Whenever planning trips for the family, one of the considerations always was, “what’s there to see and do when visiting?” During our three months here as resident docents at Koreshan State Historic Site, the question continues so in this blog we will share some of the places nearby that we have visited while living here in Estero, Florida.
One of our first stops was fifteen miles north of here to Pine Island and the archeological site called the Randell Research Center. Here, one of the major settlements of the Calusa Indians, who dominated this part of Florida for nearly 3,000 years, was located. It is a remarkable place and the self-guided trails are very well marked so the tour becomes easy and informative and compelling.
We spent one completely amazing day at the Naples Botanical Gardens, just twenty-five miles south of Estero and a world away. Consider that the wonderful things you hear about this Garden are understated because the place is just glorious. There are multiple gardens here, themed and each distinctive.
We loved the Brazilian Garden which honors landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, who completed more than 3,000 projects in his lifetime, considered one of the most influential landscape architects of the 20th century or the “father of modern landscape architecture” and a native Brazilian. The waterfall and the mosaic in the garden mirrors the rich biological assortment of Brazil.
Be sure to visit the Asian Garden as well. The garden features a Javanese temple ruin and ancient plaza in a landscape filled with banyan trees, bamboo, and groves of tropical Asian edibles including lychee, jackfruit and starfruit.
The central part of the garden is dominated by water, with a Thai pavilion set in a lotus pool and a stepping stone path through a water garden leading to the Balinese shrine.
Just a few miles north of Estero is the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, over 3,500 acres of intermingled wetland and upland ecosystems. A slough (pronounced “slew”) is a swamp or shallow lake system, usually a backwater to a larger body of water. This Lee County park changes with the seasons from dry (October-May) to wet (June-September). During the rainy time of year, the cypress slough catches and slowly filters rainwater on its way towards Estero Bay. Animals adapted to life in wetlands, like alligators, turtles, otters, and wading birds, live at the Slough year-round.
Additionally, many types of migratory birds use the Slough as a rest stop and feeding area. The boardwalk through the preserve is always shady and cool and we got to see an alligator, from a distance, sunning himself in the middle of the lake. This is a great place for a leisurely couple of hours and if the visitors center is open (it’s closed on Monday) take the time to visit.
The town of Fort Myers has a long history of interaction with the Koreshan Unity Settlement, where we are volunteering this winter. When Koreshan started up in 1894, Fort Myers was a cattle town with one main street, a couple of hundred people, and a port where cattle was shipped down to Cuba.
Since then, it has grown into a pretty fun town with a lovely historic district. We visited the Burroughs Home and Gardens the week before Christmas and got to experience its lovely Victorian Christmas decorations. Built in 1901, this Georgian revival mansion was the scene of many social events that hosted the Fort Myers’ elite including the Edisons, Fords, and Firestones. Antique furnishings, historical artifacts, and delightful tales of growing up as the privileged daughters of wealthy businessman Nelson Burroughs and his wife Adeline await visitors who want to take a step back in time. Right on the Caloosehatchee River, it is the only home of its time still standing in its original location and open to the public.
Going to a hockey game in Florida seems a bit out of the ordinary but the local team, the Florida Everblades, is pretty popular. A few of us from the Volunteer Village decided to check it out one night. The arena sits about 7,000 and there wasn’t a bad seat in the place. The night we went the special event was called Teddy Bear night and when the Everblades scored their first goal, people tossed hundreds of teddy bears onto the ice, donations for a local hospital. It was pretty amusing to watch fuzzy, airborne, ursidae bouncing onto the ice. More amusing was watching the team skating onto the ice, after about 15 minutes, clearly anxious to get back to work.
We have spent countless hours while here at the great beaches for which this area is known. We love Bonita Beach which has a county park right along the Gulf. We opted for driving up past the public beach to one of the small access parking lots and took our chances finding a place to park, for free! We have been nearly a half-dozen times now and lucked out every time, with patience as the operative quality here. We want to discover more beaches, including our sister park, Lover’s Key, and look forward to the days there. We did venture out to Sanibel but unless you get there by 9:00 in the morning at this time of year, the parking becomes too distracting a challenge and we left knowing there were other lovely places to explore in this area.
We welcomed in the New Year with family and when visiting the Botanical Gardens, found this sign which pretty much sums up the philosophy we’ll be adapting now that 2017 is here.
Liz and Peter continue their time in Estero, Florida as resident docent volunteers at Koreshan State Historic Site where they are living in their Airstream before resuming their travels across the country later in January.