Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates
Two of the area’s most popular attractions are the homes of these next-door neighbors at 2350 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers. The turn-of-the-century homes on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River are open daily except for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Daily tours are a combination of both estates and last 90 minutes. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Sunday hours are noon to 5:30 p.m. Two in-depth tours — historical and horticultural — also are offered at additional cost.
Ostego Bay Marine Foundation
Located on San Carlos Island at Fort Myers Beach. Features marine exhibits such as a touch tank and aquarium. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Located at 718 Fisherman’s Wharf. Phone 765-8101.
If you’re really into shelling, you’ll want to visit the Shell Factory in North Fort Myers. This big complex has thousands of rare and exotic shells, corals, a video arcade, African lounge, restaurants, pick-a-pearl aquarium, bumper boats, sponges and fossils. Free guided tours. The South Florida Railroad Museum is here also. 2787 North Tamiami Trail. Phone 995-2141.
Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
This is a 2,000-acre wetland ecosystem and home to a diversity of plants and animals, some of which are endangered. Features a mile-long boardwalk through the swamp, where one can see alligators, turtles and birds. Located on Six-Mile Parkway at Penzance Road north of Daniels Parkway. Phone: 338-3300.
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
A 5,000-acre sanctuary for native and migratory birds on Sanibel Island, this is a favorite attraction for both residents and visitors. Features a five-mile drive through unspoiled mangrove swamp and island uplands, foot trails and a canoe trail. The Visitor Center just off Sanibel-Captiva Road offers literature and exhibits. Excellent opportunity to see alligators up close — but don’t feed them.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
This is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society, teems with native and migratory birds and other wildlife along two miles of nature trails through the largest virgin bald cypress forest in the United States. Located southeast of Bonita Springs, 15 miles east of I-75, Exit 17. Phone: 657-3771.
The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium
This is a complex of buildings housing many facilities connected by wooded walks and decks. Exhibits deal with wildlife, fossils and native habitats. The Audubon Aviary is home to many injured birds. The planetarium offers star shows, among other interesting events. Located in Fort Myers at 3450 Ortiz Ave. near I-75 Exit 22. Phone: 275-3435.
The Bailey Matthews Shell Museum
This is the only museum in the United States solely devoted to seashells. It features educational displays on local shells and shells of the world. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Located at 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road on Sanibel Island. Phone: 395-2233.
The Fort Myers Historical Museum
Housed in the restored historic railroad depot in Fort Myers, this museum displays a fine collection of items from Southwest Florida’s history. Open daily. Located at 2300 Peck St. Phone: 332-5955.