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Winter Getaway Tips: The Best of Fort Myers, Florida

Did you know you can have your feet in the sandy beaches of Fort Myers, FL, a mere three hours after leaving White Plains, NY?  This south Florida spot has the good fortune of being many destinations wrapped up in one. Fort Myers proper boasts a range of things to do, while the nearby islands offer a quieter alternative with a slower pace. Just west of Fort Myers, you’ll find Sanibel and Captiva Islands, along with a total of 100 barrier and coastal islands, making for a fishing, boating and shelling paradise. Have fun!

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Where to Stay
The recently renovated South Seas Island Resort on Captiva opened in 1946 and takes pride in its old Florida feel. This is the perfect choice for families, with 465 rooms spread across the property. For kids: 20 pools and slides, a sea school and Scoops and Slices for pizza and ice cream. For adults: golf, tennis, a great spa and upscale dining. southseas.com

Sanibel’s romantic, all-suite, beachfront Casa Ybel Resort traces its history back to the 1880s. Its Thistle Lodge Restaurant serves Floridian-, Asian- and European-influenced dishes, and was a favorite of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. casaybelresort.com

The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point overlooks Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and boasts the first Audubon-certified resort golf course. An Adventure Pool will keep the kids occupied (and probably you, too). Make time to hit the Stillwater Spa, as well. coconutpoint.hyatt.com

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village has suites with up to three bedrooms, a kids club, the Esterra Spa & Salon, three pools, a 175-slip deep-water marina, a water taxi to Fort Myers Beach and views of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caloosahatchee River and Tarpon Point Marina. westincapecoral.com

Screen shot 2014-04-11 at 9.05.42 PMSpring Training
The Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins hold Spring Training in Fort Myers. Take the kids and catch great match-ups. How else can you see the Yankees play the Red Sox, with tickets starting at $10?

Nature Lovers
Adopt the “Sanibel Stoop” as you pick up the hundreds of varieties of shells that wash ashore on Sanibel Island. Then hit Bowman’s Beach, one of the top 10 secluded beaches in the U.S. Visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 50 kinds of reptiles, 32 types of mammals and 220 species of birds. When to visit: low tide, when the birds are feeding. Head to Manatee Park and get close to the endangered West Indian manatee. Best viewing: between November and March, when the water dips below 70 degrees.

For Grown-ups
Wander through the fishing village of Matlacha, now filled with galleries. Drive to the harbor town of Boca Grande, a favorite of President George H.W. Bush, and enjoy restaurants, shops and the Gasparilla Inn & Club, which dates back to 1911. Visit the Thomas Edison & Henry Ford Winter Estates. Check out antique vehicles at Ford’s, and see Edison’s experimental gardens and lab.

Insiders Say
Stop by the Mucky Duck at the north end of Captiva for a beer, fresh seafood and a perfect view of the setting sun. Spend an afternoon at Picnic Island, a favorite among boaters, located at mile marker 101 off the south end of Pine Island. See the island of Cayo Costa, where the state park has been named one of the world’s best hidden beaches.

* This article appeared in Serendipity’s March 2014 issue.

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