The Lesser Known Jewel of Florida Is Lee County

When I arrived in Lee County, Florida, after Hurricane Ian devastated the destination, my wife Fyllis and I expected the worst. Our first impression confirmed this fear. The plots on the beach, previously inhabited by houses, were empty, victims of wind and water. Some houses that escaped destruction had gaping holes in their roofs covered with a sapphire tarpaulin. Piles of rubble littered the sidewalks.

To our surprise and joy, the worry about how we would spend the next few weeks quickly dissipated. Sections of the beach have been reopened to bathers. And just a few blocks from the Gulf coast, there were few signs of the big bang that had wreaked havoc along the coast.

LEE COUNTY IS A LESSER-KNOWN GEM OF FLORIDA

We have found that the appeal of this area of Southwest Florida offers a variety of distractions. Enough to fill beautiful days and pleasant evenings. Compared to the glitz and glitz of Miami and the Go-Go Action of Walt Disney World, we found Lee County to be a lesser-known but no less welcoming gem of the Sunshine State.

No wonder many “snowbirds” make it their winter retreat, exchanging the cold for a subtropical climate. We used both memorable man-made attractions and Mother nature’s great manual labor to get a taste of what the place has to offer.

The List begins with the environment itself, an array of pine trees, cypress swamps and mangrove swamps. Bays, rivers and streams have long played an important role in the local way of life. We spotted a sign saying “Welcome to the boat lifestyle” and posters urging residents to “adopt a canal”.”

LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA IS A TREASURE TROVE OF NATIVE AMERICAN SITES

The Native Americans of Calusa [kuh-LOO-suh] were attracted to this estuarine environment more than 6,000 years ago. They built shell mound complexes, seasonal campgrounds, and canal systems. Contact with the Spanish explorers and their ailment eventually decimated the indigenous population.

Sites that preserve testimonies of this chapter of history include Mound Key in Estero Bay, the ancient capital of Calusa. Also the Calusa Heritage trail, lined with informative signs. Plus Cabbage Key, where an inn and a Restaurant are located on a large hill of shells.

Calusa’s focus on fishing continues today in a state ranked among the best in the country for this activity. The cosy climate all year round, the diverse ecosystems and the diversity of water bodies offer opportunities ranging from deep-sea and reef fishing to inland and freshwater fishing.

The Gasparilla and Sanibel Islands are known as the best blowing up areas among a number of them. This makes Lee County a virtual mecca for those looking to collect shellfish. They come in a selection of colors, shapes and designs. A familiar place is that of people of all ages who bend over in the so-called “Sanibel Stoop”, collecting exotic shells with fanciful names such as the lion’s paw, The Bulky Arch and the banded tulip.

History, street art and more come together in FORT MYERS, Florida

Visitors interested in exploring the things closest to the cities have an equally welcome choice. The county seat of Fort Myers surrounds the brick-lined main street. A long residential street is lined with tall royal palm trees and traditional historic Florida “Cracker” houses.

Paintings, humorous metal sculptures and other street art add a touch of fantasy to the scene. And the Edison & Ford Winter Estates tell the fascinating story of two icons of the American industry.

FORT MYERS, Florida, attracted THOMAS EDISON and HENRY FORD

Thomas Edison first visited Fort Myers in 1885 and built a winter residence. Henry Ford arrived in town in 1914 at the invitation of Edison and bought an adjacent Bungalow. Today, the common complex includes botanical gardens and the laboratory where Edison tested more than 17,000 plants. And all this in search of a substitute for natural rubber. He finally chose the goldenrod as the most promising. A 15,000-square-foot museum is full of his innovative inventions and other exhibits.

[Insert photo: Statue of Thomas Edison with Antique phonograph] a Statue of Thomas Edison overlooks an antique phonograph at the Edison Ford Museum in Fort Myers, Florida, photo by Victor Block
Boca Grande became a winter escape before the construction of roads for northerners arriving by train. This period is caused by old houses in Florida and tree-lined streets. The calm is disturbed every spring by fishermen who seek their fortune in one of the best Tarpon hideouts in the world.

A personal favorite, Bonita Springs traces its birth to the mid-1800s. But the Calusa had lived in the area long before that. The banners of “small town charm” displayed throughout the historic city center do not lie. The half-timbered houses of the early twentieth century and the unpretentious grocery stores that sell local honey, Gulf fish and laid quail eggs are examples of the down-to-earth appeal.

In the vicinity of these cities and historical sites there are natural places and spaces that are worth visiting.

MOTHER NATURE HAS FOUND A WELCOME HOME IN LEE COUNTY, FLORIDA

The elevated Bird Rookery Swamp Trail allows hikers to immerse themselves in a menagerie of floating, jumping, diving and floating wild animals. All without getting your feet wet. The resident and seasonal population of barred owls, dovetail milans, woodpeckers and other birds of prey and waders provides a Melodic background.

In addition, thousands of alligators hang out there, sometimes cosying up in the sun that meets the hiking trail. They are accompanied by bobcats, black bears, Florida panthers and other rarely seen inhabitants of land and water.

The six-mile-long Cypress Slough Reserve is a narrow wetland that is home to a variety of wildlife and is a safe route. This includes endangered species. A promenade offers easy access and convenient observation areas.

These are among the Florida parks that are the only state system in the country to have won four “Best of” gold medals from the National Recreation and Parks Association. They add to Lee County’s appeal as a vacation destination.

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