1. Sanibel Lighthouse
Periwinkle Way at Lighthouse Rd, Sanibel Island, FL 33957
Although visitors are not allowed to tour the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, it nevertheless offers several great photo opportunities at dawn and dusk. The lighthouse, which stands over 60 feet high, has guarded the entrance to San Carlos Bay since the late 1880s. Guests are free to tour the grounds around the lighthouse.
2. Bailey Matthews Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel-Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957-3111 · 239-395-2233
If you enjoy those early morning quests to find the best seashells that washed ashore overnight, the Bailey Matthews Shell Museum is a place you must visit. Due to their unique geographic location, the coastlines surrounding Fort Myers, particularly the Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Islands, boast some of the best shelling in the world. This museum displays shells collected from beaches on these islands and around the world; the most interesting display is a large globe displaying shells gathered from beaches on nearly every continent.
3. Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium
3450 Ortiz Ave, Fort Myers, FL 33905 · 239-275-3435
Calusa, which doubles as a nature center and museum, spans more than 100 acres. The planetarium offers visitors a chance to check out the most visible stellar phenomena each month, ranging from constellations to meteor showers to your average international space station. The museum offers information about Southwest Florida’s natural history, including exhibits on indigenous snakes, alligators and crocodiles, as well as many other representatives of the animal kingdom. You will find many areas for picnics on the grounds.
4. Children's Science Center
2915 NE Pine Island Rd, Cape Coral, FL 33909 · 239-997-0012
This family-friendly museum offers visitors a chance to experience the past, present and future of everything from science and technology to mathematics and astronomy. The museum features a variety of interactive exhibits that both entertain and excite, including a video-microscope, 3-D zoology, and a cornucopia of holographs, puzzles, and mazes that will challenge your wits. The Children's Science Center also offers a variety of thematic nights like "Astronomy Night" or "Caribbean Night."
5. Edison Laboratory and Museum
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901 · 239-334-3614
Located on the grounds of the Edison Estate, the museum contains many inventions attributed to Mr. Edison, many of which have improved the quality of life for people around the world. Items found in the small museum include light bulbs, test tubes and the sort. The 14-acre estate's immaculate landscaping is a veritable natural museum and includes several plants that Edison collected during his travels around the world. A guided tour is offered.
6. Edison & Ford Homes
2350 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL 33901 · 239-334-3614
The homes of famous scientist and inventor Thomas Edison, and American auto pioneer Henry Ford sit right beside each other on Fort Myers's McGregor Boulevard. The Edisons used their home, called Seminole Lodge, as a winter retreat for nearly 50 years, and it stands as a grand masterpiece of Southwest Florida Victorian architecture. Some of Edison's first light bulbs still burn in the home's lab. Mangoes, the Ford's winter estate, dates from 1916 and still contains much of its original furniture. Interestingly, the gate that separates the two estates is called the "Friendship Gate" in recognition of the neighbors' closeness.
7. Fort Myers Historical Museum
2300 Peck St, Fort Myers, FL 33901-3650 · 239-332-5955
Located in what was once the Fort Myers depot of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad, this museum is dedicated to preserving not only the history of Fort Myers, but the whole of Southwest Florida as well. Exhibits include those that focus on the old riverfront wharf, a Calusa Indian village, and an old fort. Museum highlights include a re-creation of 19th century Fort Myers, the Cracker House and an old Pullman railcar.
Ideal for the whole family, this Fort Myers museum boasts more than 60 interactive exhibits that are at once fun and educational. The Imaginarium is the type of place where you can touch a cloud, become a weatherman, brave a Florida thunderstorm, or even help excavate dinosaur remains. Of course, no visit is complete without taking part in the "Hurricane Experience" - it will truly blow you away.
Top Weekend Getaways And Day Trip Excursions:
1. Bowman's Beach
Bowman's Beach Rd, off Sanibel-Captiva Rd, Sanibel, FL 33957-2501 · 239-472-9075
This quiet county park, situated off Sanibel-Captiva Road, offers a nice respite from the area's more congested beach areas. Bowman's Beach is located well off the main road, giving it a certain "undiscovered" feel when you arrive there, and this translates into excellent shelling and great photo opportunities at sunset. The park features picnic facilities and public restrooms.
2. Captiva Beach
N Captiva Dr, Captiva, FL 33924 · 239-338-3300
Located on the northern tip of Captiva Island, this is one of the island's most popular public beach areas. Unlike some of its more secluded neighbors to the south, Captiva Beach draws in a fairly steady flow of beachcombers, who search up and down the park's five-plus miles of shoreline looking for shells. The beach also enjoys notoriety as one of Southwest Florida's most romantic beaches, and it's not uncommon for the beach to be littered with couples at sunset. Parking is free.
3. Cayo Costa Island
South of Boca Grande, Captiva Island, FL 33924 · 239-964-0375
Cayo Costa Island has seven miles of beautiful beach located at the mouth of Charlotte Harbor. A popular place for bird watching and shelling. Open year round dawn to dusk.
4. Centennial Park
W 200 1st St, Fort Myers, FL 33901 · 239-332-6638
This 8-acre riverfront park hosts a variety of community events each year, from public concerts to seasonal festivals. The park includes a fishing pier that stretches out over the Caloosahatchee River, boat access, and recreational facilities that include picnic shelters, a volleyball court, and a playground for the kiddies.
5. J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
1 Wildlife Dr, Fort Myers, FL 33957 · 239-472-1100
This pristine wildlife refuge, named after famous "Des Moines Register" cartoonist and conservationist J. N. "Ding" Darling, offers more than 6000 acres of South Florida's wildest wetlands, pearly-white beaches and mangrove forests. Among the park's many permanent residents are alligators, several species of birds of prey, river otters, and sea turtles - and it's important to remember that this is their turf. Visitors are welcome to bike or hike the park's more than 7 miles of trails or even to take advantage of the guided canoe trips and narrated tram tours. Contact the visitor's center for details about guided tours and park regulations.
6. Lovers Key State Recreation Area
8700 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931 · 239-463-4588
The aptly named Lovers Key Recreation Area, whose access point is between Black Island and Bonita Beach, is one of Southwest Florida's loveliest (and most secluded) state parks. The beaches here have retained much of their original splendor and, for the most part, show few signs of man's interference. The park's more than 700 acres include a wide range of land and marine ecosystems, ranging from wetlands to white, sandy shorelines. Take the time to do a little exploring while you're here. Please note, there are no lifeguards on duty at this park.
7. Six Mile Cypree Slough Preserve
Penzance Blvd at Six Mile Pkwy, Fort Myers, FL 33912 · 239-432-2004
The Cypree Slough Reserve offers visitors a chance to explore Southwest Florida's unique ecosystem from the relative safety of a raised boardwalk. There is no telling which native Floridians you'll encounter along this mile-long trail, but you can rest assured that they'll have their eyes on you!
8. Turner Beach
Sanibel-Captiva Rd at Blind Pass, Captiva, FL 33924 · 239-472-9075
This public beach is popular with the area's young romantic-types, especially at sunset. Located between Sanibel and Captiva, the park includes public restrooms and a free parking area.
9. JC Boat Cruises
Edwards and Lee Sts, Fort Myers, FL 33901 · 239-334-7474
This three-hour Everglades tour takes guests up the wild Caloosahatchee River, exploring the side-rivers and going far into this American jungle. Chances are, you'll get to see some of Southwest Florida's wildlife contingency up close and personal, so remember to bring plenty of film and to keep your hands and feet in the boat at all times. Reservations are necessary.
10. King Fisher Cruise Lines, Inc.
1200 W Retta Esplanade, Punta Gorda, FL 33950-531 · 941-639-0969
Based out of tranquil Punta Gorda, this tour company offers a variety of tours each day. Kingfisher takes you as close as you'll ever need to get to dolphins, birds, manatees and other local wild and marine life, so it is a "must" that you go equipped with your waterproof camera and plenty of high-speed film. If you can, try to book seats on one of their "Sunset Cruises," though you must do so well in advance. King Fisher also offers fishing excursions, including deep-seeing fishing and backwater trips.
11. Manatee World Boat Tours
5605 Palm Beach Blvd, Costal Marine Mart, Fort Myers, FL 33905-3122 · 239-693-1434
These popular cruises, which are based out of the Costal Marine Mart, offer one of the best ways for out-of-towners to meet one of Southwest Florida's most unique indigenous residents, the manatee, or "sea cow." There are usually four cruises daily, but it is best to call ahead and reserve a seat, especially during peak seasons. The company's tour guides are knowledgeable about both the area and manatees, ensuring a good time for all.