In Search of Sand and Sea: Ft. Myers, Florida

Shelling is a national sport around here. In fact, Sanibel is one of the few places one can make a living as a shelling captain. It’s not uncommon to see locals with flashlights strapped to their hats out searching the sand in the early morning hours.

Since shelling is fairly new to us, we stop in at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum for some tips from the experts. I’m not too excited at the thought of spending two hours looking at shells, but the museum’s hand-on exhibits draw me in. There are huge shells, poisonous shells, shells of every shape and size. Who knew that mollusks could be so interesting?

Armed with this new knowledge, we board the Sun Princess later that week for a shelling cruise to the beaches of North Captiva Island.

Accessible only by boat, the area is a shelling paradise, with thousands of perfectly shaped creations along the shoreline. (Parental tip about North Captiva: Nude bathing is popular on one side of the island. Having been forewarned, we make sure that curious little eyes stay on our side of the isle.) The trip turns out to be a success — the kids find their shells and we have a relaxing boat ride through the outlying islands.

While the barrier isles are lovely, the town of Fort Myers also has a lot to offer. Wanting to explore this coastal city, we move to a roomy condominium at Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa. Located on the Fort Myers side of the bay overlooking Sanibel and Captiva Islands, we have a view of dolphins cavorting in the water and boats going in and out.

The resort boasts an award-winning Kids Klub, and we spend an afternoon rooting for sand crabs at the resort’s weekly sand crab races.

Boys “surf” across the calm waters in Fort Myers, Florida.
Boys “surf” across the calm waters in Fort Myers, Florida.

There is more to this region than beaches. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made their winter homes in Fort Myers.

The Edison and Ford winter estates have been carefully conserved and are open to visitors. In 1886, Edison built his stately home along the Caloosahatchee River. Henry Ford, his good friend, soon followed, building a house right next door. The two men spent many hours puttering in their laboratories, talking out on the porches and trying to catch that trophy fish.

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