LEE COUNTY, FL – There is a lot of news to report as the upcoming months are filled with outdoor activities that visitors will not want to miss. For more information on planning a vacation at The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida, visit www.fortmyerssanibel.com.
32nd World's Richest Tarpon Tournament, Boca Grande
May 15-16, 2014
Encouraging conservation, education and sportsmanship, this two-day tournament includes up to four anglers per team who will be competing for thousands in cash and prizes. Competitors will follow procedures designed for quick releases and the post- release welfare of all tarpon. Winners will be determined by the highest total number of tarpon successfully released. While competition heats up in Boca Grande Pass and the Gulf of Mexico, there will be plenty of family-friendly fun and excitement in downtown Boca Grande as sponsors exhibit their products and conduct demonstrations and promotions, along with a wide variety of art vendors, live music performances, the Mote Mobile Aquarium, entertaining and educational lectures by some of today’s leading fishery experts and scientists, plus food and beverages. In addition, the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic Tarpon Tournament will take place on May 17.
10th Annual Ryan McCleskey Redfish Tournament, Cape Coral
May 23, 24, 2014
Ryan McCleskey ended his fight against cancer on February 3, 2006. Family, friends, and acquaintances of Ryan wish to continue his battle with loving memory. The objective of the event is to build awareness of the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation, and assist the children of southwest Florida in their personal battles, by donating the proceeds raised to Barbara’s Friends, the Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund. For more information visit www.ChildrensHospitalGoal.org. To date over $80,000 has been raised for Barbara’s Friends. Visit website for schedule and details.
10th Annual Flat's Invitational Charity Event, Cape Coral
Aug. 29-30, 2014
The 10th Annual Flat's Invitational Charity Fishing Event benefits the Ronald McDonald Charities of Southwest Florida. For lodging, registration details and activities: 239-424-8060 or http://www.mcflats.com
Tails & Tailgating Catch and Release Fishing Tournament, downtown Fort Myers
Nov. 8, 2014
This third annual fishing tournament and chili cook-off starts with a captain’s meeting at on Nov. 7. The fishing tournament begins at first light the next day from anywhere anglers decide. Fishing ends at 4 p.m. and the chili cook-off and shrimp boil begins with judging and public tasting. Tournament prizes will be awarded, plus families can enjoy food, a corn hole tournament, raffles, goodie bags, and more. Details: www.fortmyers.org
Kayak fishing along The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
This sport is growing as fishing enthusiasts and paddlers realize the thrill and challenges of being at fish level in the shallows when they land large fish from a small boat. Kayak fishing is the largest growth sector of the fishing and paddle sports markets. Kayak manufacturers are trending toward kayaks specific to anglers and their needs, including those with rod holders, bait wells, pedals (so you can move hands-free), light-weight anchors (so you can leave your boat and wade fish), and more.
Being close to wildlife in the area’s estuaries, results in encountering snook, redfish, sea trout, and tarpon. There are many advantages of kayak fishing in southwest Florida. The cost is low because you save on gas! There is no wait to launch a boat and launch sites are plentiful. Using a stealth-like paddling technique, it is possible to access flats where powerboats cannot venture.
Offshore Sailing School celebrates 50 years
Offshore Sailing School commemorates its 50th anniversary during 2014 with activities, special programs and packages. Headquartered in Fort Myers, Offshore Sailing School has taught more than 130,000 adults and their families to sail or hone their sailing skills since Olympian and America’s Cup sailor, Steve Colgate, founded it in 1964. The school packages its courses with accommodations at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island and the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach. For information, call 888-454-7015 or visit
Every level of instruction is available beginning with a two-day introductory course for beginners up to cruising and performances for intermediate sailors to racing and passagemaking for those with advanced experience. Flexible programs for families allow kids to sail free with their parents with lots of time for enjoying the beach and area attractions.
Details for South Seas Island Resort location: www.offshoresailing.com/locations/florida-sailing-vacation/captiva.aspx
Details for Pink Shell location: http://www.offshoresailing.com/locations/florida-sailing-vacation/ft-myers.aspx
Sanibel Sea School, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island
Every day is a field trip at the Sanibel Sea School, dedicated to vibrantly teaching children and adults about marine ecosystems using the unique habitat of Sanibel and Captiva islands. The Sea School provides a friendly setting to touch, feel, and understand the many elements that make up the southwest Florida marine ecosystem. Each week of the summer and select holidays, camps are offered: Swimming like dolphins, camping in the Keys to study coral reefs, or running around like a Calusa tribe – it’s always an adventure and every week has a different theme. Details: www.sanibelseaschool.com or call 239-472-8585 on Sanibel Island; 239-579-1476 on Captiva Island.
Apps enhance visitor experience
INature Trail is first of its kind at J. N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge
If you have a smart phone that downloads apps, you’re ready to experience the latest innovation at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. Designed to get techies outside, the Refuge iNature Trail along Wildlife Drive has two components, one for kids and one for adults. This is the first interactive trail of its kind in the 550-plus national wildlife refuge system. www.fws.gov/dingdarling
The Florida Park Service launched a PocketRanger® mobile app for iPhones and Androids. The interactive guide allows visitors to plan their next adventure in local state parks including Cayo Costa State Park, Estero Bay Preserve State Park, Koreshan State Historic Site, Lovers Key State Park, and Mound Key State Archaeological State Park. It features photos, maps, park information, activity, and location search tools. 850-245-2112 or www.floridastateparks.org
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island Summer programs (FREE), June 7 - Aug. 2, 2014 and include:
Family beach walk
Indigo Trail Walk
Reading n the Refuge
Visitors will also want to explore the (FREE) "Sea Monsters" exhibit at the Education Center, open 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily. Wildlife Drive is closed on Fridays. Films and interactive programs will be presented throughout the summer.
America's largest TRAILgating party!
National Trails Day for hikers and bikers takes place on June 7. For details:
Geocaching in the refuge
Pick up an activity sheet and check out a GPS unit or use the geocaching app for this adventure on the drive! Requires a smartphone.
For additional visitor information: www.fws.gov/dingdarling/VisitorInformation.html or 239-472-1100.
More refuge news...
Recently completed: the new Wildlife Education Boardwalk, a freshwater trail and its two-level observation deck. The 300-foot boardwalk connects Indigo Trail to a fence at the perimeter of Sanibel School. The refuge has renamed the trail to reflect its appeal to wildlife-lovers of all ages and includes replicated animal tracks and scat.
The boardwalk, constructed primarily with recyclable materials, crosses a brackish wetland heretofore inaccessible to the public. The two-level, covered observation deck creates an outdoor classroom, where school groups can congregate and refuge visitors can learn more about the habitat they are seeing -- up-close views of alligators, wading birds, and other refuge fauna and flora. www.dingdarlingsociety.org
17th Annual River Romp Sailing Regatta
Oct. 18-19, 2014
Youth sailors from around the country will compete in the 17th annual River Romp Sailing Regatta. The multi-class regatta is a Junior Olympic competition sanctioned by the U.S. Sailing Association. Members of the Edison Sailing Center (ESC) in Fort Myers will represent Lee County in the competition, which begins on the shores of North Shore Park (Yankee Beach) on the north side at the foot of the Caloosahatchee Bridge. The regatta is free and open to spectators. Sailing is visible from Centennial Park in Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.edisonsailingcenter.org.
25th Annual J.N. "Ding" Darling Days, Sanibel Island
Oct. 19-25, 2014
"Ding" Darling Days include a week of eco-activities with free refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, kids activities, Federal Duck Stamp artist presentation, art day, family day and more. Birding and kayaking tours, environmental speakers, a nature photography contest, and the Junior Duck Stamp Awards will fill the week with environmental activities for all ages. The festival celebrates the birthday of the refuge's namesake, conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Jay N. "Ding" Darling. The event kicks off with Family Fun Day on Oct. 19. For detailed schedule, visit website.
Lovers Key State Park on Fort Myers Beach and Gasparilla Island State Park on Boca Grande ranked No. 5 and No. 6 respectively on the state's Top 10 list of most visited state parks in 2012-13. More than 846,000 park-goers visited Lovers Key, with nearly 800,000 making a stop at Gasparilla.
USA TODAY and 10Best.com recently named Lovers Key on Fort Myers Beach among the 10 least-known Florida beaches. The article says: “it's one-fourth of a state park, home to a resort and an enduring haven for couples in pursuit of blissful isolation.” It also cited Gasparilla Island for its “epic” tarpon fishing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres. Images are available upon request.
Lee Rose, Francesca Donlan