The Sanibel and Fort Myers area, on southwest Florida’s serene Gulf coast, is a popular destination for small to mid-size groups seeking a connection to nature and history. Recreation and dining opportunities abound, and its 50 miles of white-sand beaches seal the deal. Together, Sanibel and Fort Myers offer more than 256,000 sf of meeting space, and are only a 30- to 45-minute drive from Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. We asked the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau for some of the top tours in Sanibel and Fort Myers; here are some of their best bets:
- The Edison & Ford Winter Estates. The winter homes of inventor Thomas Edison and automobile industrialist Henry Ford are in Fort Myers. Groups can take customized tours of Edison’s 14-acre riverfront estate, laboratory and experimental gardens; and Ford’s 3-acre tract, which includes a display of Ford vehicles dating to 1914. The estates also have several exhibit areas available for corporate meetings and events.
- J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge on Sanibel Island is part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the United States. It is world-famous for its spectacular migratory bird populations. Besides taking part in various educational programs and tours, meeting attendees can book a charter fishing trip or rent bicycles, kayaks, canoes, pontoon boats and fishing equipment.
- Shell Collecting. Southwest Florida is world-famous for the seashells found on its beaches.Collectors can stroll on Lighthouse Beach, a gorgeous stretch of sand on Sanibel Island. The lighthouse, built in 1884, makes a nice backdrop for group photos. Shell lovers also are drawn to the 50,000-sf Shell Factory and Nature Park, one of the largest collections of shells, fossils, corals, jewelry, pearls and resort wear anywhere. Located just north of Fort Myers, the Shell Factory has dedicated meeting spaces for small conferences, corporate meetings, teambuilding programs and other private events.
- Island Hopping. Kayaking the barrier islands is a very popular way to see the area and its wildlife. The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail has launch sites and landings around the 190-mile marked trail as well as easy access to rental kayaks and canoes.
- Just Hanging Out. The best sunset views are found, we’re told, at the Mucky Duck, a neighborhood pub at the north end of Captiva on picturesque Andy Rosse Lane. This popular hangout with locals and visitors is never short of cold beer and fresh seafood.