Mother Nature is part of the allure of the Fort Myers area
You shall see shells…
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel spokeswoman Francesca Donlan pulls no punches when she says her Florida destination is particularly suited for those who love gathering seashells on ocean vacations.
“We’re sort of the wild side of Florida,” she says. “We have this amazing sort of natural playground that the other destinations don’t have as much of.”
And that’s particularly underscored, she says by the island duo of Sanibel and Captiva being known for what she confidently declares is the “best shelling in the world,” with Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum displaying some 400 types of seashells.
Visitors are also welcome to gather seashells from the beaches, with some locals referring to the practice of picking them up as the “Sanibel scoop,” a reference to the ease with which they’re gathered.
And, adds Jeanette Faria, Canadian representative for The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, that’s only one side to the Gulf of Mexico-fronting destination that many travel agents are unaware of.
“A lot of travel agents don’t have a great feel about what makes us different,” she says. “A lot of agents don’t realize what the destination has to offer.”
It’s so cool
Sanibel and Captiva – accessible from the mainland by both causeway and boats – are a cornerstone of the area’s tourist trade, with Donlan saying those visiting the islands able to spot the likes of birds, dolphins and manatees. Sanibel – 70% of which is protected from development – is home to the J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, along with the likes of restaurants, coffee shops, and the “coolest bookstore you’re ever going to see in your life.”
Buildings can’t be taller than mature palm trees, and visitors can explore the island – which doesn’t have traffic lights – on bike paths if they choose.
Donlan adds that both Sanibel and smaller Captiva offer “amazing sunsets,” and those visiting either can sit on a beach and “watch a little dolphin show” in the surrounding Gulf of Mexico.
The islands also shun chain stores and chain restaurants, with an exception made for a Dairy Queen that dates back to the 1950s.
But Donlan also says that the city of Fort Myers also should loom large in visitors’ stays, being home to the likes of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, a complex that features homes that belonged to famed inventor Thomas Edison and his car magnate friend Henry Ford. Tourists can stroll the ground on tours that can include audio tours done in different languages, viewing the likes of vehicles that actually belonged to Ford. Also found are tropical gardens and a laboratory that used by Edison.
The complex is open throughout the year, and looks particularly festive during Christmas.
On the beach
Fort Myers also has beach area with what Faria labels “white, powdery sand.”
Donlin reports that her destination is pet friendly, with many restaurants allowing visitors to bring dogs inside and leashed dogs being allowed on beaches.
About 30 minutes away is Fort Myers Beach, which Donlan notes offers a choice of bars, live music and “nightlife on the beach.”
Baseball fans can appreciate the Fort Myers area being the spring training home for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins, with the atmosphere at their spring training games being more relaxed than regular season baseball and fans having a better chance to approach players for autographs.
Other points of interest in the area include the artist colony of Matlacha, which has art galleries displaying locals’ artworks, and Cabbage Key, reportedly the site that inspired the Jimmy Buffett song Cheeseburger in Paradise.
Donlan also praises the “àmazing” fishing found in her area, while kayakers are welcome to paddle parts of the Great Calusa Blueway, which features 190 miles of kayaking trails. Kayaks can be rented in the area.
Lots of options
Tourism authorities also note that Walt Disney World is about 3.5 hours away, with some people combining a visit to interior Florida theme parks with their Fort Myers-area stay.
As well, the Key West Express catamaran links Fort Myers with Key West, Florida, with a one-way trip taking three hours. Those who want to return to Fort Myers the same day with the catamaran will have five hours in Key West.
Air Canada Vacations, WestJet Vacations and TravelBrands all have packages to the area and Sunwing offers area hotels.
Air Canada and WestJet have year-round service to the destination from Toronto and WestJet has seasonal service from Toronto, while Air Canada has seasonal service from Montreal.
More information is available by calling 416-935-1896, ext. 239 emailing Jeanette@voxinternational.com or accessing, www.fortmyers-sanibel.com .
Travel agents are being invited to win a trip to The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel. Complete details are on page 11.