Tours and excursions are a excellent ways to explore a new area. You don’t have to worry about following a map or missing important facts when you have someone else doing the navigating and offering verbal explanations.
The tropical nature of the Fort Myers area is perfect for outdoor adventure. Water tours offer superb views, sunshine and fresh air. The Key West Express has become an extremely popular way to explore the country’s southern most island, without getting stuck in traffic. The high-speed ferry runs daily, offering a turn-around trip. If you want to spend the night, catch the boat's return the next day.
Captiva Cruises keeps excursions a little closer to home, making the rounds between Fort Myers area barrier islands. The history of these islands, once frequented by pirates and American Indians, is quite fascinating and the guides on this boat are great storytellers.
More great story telling comes from the Historic Walking Tours found downtown. Not only do these tours point out architecture and tales of times gone by, but certain ones highlight spooky stories of haunted buildings and the alleged ghosts that frequent them.
Besides walking tours and boat excursions, you'll find guided exploration by bikes, bi-planes and more in this 10Best list.
10 Koreshan State Historic Site and Mound Key State Architectural Site
This is a two in one stop for history lovers. Guided tours are available or you can guide yourself around the 125-acre island, formerly housing two unique cultures. Among the exhibits at Mound Key are information panels outlining the history of the Calusa Indians and the scenic Estero Bay. Historians believe that this mound, accessible only by boat or canoe, was the one-time stronghold and ceremonial center of the Calusas. Then in the late 19th century the Koreshan Unity utopians formed a settlement here, complete with a publishing house, general store, art hall and the first power plant in the area. Today you can hike, picnic and find your own utopia on the lovely grounds full of native vegetation. Boat access is still be found at Koreshan. (239-992-0311)
9 Billy's Bike Rentals
Certain times of the year, it's faster and easier to travel by bicycle on Sanibel Island than by car, and it's more fun too. Billy's Bike Rentals is loaded with options to take care of everyone in your family, even those who don't know how to ride. Besides individual bikes and bicycles built for two, there are covered surreys where everyone shares in the peddling. Grab a map for a self-guided tour to the historic lighthouse or the world renowned Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to take a break at a beach access for a dip, pack a picnic, or splurge at one of the fantastic local restaurants. If peddling and following maps is not your style, take a Segway tour instead, a fun way to see the hot spots and get some great pics. (239-472-5248)
8 Edison & Ford Winter Estates
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates cover more than 20 acres along the Caloosahatchee River, offering a glimpse into the lives of two of America's greatest inventors, Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. The estate museum is 15-thousand square feet of fascinating exhibits from the nations most influential inventor. You'll get to see some of Edison's most famous inventions such as the light bulb, telegraph, telephone, phonography, x-ray machine and more. You may also be surprised to discover more than 1000 of Edison's lesser-known patents as well as personal photographs and other items. Henry Ford's original Model T is also there, a gift to Edison from his friend and fellow winter resident. The botanical gardens have stunning flora and fauna that guides love to point out. (239-334-3614, 239-334-7419)
7 True Tours Historical Walking Tours
Downtown Fort Myers has a quite a rich history and True Tours is a fun way to learn about it. Local experts regal visitors with intriguing information about the city's famous residents, old buildings and well photographed streets. You'll also be caught up to date on the city's sometimes-painful revitalization, and interesting architecture on some tours. Be sure to bring your camera as the tour allows time for you to grab that perfect shot against the beautiful Southwest Florida skies. But if you want a hair raising experience, take the Ghost Tour and meet the spirits that many believe, still reside in some of these old buildings. The walking tours vary in price and times but occur year round. ((239-945-0405)
6 Good Time Charters
Good Time Charters books a variety of sight seeing tours by water, out of Snook Bight Yacht Club & Marina on Fort Myers Beach. Want to see dolphins, manatees and other Florida wildlife? These wildlife and eco tours mostly stay in Estero Bay and often include shelling and swimming. Sunset tours are another popular offering, with guides who give great stories of the importance of the back bay waters and their mangrove islands, from centuries ago to current times. Besides bigger boat tours, you can book kayak adventures and paddleboard tours that get you into the mangrove forests and to secluded beaches for eco explorations. Paddleboard yoga is also offered. You can even create your own tour if you arrange it in advance. (239-218-8014)
5 Everglades Adventure
This full day tour of Florida's famous Everglades has something for everyone. You adventure begins with a dolphin cruise on Fort Myers beach, followed by a van ride to the so-called river of grass. Here you will take a swamp buggy ride through the Big Cypress Swamp, hop on a thrilling airboat and tour the Big Cypress National Preserve by van. This is where you will see dozens of huge alligators and lots of wildlife. An interactive reptile exhibit allows you to hold native snakes, if you wish. Another highlight of this tour is lunch in Everglades City where you'll try alligator meat. In addition, you'll be able to interact with the locals (Gladesmen) and learn what it is like to actually live in this legendary swamp lamp. This nine-hour day is lead by certified naturalists and biologists who are a wealth of information. (239-405-2060)
4 Classic Air Ventures
Get a bird's eye view of the beautiful coastline and historic sites of the Fort Myers area from a thrilling biplane ride with Classic Air Ventures. The open cockpit is perfect for taking photos and passengers love being outfitted with a 1940's era helmet. Goggles are provided if you're sensitive to the wind, and a headset to hear the pilot. It's like riding in the front seat of a convertible only you are cruising along the coastline. Tours vary in length and destination but one of the most popular is a 45-minute ride, beginning over the waters of Pine Island and continuing south over Captiva, Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach and Lovers Key. At times you'll dip to a mere 300 feet above the water. The plane fits two passengers and the schedule is seasonal; no trips in the hot summer months. (888-852-9226)
3 Everglades Day Safari
Since 1991, owners of this day safari have been helping visitors explore one of the most fascinating natural habitats in the world, the Florida Everglades. There are four pickup locations in the Fort Myers area, and depending on where you hop on, the ride will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours. The full day safari includes a nature drive through the Big Cypress National Preserve, a guided walk, a pontoon boat ride in Everglades National Park and skimming across the so-called river of grass in a thrilling airboat ride. Lunch is also provided. Because the full day is nine hours, a little much for younger kids, a half-day tour is available as well. Besides learning about the importance of the Everglades, you'll see all kinds of wildlife, including alligators and dolphins. This outdoor adventure is not one to miss. (239-472-1559)
2 Captiva Cruises
Captiva Cruises offers one the best ways to explore the Southwest Florida coast, from Captiva Island, Cabbage Key and Useppa to Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. The guides are extremely knowledgeable about the rich history of these sparkling waters and the islands that have hosted everyone from pirates and Native Americans, to military and millionaires. New on the roster are boating lecture series from experts on wildlife, sharks, history and much more. Enjoy the wildlife-spotting tours, seashell-hunting tours, dolphin and sunset cruises and daylong trips to unspoiled barrier islands. This is one activity that the entire family will embrace and enjoy. (239-472-5300)
1 Key West Express
The Key West Express is an exciting way to bypass the slow going traffic through the Florida Keys to arrive at the most famous island, Key West. The high-speed ferry leaves in the morning, getting you from dock to dock in about three and a half hours. If you only have time for a day trip, catch the ferry back in the afternoon, but you can also stay for a few days. The boat has a windy top deck where you can work on your tan, or two air-conditioned levels with comfortable, first come first serve seating. The bartenders mix up lovely libations while the galley serves snacks to keep you satisfied on the excursion. The Gulf waters are beautiful as you pull away from land, and its always exciting to see dolphins playing in the wake of the boat. . (239-463-5733)
About Gina Birch
Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality. Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR. Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls "the nectar of the Gods." When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants. You can find more of her musings in her blog "The Birch Beat" (www.thebirchbeat.blogspot.com)
Read more about Gina Birch here.
Connect with Gina via: Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Google | Pinterest