Historic Attractions

Travel through time.

The Calusa Indians made this land their home thousands of years ago, utilizing the favorable climate and abundant natural resources to thrive and prosper. Ever since then, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has attracted people for the same reasons. The result is a rich history on full display in the areas many historic inns, galleries, museums, and in once can't miss example, the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.


Best Bets for Arts, Culture & History

MUSEUMS

Museum of the Islands
MOTI, as it’s known locally, is located in the old Pine Island Library building. The museum tells the story of this mainly agricultural and fishing island from the time of the Calusa Indians through pioneer homesteaders.

Boca Grande Lighthouse Museum and Whidden’s Marina
Visit this still-working lighthouse built in 1890 and the adjacent assistant keeper's cottage, now a museum of Gasparilla Island's intriguing history. Nearby Whidden's Marina offers a glimpse into the area's seafaring past.

Barbara Sumwalt Museum
This gem of a museum's star attractions are Useppa Man and Woman. Other topics include the history of tarpon fishing, the use of the island to select CIA Bay of Pigs operatives and the history of the Paleo people, Cuban rancheros and the Civil and Seminole wars.

HISTORIC SITES

Edison & Ford Winter Estates
The Fort Myers winter homes of good friends Thomas Edison and Henry Ford underwent a $9 million renovation, completed in late 2005.

Koreshan State Historic Site
The remnants of this utopian community, which was established in 1894 by Dr. Cyrus Teed, provide a window into Estero's frontier days. Enjoy the sudden expanse of formal gardens and restored buildings – an island of civility pushing back the Florida wilds.

Calusa Heritage Trail (Pineland Complex)
Follow this interpretive trail into the past. With the aid of illustrated signs or a guided tour, see how the Calusa lived in this well-preserved coastal complex. The Randell Research Center and Tropic Star have teamed up to offer a land-and-sea Calusa Heritage & Mound Tour from Pineland on Pine Island (by appointment). The tour includes a guided walk at the Calusa Heritage Trail, lunch at the Tarpon Lodge restaurant and a 1½-hour narrated boat tour to view four Calusa Indian mound islands.

Local Theaters
Venues including the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, Florida Rep, Herb Strauss Schoolhouse Theater and Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall showcase high-caliber talent from near and far. Recent offerings have included “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (Schoolhouse), “The Rainmaker” (Barbara Mann), “Run for Your Wife” (Schoolhouse) and “The Producers” (Barbara Mann).

Diverse history comes alive in Fort Myers & Sanibel

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The Early Colonists
Near the turn of the century, pioneer settlers made their way to the pine flatwoods and open prairies in the Fort Myers area to fell and mill lumber. Agriculturalists established citrus and tropical fruit plantations on the islands, and people came to work the fields. Fishermen flocked to the coastal areas and eked out a hard and salty existence.

This progress is chronicled in small collections at museums such as the Southwest Florida Museum of History in Fort Myers, the Museum of the Islands on Pine Island, Sanibel Historical Village on Sanibel Island, the Mound House and the Davison cottage, home to the Estero Island Historic Society and next to Matanzas Pass Preserve in Fort Myers Beach.

More Recent Settlers
In the late 1800s, Dunbar emerged east of downtown Fort Myers. The story of this industrious African-American community is told at the Williams Academy Black History Museum at Clemente Park.

At about the same time, wealthy Northerners discovered a tropical playground. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford established winter homes on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Others, including Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Mary Roberts Rinehart, followed for the superb sport fishing and mild climate. Presidents continue to visit to this day.

Explore Local Museums
Many museums have collections from the First and Second World Wars; Fort Myers was an important training ground for airmen and support staff at Buckingham and Page Field airports. Ancient Indian history as well as more recent history (1950s and ‘60s) is on display at the Cape Coral Historical Museum. See the marketing genius of the Rosen brothers, developers of Cape Coral, come to life in buttons, banners and publicity shots of celebrities.

Historic Venues & Locations

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    • Edison Festival Of Light

      Your Weeklong Guide to the Edison Festival of Light Event! What started as a three-day celebration of famed inventor Thomas Edison has exploded into a massive weeklong party every January/February with music, dancing, races, parades and too many other things to mention.

    • Our Pinterest Board

      Museums chronicle the area's rich history, while theaters and galleries put on a great show of their own! Click here to see!

    • On Land Activities

      The unmanicured coastlines, mangrove estuaries, pine forests and parks and preserves help flora and fauna thrive, and give us something breathtakingly beautiful to look at and play upon every single day. Click here to view other on land activities!

    • Review #2
      “Really cool!” - Florida

    • Another Review
      “Great place!” - Reviewer

    • BUTTERFLY RAINFOREST
      “Beyond expectations.” - Florida

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