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Some Lee County getaways

By Staff | Apr 19, 2011

South County

* Koreshan State Historic Site

A pristine reserve in Estero, one of the fastest-developing areas of Florida, Koreshan State Historic Site on the Estero River combines history and nature for a magnificent outdoor experience.

With a colorful past that started with the settlement of the area by Cyrus Reed Teed and his followers in 1894, the site now stands as a state park commemorating Teed’s religious movement to build New Jerusalem in Southwest Florida. This Koreshan Unity believed the universe existed at the center of a giant hollowed sphere. Though the movement faded after Teed’s death in 1908, the last followers deeded the land to the state in 1961.

Almost 50 years later, visitors can walk the park’s trails, fish with alligators and wading birds on the Estero River, picnic, canoe or camp overnight. The site is open from 8 a.m. to dusk 365 days a year. Admission is $1 for pedestrians or bikers and as little as $3 for those in automobiles. The camping fee is $22 per night.

To get to Koreshan State Historic Site on Corkscrew Boulevard, take Interstate 75 to Exit 123. The park entrance is located on Corkscrew Boulevard just west of its intersection with Tamiami Trail South (U.S. 41). For more information, call 992-0311.

Pine Island

* Go fish!

Folks from far and wide visit Pine Island for a variety of reasons, but possibly one activity that has increasingly become a draw is the fishing that is available in the waters surrounding the island.

Anglers can wet a line in Matlacha Pass, Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island Sound or San Carlos Bay, all of which surround the island. While many prefer to fish from a boat, shoreline opportunities abound. One such place is the drawbridge in Matlacha which has been touted as the “most fishingest bridge in the world.” This reputation has been well earned as anglers can be seen lining the bridge day and night year-round.

Within walking distance of the bridge are several bait shops staffed by local experts who will guide newcomers as to what bait or lure is working the best on any given day, as well as what fish species are biting and what rules and regulations are to be followed. One advantage that landlubber anglers have fishing from the bridge or any other shoreline is that no fishing license is required, however fishing enthusiasts still are required to abide by the state fishing laws so it is important to consult a bait and tackle dealer before wetting a line.

For those who prefer to stay-and-play, the Bokeelia Tarpon Inn is a Pine Island landmark, Built in 1914, the small bed-and-breakfast on Main Street overlooks charlotte Harbor and offers a fishing pier, boat ramp and docks.

And don’t foget “Art night,” held the second Friday of the month November through April. Numerous galeries are open 4-9 p.m. on Art Night, with many offering entertainment and nibbles.

Sanibel & Captiva

* ‘Ding’ Darling Refuge

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is 6,400 acres of protected wilderness home to some 238 bird species as well as mangrove forests, marshes and seagrass beds. Among them are wood storks, bald eagles, peregrine falcons and roseate spoonbills.

Wildlife Drive is an excellent way to experience this unusual bit of nature. This four-mile drive is available to hikers, automobiles and bicycles and is open every day except Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 1/2 hour before sunset. Starting at the Education Center, it winds from east to west through the refuge, ending about three miles farther out San-Cap Road. Three trails of different lengths may be accessed from the drive. In addition, just south of the Periwinkle intersection with Tarpon Bay Road, the Bailey Tract, another part of the refuge, can be found, encompassing a portion of Sanibel’s unique interior freshwater wetlands. The Education Center is free and offers a wide variety of detailed exhibits. The Center is open daily except most federal holidays. The hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from January through April, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from May through December. The Center is two miles west of Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel-Captiva Road.

‘Ding’ Darling is located two miles west of Tarpon Bay Road on Sanibel-Captiva Road. For more information call (239) 472-1100.

Fort Myers Beach

* Times Square/Public Pier/

Lynn Hall Memorial Park

Considered the heart of Fort Myers Beach, the bustling Times Square area is located to the right of the Matanzas Pass Bridge. After gaping at the panoramic view of the island from the bridge’s summit, drivers take a short turn to the right and immediately to the left is metered parking (75 cents an hour) at Lynn Hall Memorial Park. The park, 950 Estero Blvd., is open from 7 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset. The park’s amenities include restrooms, showers, picnic structures with tables, barbecue grills, and a playground.

A public pier shoots out into the water, with a covered shelter and benches at the end. A small shop provides snacks, beverages, souvenirs, and all sorts of fishing supplies for pier pedestrians.

Follow the swirling tiles of Times Square – gold, teal, and Mediterranean blue – to an eclectic series of restaurants, waterfront bars, and ice cream shops. Anyone who forgot to pack a swimsuit will find numerous clothing, beach supplies and souvenir stores.