and all have won the World Series while training here. The region is also home to the Fort Myers Miracle, the Twins’ Class A affiliate. Part-owners Bill Murray and Jimmy Buffett have been spotted incognito during the season. Snowbirds and other hockey fans welcome the on-ice action in Germain Arena where the ECHL’s Florida Everblades play. The Everblades share the Arena with the Florida Firecats of Arena Football. c

The Sanibel Island experience you expect. True Serenity ~ True Renewal ~ True Relaxation Full resort amenities - Shells galore on our beach

You’ll find true renewal at the pool and pool bar.

You’ll find great Sanibel shelling on the beach.

On quiet West Gulf Drive 239-472-1541 800-824-0476 Scan QR to visit website 45 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


Early snowbirds Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Harvey Firestone.

By Donna Carter


Visiting With Notable Citizens & Historic Heroes

Not surprisingly, two of the most visited sites that serve as a window to the region’s past are the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates. Ford, the world famous car manufacturer and Edison the prolific inventor who held more than 1,000 US patents, were good friends who once owned side-by-side winter homes on the waterfront at Fort Myers. Both properties are now museums and hundreds of thousands of people a year tour the homes as well as Edison’s on-property laboratory. Visitors learn that Edison’s Fort Myers history began quite by accident – or more accurately – with a health issue. During a Florida trip prescribed by his doctor in 1884, he discovered, and fell in love, with the small fishing village destined to become the Fort Myers of today. Two years later he built his 47 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


Edison’s lab, where he developed synthetic rubber for Harvey Firestone.

• Historic Homes • Tropical Gardens • Edison Laboratory • Museum & Store • Garden Shoppe • Banyan Tree

Open Daily, 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Open until 9 p.m. in December 2350 McGregor Boulevard Fort Myers, Florida



november 2011

beloved winter home and a complete laboratory on a 5.5-hectare plot of land on the city’s Caloosahatchee River. He and his family spent every winter there until his death in 1931. People who now tour the house find it much the same as Edison left it including original furnishings. The inventor’s laboratory is also as he left it containing a multitude of paraphernalia used in various experiments financed by Harvey Firestone to develop a synthetic rubber. During this search Edison also created such diverse items as the phonograph, telegraph, talking dolls, miner’s lamps and the motion picture camera. The lab continues to be lit by carbon filament light bulbs that, of course, were Edison’s own invention. Surrounding the home and laboratory, impressive botanical gardens are a testament to his expertise as a skilled horticulturist, a pursuit he took as seriously as his work in the lab. Famous notables who were frequent guests at the Edison Estate included President Teddy Roosevelt, Charles and Anne Lindbergh, Harvey Firestone and, of course, Henry Ford in 1915. Like Edison, Ford fell in love with the location and subsequently built a winter home on the property next door to his friend. Tour guides reveal that following Edison’s death the Fords never returned to their winter home which, along with the bulk of its contents, was sold at auction in 1945. The house now features mostly period furnishings, and the garage contains a 1914 Model T Ford, the world’s first mass-produced vehicle and the cornerstone of the auto maker’s fortunes, among other vintage automobiles. The lives of both Ford and Edison are extensively outlined in a museum on the Edison Estate. While the inventor of the light bulb’s historical impact on Fort Myers and the Southwest Region is significant, the earliest history of the area began thousands of years before. Among the most important early sites is Mound Key located in Mound Key Archeological State Park on a small, undeveloped island in Estero Bay south of Fort Myers. Accessible only by boat, the island was largely created by an accumulation of

Canadian Traveller 48

Calusa Heritage Trail, Pine Island.

shells deposited there at least 2,000 years ago by the Calusa Indians whose habitation of the area marked the beginning of the settlement of Southwest Florida. Particularly popular among history buffs, Mound Key is believed to have been the major ceremonial centre of the Calusas where interpretive displays and guided tours now reveal their history and way of life. In fact, the region has numerous facilities where history lovers can learn everything there is to know about these early inhabitants. One of the most information-rich repositories is the Randall Research Center on Pine Island together with its Calusa Heritage Trail, an interpretive walkway punctuated by exhibits and information boards detailing the primitive days of the Calusas. Located on the site of a former Calusa village, burial mounds and ritual shell mounds can still be found throughout the island’s subtropical forest. In fact, the Randall Research Center is regarded as one of the most significan archaeological sites in North America. While the story of the area’s “early peoples” is an important component, it’s but one facet of Southwest Florida’s history. Several regional museums also provide the bigger picture including the Southwest Florida Museum of History that recalls the city’s early period as a fort settlement followed by cattle town and, long before that, the period marked by the arrival of Spanish explorers. Other regional repositories include the Sanibel Historical Village, the Cape Coral Historical Museum, and the Museum of the Islands. In addition, there are numerous places in the region to explore ancient legends such as one involving Useppa Island, a coastal island. Local tradition says this small sub-tropical paradise was once a haven for the pirate, Jose Gaspar, said to have kidnapped a beautiful Spanish princess called Josepha de Mayorga. Held captive there, her name “Josepha” eventually morphed into “Useppa,” by which the island is known today. Whether the story is myth or legend doesn’t seem to matter. It’s the kind of fascinating stuff history buffs enjoy. c

A Look At The Communities Of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

Fort Myers

Named for a Civil War-era army colonel, Fort Myers’ history parallels that of Florida itself. Indigenous peoples, the Calusa Indians, inhabited the nearby islands, followed by Spanish explorers, and later, pioneers who settled the pine flatwoods, and cattle ranchers who drove their charges down what is now McGregor Boulevard to ships docked at Punta Rassa. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford put the town on the snowbird map when they chose the City of Palms as their winter getaway. Today, Fort Myers is a bustling city boasting ecological, historical and cultural attractions, as well as great shopping, a fine menu of dining options and those very special Gulf of Mexico sunsets. Fort Myers Beach.

Culture lovers head to the theatres and performance halls at the Alliance for the Arts, the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall and the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery. For something light-hearted, head to the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, or book a berth aboard the Murder Mystery Dinner Train. Thrill-seekers can relive the days of those daring young men and their flying machines at Classic Air Ventures. For something a bit more sedate, head downtown and board a lunch or dinner cruise on the Caloosahatchee River. Or satisfy your curiosity at the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium. Looking for a drink? Sample the wares at the Eden Vineyards Winery, or head to Sun Harvest Citrus and enjoy Indian River citrus fruits and their juices.

Fort Myers Beach

Once a remote stretch of green edged with white, soft sand and accessible only by boat Fort Myers Beach on Estero island really came into its own with the opening of bridge connections to the mainland. Over the years the Island’s attractive features, including miles and miles of white, sandy beaches, have captured the

imaginations of visitors from near and far. Boating, sailing, fishing and spectacular Lovers Key State Park make this island a real recreational playground. Add to that a great number of family-friendly resorts, quaint cottages, Old Florida charm, restaurants serving fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico and an annual Shrimp Festival, and it’s a beach vacation paradise. Nightlife gleams along the northern tip of the island around shoppingand-dining destination Times Square, and sunset watching is a favourite pastime. Step up to the tables and try your luck aboard the Big M Casino, a luxury gaming yacht; or set sail for the tropical paradise of Key West, three-and-a-half hours away by high-speed boat. Still have a need for speed? Check out the action aboard a cigarette-style powerboat that reaches speeds of 70 mph. Afterwards, chill in peaceful Matanzas Pass Preserve. Wildlife includes jumping fish, wading birds and the shy manatee.

Sanibel & Captiva Islands

Think pristine, white sand beaches. Think an amazing collection of seashells washed ashore. Think Sanibel and Captiva, coastal islands created by nature to protect the mainland where the Caloosahatchee River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Captiva Island offers all kinds of water fun.

The Arts are alive in Fort Myers.

49 Canadian Traveller

november 2011


Manatees and other wild life are seen at Sanibel’s eco-attractions.

Sun Splash Family Waterpark.

Once devoted to grapefruit and coconut farms, the islands have a charming reluctance to allow too much of the modern world onto their shores. There are no stoplights or street lights on either island. Captiva Island feels (and is) more remote than Sanibel. Quirky, with its one-of-a-kind colourful restaurants and unusual shops, the tiny village dwells in its own state of existence – equal parts waterside playground and pure whimsy. On Sanibel, there are multi-use paths – 40 kilometres of them – that function as sidewalks, bike paths and recreational trails; buildings are “no taller than the tallest palm tree”, and half the island’s acreage has been preserved against development. Throughout history, Sanibel and Captiva have attracted visitors. Spanish explorers used them as stopovers and and the rich and famous, including one special cartoonist,

Cape Coral, Florida 3rd Most Popular U.S. City for International Home Buyers The Wall Street Journal, June 2011

Imagine cruising the Gulf of Mexico from a canal behind your home. Explore 400 miles of waterways, beautiful homes, a gentle climate, and a low cost of living.

Jay Norwood Darling, who helped create the 6,400-acre national wildlife refuge that bears his name have vacationed here. Other notables include Teddy Roosevelt, Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Edna St Vincent Millay. From artist Robert Rauschenberg to weatherman Willard Scott, the famous still arrive to soak up the soothing ambiance. Visitors to both islands enjoy not only the natural, ungroomed beaches, but also the languid pace of island life, great restaurants, theatre and museums such as Sanibel Historical Village and the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. Education centres at Sanibel’s two main eco-attractions introduce the uninitiated to the island’s marine, freshwater and hammock habitats, where river otters, loggerhead sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, bald eagles and hundreds of native and transitory birds live. Speaking of wildlife, Sanibel Island is known for its art galleries, which specialize in wildlife paintings. Don’t miss the monthly Art Nights during the winter season. Restaurants on both islands dish up excellent seafood in settings that range from porch cafes to modern elegance on menus ranging from Mediterranean to New American style. The islands’ marinas offer plenty of opportunity to get out on the water. Offerings include shelling on secluded islands, hitting a beach away from it all, fishing, sailing, snorkeling, learning about marine life or camping on a bridgeless island. Many resorts and outfitters stock kayaks, sailboats, paddleboats and an assortment of water toys for vacationers’ enjoyment.

Between Sanibel and Captiva, visitors can find a resort to precisely match their style of vacationing. Small inns provide an intimate experience, Gulf-front resorts cater to beach buffs, cottages have that delicious barefoot feel and grand destination resorts leave no vacation whim unfulfilled with a full complement of marina, tennis, beach and golf facilities.

Cape Coral

From humble beginnings as a loose collection of cattle-ranching, logging and fishing communities, Cape Coral came into its own in the late 1950s, with the development of planned communities that catered to the boating lifestyle. Head to Cape Coral for a lively strip of restaurants and stores along Cape Coral Parkway, and an array of activities for kids including Sun Splash Family Waterpark, with speed slides, tube rides and Tot Spot kiddie area; Mike Greenwell’s Family Fun Park for batting cages, arcade, paintball, go-carts and mini golf; Eagle Skate Park; and the Cape Coral Historical Museum for look back at Native American history, Second World War History and a fond look at the oncepopular Rose Garden. Nature lovers explore Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve, where a boardwalk meanders through a mangrove habitat. And don’t miss the creature Cape Coral’s famous for: the burrowing owl, which can be seen day and night throughout the community. c


Published 12 times a year by

Come see why our City is truly

A Natural Fit for Work & Play. City of Cape Coral Economic Development Office



november 2011


Printed in Canada

Contents © 2011 by ACT Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved. ISBN 1207-1463

201-2080 Hartley Avenue, Coquitlam, BC Canada V3K 6W5 Tel: (604) 699-9990 Fax: (604) 699-9993

Canadian Traveller 50

Join the Sailing Lifestyle


“This was a very complete program. Not quite zero to hero but as close as you an get in one week. We are keen to get back on the water to put our skills into practice. Thank you for a great program in a wonderful location with a superb instructor.”


Aileen and Al Dresser

Tottenham, Ontario, Canada Fast Track to Cruising® • British Virgin Islands Sailing – Good for You. Good for the World!®


800-221-4326 •

fort Myers

20350 Summerlin Road • 2 miles before the Sanibel Causeway • (239) 454-1974

Florida Caribbean NY • NJ Chesapeake

oss1117 ad for Canadian Yachting v1b.indd 1

Text TangeR to 74700 to receive a FRee TangeR Coupon book worth hundreds in additional savings. Code 2144611

9/27/11 10:15 AM

Wheels + Wings = Wow, That’s Cheap Driving to the U.S. and flying Allegiant Air gets you the lowest fare. A little bit of driving can save you a lot of money. And with nonstop flights and great car/hotel packages available right on our website, it all adds up to convenience, too. Get on the road to your most affordable travel ever. Go to

November 2011 Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel Destination Guide  

A Canadian's Guide To The Beaches Of Fort Myers & Sanibel 2011

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you