Charlotte County Florida Weekly

Southwest Florida abounds with nature experiences




Fort Myers’ Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods in Southwest Florida continues to provide new experiences for returning guests and first-time visitors. Whether you’re looking for great year-round weather or shell-drenched beaches along the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, is the source for the most up-to-date vacation information.

• Plan a vacation and have a shell of a good time this summer

• Take advantage of special travel deals with a stay at hotels, vacation rentals and RV parks. Check out offers at

• Take a beach walk with a shelling expert

Join a Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum marine biologist at the Island Inn on Sanibel Island for an hour-long beach walk exploring the shells, mollusks and other marine life that washes ashore on Sanibel Island. Meet at 9 a.m. daily (except holidays). Reservations and ticket information at 239-395-2233.



• Take a private charter and have a shelling adventure

Shelling guides can help find the perfect shell with a trip to explore some of the area’s outer islands. And there is also a chance to see some of the area’s wildlife along the way. Most shellers may expect to find lettered olives, lightning whelks, Florida fighting conchs, baby’s ears, worm shells, nauticas, scallops, coquinas and other bivalves. But one of the rarest finds, the shell that keeps many returning to these islands, is the brown-speckled Junonia. Only a lucky few find it.

• Touch tanks, shells, mollusks and a giant Pacific octopus

Visit the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island, the only museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks. The entire family will enjoy fun, educational activities, plus kids love touch pools, winning scavenger hunt prizes and watching a giant Pacific octopus. Check out the live Octocam at

• Read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “Gift from the Sea”

When the day is done, curl up with a copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic, “Gift from the Sea.” Like many who visit today, she found peace and solitude as she walked the beach on Captiva Island. There, using the shells on the beach for inspiration, she reflected on the life of the American woman, mid-20th century. A groundbreaking, best-selling work when it was originally published in 1955, “Gift from the Sea” continues to be discovered by new generations of readers. It has sold 3 million copies and has been translated into 45 languages.

• Ghost sighting at Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Grab your binoculars and head for Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary this summer for a “Super” ghost orchid sighting. Discovered in July 2007, the Corkscrew “Super” ghost orchid has been in the spotlight each summer. This orchid flowers annually and has drawn attention from around the world as it is the largest ghost orchid discovered so far and is known to have only been spotted in Southwest Florida and Cuba. Visitors will find the orchid located about 70 feet off the ground on a bald cypress tree roughly 100 feet from the boardwalk. In order to see the blooms, orchid enthusiasts are encouraged to bring a spotting scope or binoculars.

• Scavenger hunt for families at Edison and Ford Winter Estates

A new scavenger hunt for families is available to visitors to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. The main character in the game is Jerry the Pelican, inspired by a pelican who actually spent time on the property and was named by the Edison family. Thomas and Mina Edison also had pet alligators, monkeys and a peacock.

Scavengers will search for Jerry in eight different places, including the Edison caretaker’s house, the Moonlight Garden, main house, Thomas and Mina’s bedroom, guest house, the Ford car exhibit, the secretary’s bedroom in the Ford house and in the Ford house dining room. Children will receive a prize when they find all eight hidden pelicans. Families are invited to post their scavenger hunt success on Facebook @EdisonFordFL. The scavenger hunt is included in admission. ¦

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