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Florida's Lee Island Coast

Award-winning coast is truly "Best of Florida"

By

Estero Island
Compliments of Lee Island Coast CVB
The readers of Florida Monthly magazine have cast their ballots and there will be no recount necessary. The undisputed winner is Florida's Lee Island Coast with Florida's best nature center, guided tour, shelling, and bird watching. Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers took three awards for best nature center, best guided tour, and best place to watch birds. Sanibel Island captured the best shelling location for the fifth year in a row. The magazine's seventh annual 2002 Best of Florida Awards survey drew 225,235 reader responses who voted on 115 categories.

Awards are nothing new for Florida's Lee Island Coast. In its December 2002 issue, Islands magazine chose Captiva Island to its esteemed list of "50 perfect island getaways" and describes the list as "dream destinations."

Last year, the Southeast Tourism Society named the Fort Myers Beach Sandsculpting Championship and Festival to its select list of Top 20 Events. Early this year the American Bus Association selected the Edison Festival of Light in Fort Myers, commemorating the city's most famous resident, Thomas Edison, to its elite list of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2003. And, a just-released survey of travel agents earned the Lee Island Coast a ranking on the Top 10 U.S. travel destinations for 2003.

It is no surprise that Florida's Lee Island Coast walks away with so many awards considering its wealth of natural resources, rich history, and abundance of interesting attractions and museums.

Lee County

Lee County in Southwest Florida includes the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero Island/Fort Beach, Bonita Springs, and more than 100 coastal islands off the mainland. Some 50 miles of beaches, award-winning state parks and wildlife preserves, It is the barrier islands that dot the coastline that are the most popular among boaters and beachcombers alike. From the key lime plantation turned tropical South Seas Resort on Captiva Island to the Calusa Indian's shell mounds on Mound Key, the islands offer a world of discovery.

One of those islands is accessible only by boat, but thousands of visitors each year are drawn to the Inn at Cabbage Key which is actually the former estate of Alan and Grace Rinehart, built in 1919. It sits atop an Calusa Indian shell mound 38 feet above sea level, and offers outstanding views of the 102-acre island and surrounding Pine Island Sound. The inn is unique because its walls, beams and ceilings are plastered with one-dollar bills. It's a tradition that began in 1941 when a fisherman signed and taped his last dollar to the wall. That way, when he returned, he'd have money to buy a beer. Visitors continue the custom to this day.

Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and other prominent Americans who spent their winters in Lee County helped put the area on the modern-day map. They knew that there is nothing like a vacation to bring the family together – that even includes such political heavyweights such as the Bush family. During the winter, several generations of Bushes (including the former and current U.S. president, and Florida's governor) often gather in Boca Grande for the holidays, joining other well-heeled visitors and fishing aficionados including movie stars.

Of course, you don't have to have a famous name and an enormous bank account to visit the area. There is a wide range of accommodations and activities to fit every budget. In fact, most of the area is geared to accommodate ordinary families.

And, like most every award-winning location – you are likely to run out of time before you run out of things to do.

Getting There

The coastal communities of Lee County are accessible by Highway 41 and Interstate I-75.
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