nspoiled white sand beaches, exotic wildlife and lush subtropical foliage are the distinctive characteristics for which travel agents book their guests from around the world to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Known as Florida’s “tropical island getaway,” this charming paradise offers agents’ active clients an abundance of golf, tennis and water sports as well as some unusual attractions.
Located in Lee County on southwest Florida’s coast, the area embraces nine distinct sections, each with its own unique character. Best known are Sanibel and Captiva islands, connected to the mainland by an alluring three-mile-long causeway and to each other by a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” bridge at Blind Pass.
Sanibel is known worldwide for its shelling. More than 400 varieties of shells can be found littering the beaches, particularly after an especially high or low tide. The main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is Sunday-drive picturesque, lush with foliage and framed by a canopy of Australian pines.
On the way to Captiva Island, located toward Sanibel’s northern tip, the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is home to many exotic species of birds and plants. In all, the refuge occupies more than half the island. A four-mile drive with access to walking and canoe/kayak trails offers abundant opportunities for naturalists to see raccoons, alligators and long-legged wading birds. It was on Captiva that Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, wrote her best-selling book, “A Gift from the Sea.”
Traveling off the coast of Sanibel and Captiva islands, boaters marvel at the more than 100 outer coastal islands. Many are uninhabited mangrove clusters while others take visitors’ breath away with their beautiful beaches. Both North Captiva and Cayo Costa Island Preserve are known for their virtually deserted yet alluring coastlines and excellent shelling potential.
Cabbage Key, an island built atop an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound, is situated at mile-marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway. Mystery writer Mary Roberts Rinehart helped her son build his home here in 1938. The house is now a cozy inn with six guest rooms and a picturesque dining room papered in thousands of autographed dollar bills. The tradition, which has generated at least $70,000 worth of George Washington wallpaper, began when a thirsty fisherman left his bill taped to the wall, ensuring a cold drink the next time he stopped by.
Boca Grande is a charming turn-of-the-century harbor town on Gasparilla Island and another safe port for the rich and famous. Founded by the wealthy DuPont family in the late 1800s, this sleepy little southern town comes replete with small shops, cozy restaurants, waterside accommodations and beautiful beaches. The Boca Grande Tarpon Guides Association is available to provide all that is necessary for a successful tarpon fishing expedition.
Pine Island is a step back in time, when fishing reigned as the area’s largest industry. Accessible by land via “the fishingest bridge in the USA” at Matlacha [Mat-la-chay], Pine Island’s northernmost settlement of Bokeelia, provides the maritime stepping off point to the more remote out-islands.
Further south, Estero Island, home of Fort Myers Beach, long has been recognized as one of the “world’s safest beaches” because of its gently sloping shoreline. The sand is particularly soft and white, akin to powdered sugar. Especially suited for family vacations, the beach boasts every imaginable water toy, from windsurfer to catamaran and parasailing. In addition, there are numerous marinas operate boating and fishing charters.
For an afternoon picnic, there is no better spot than Lovers Key on Black Island, just south of Estero. Visitors proceed by open tram across a scenic vista of mangrove islands, arriving at a secluded beach less than 10 minutes later. Ample driftwood and seashells decorate the shore, while pesky raccoons compete for scraps with flocks of sea gulls and other shore birds.
Bonita Beach occupies the southern boundary of Lee County. Here traces of old and new Florida peacefully coexist along gently winding beaches deemed among the best in the region. Further inland in Bonita Springs and Estero, history buffs can take a walk through remnants of the Koreshan Unity movement, an extinct religious sect that practiced equal rights for women long before the concept became popular.
Anyone suffering from island fever can find instant relief by paying a call to the “City of Palms,” Fort Myers, with its charming downtown historic district and expanding hub of urban activity that extends to shopping malls, restaurants and nightclubs. Inventor Thomas Edison and his friend, automobile manufacturer Henry Ford, decided early on to make their winter homes in Fort Myers. Today visitors daily tour their neighboring estates with Edison’s botanical gardens, laboratory and museum. Henry Ford’s home, “Mangoes,” purchased in 1916, opened to the public in February 1990 after extensive renovation to replicate the way it looked when Ford and his wife Clara lived there. The two properties are separated by a fence the families named “The Friendship Gate.”
To the west, Cape Coral, literally surrounded by water, boasts more miles of canals than Venice, Italy. Many of the Cape’s deepwater canals lead to the Gulf of Mexico. This fast-growing community boasts many marinas, a first-rate water park, challenging championship golf courses, tennis courts and freshwater fishing.
For more information about The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, visit www.FortMyersSanibel.com
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel include: Sanibel & Captiva islands, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs & Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres.
All photos courtesy http://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/
The purpose of “On the Road” is to showcase some of the magnificent places in the world to visit, to give you an idea for someplace to go that you might previously not have thought of or known about. In most cases, but not all, we have provided a brief overview of a timeshare resort in the spotlighted area. Most of those resorts are either RCI Gold Crown or I.I. Premier quality. However, these resorts are not usually the only timeshare resorts in the area; be sure to check in your exchange catalog for a complete listing of available resorts. Check it out— enjoy yourself, go somewhere new this year!
Readers are encouraged to contribute their own stories and photos. Email email@example.com and put “On the Road” in the Subject line so we’ll know what it’s about.