Fort Myers Beach Historical Attractions

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There is no denying the main draws that lure people from all over the nation and world to Fort Myers Beach are our white sand beaches and sparkling Gulf water, but our little 7-mile slice of paradise is also rich in historical attractions!

The Mound House

The Mound House has a fascinating collection of Calusa Indian artifacts. Photo by M. Layfield

The crown jewel! The Mound House, Estero Island’s oldest standing structure is owned by the Town of Fort Myers Beach and operated as a museum complex. Discover ancient island life atop a 2,000-year-old Calusa Indian Shell Mound. Learn FMB history, experience what archaeologists discovered in the unique shell mound exhibit, enjoy a museum or shell mound tour, spot wildlife on Estero Bay paddling adventures, boat tours, beach walks & more.

Mound House Lectures are the 2nd Tuesday of each month through April for $5. March 12 focuses on water quality with Dr. Darren Rumbold of Florida Gulf Coast University, with Andrew West, photographer extraordinaire of “The News-Press,” on April 9; Social Half-hour with refreshments at 5:30 p.m., with lectures at 6 p.m. Reservations required.

Admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12, and 5 & under free, with Town residents receiving a 50% discount. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 451 Connecticut Street, with additional parking at 216 Connecticut; for information call 239-765-0865 or see www.moundhouse.org.

Estero Island Historical Society

AJ Bassett, during a Christmas program for Island students, sits in front of a display of early Island photos at the Estero Island Historic Society’s Davison Cottage on Bay Road. Photo by M. Layfield.

The EIHS operates its free Museum & Nature Center in the Davison Cottage on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 161 Bay Road, down the sidestreet from the FMB Public Library, from 10 a.m. to Noon. The non-profit EIHS began in 1990 when island residents recognized how rapidly FMB was losing its historic cottages, landmarks, wildlife and habitat. In 1995, it received, via donation, the Davison Cottage originally built on the beach in 1921. In 2004, the EIHS received a second donated cottage and rain barrel, and hopes to add the historic “Red Shutter Cottage” in 2019.

EIHS’s 2019 Speaker Series is held at the FMB Library’s 3rd Floor Community Room at 2755 Estero Boulevard the second Monday of each month through April at 7 p.m. Monday, March 11 is Dr. Tom Berson and “The History & Significance of Florida’s Springs.” The final program is Monday, April 8, with Elliot Kleinberg offering “Florida in The Civil War? Believe It!” For EIHS information, call 239-463-0435; for the FMB Public Library, see www.fmb.lib.fl.us or call 239-765-8162.

“Footprints In Time” Walking Tour

Organized by the EIHS, “Footprints in Time” is a self-guided Quick Response (QR) Code tour of 24 historical island landmarks and vistas that literally spans FMB from north to south. Pick up your “Footprints in Time” map at the EIHS cottages or at select island locations.

“Fort Myers Beach History”

Russ Carter, well-known island historian and EIHS President, presents “Fort Myers Beach History” with an entertaining look at its events, culture, and people over 2,000 years in just one hour! FMB Library 3rd floor Community Room on Thursday, March 7 at 1:30 p.m. Free, no reservations necessary.

Fort Myers Beach Pier

The original went up in the 1930s as a wooden edifice, with adjacent land for parking, picnicking, swimming and sunbathing. Lee County acquired it in 1948, built a bathhouse in 1953, and dedicated the new concrete pier in 1976. In May 1991 a major storm with extremely high waves struck it, causing extensive pier damage, leading to a significant reconstruction into the pier we have today, allowing fishermen, locals and tourists to enjoy recreation, socializing and breathtaking sunsets, as well as being the backdrop for about a billion photographs.

Matanzas Pass Preserve

Dedicated island residents saved Matanzas Pass Preserve (MPP) from development in the 1970s; today it is one of the few Maritime Oak Hammocks left in Southwest Florida. The 60-acre MPP, open daily from dawn to dusk, is home to native plants and animals, including a transitional wetland and mangrove forest full of raccoon, rabbit, hawks, owls, turtles, snakes, herons, fish and songbirds. It has a 1.25-mile ADA-accessible boardwalk, bayside pavilion with a majestic view of the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, and is on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. MPP is at 199 Bay Road with free but limited parking, with a “40th Anniversary Celebration” including music, guided tours, and vendors on Saturday, April 6, at 10 a.m.

MPP offers three free seasonal nature walks. “Exploring Ethnobotany” is Wednesdays through April 24 from 9:30 to 11 a.m. “Life in the Mangroves” is Thursdays through March 28 from 9:30 to 11 a.m.; call Lee County Parks & Recreation at 239-432-2154. “By The Light of The Moon” is each Full Moon Night through April, open to adults only and limited to 12 participants; RSVPs necessary roughly one week in advance. For information, see walkwiththemoon.com

Newton Beach Park

Newton Beach Park features the Seven Seas Cottage, built in 1953 and formerly owned by late island resident Jim Newton, who gained notoriety through his book, “Uncommon Friends,” about his relationships with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Charles Lindbergh, and Dr. Alexis Carrel. It became the first Town-owned public park in 2010, with tiki hut, paid parking, nature programs and historic and environmental signage, among other amenities.

Working Waterfront Tour

shrimp fleet, fort myers beach, ostego bay, historic tours
Shrimp fleet in port on San Carlos Island. Photo by M. Layfield.

The Ostego Bay Foundation hosts the “Working Waterfront Tour” of the historic shrimping industry each Wednesday in season from 9 a.m. to Noon. Begin at the Foundation’s Marine Science Center at 718 Fishermans Wharf on San Carlos Island for check-in, orientation and a brief shrimping film, then make the short drive in your own vehicle to Main Street for the 90-minute working waterfront tour including nature walk and visits to the welding shop, packinghouse, carpentry shop, marine supplier, net shop, docks, diesel fuel area and store. Following the waterfront portion of the tour, return to the Marine Science Center for a guided tour featuring the Touch Tank. Tours are $15 adults and $10 children age 6 & over, with advance reservations necessary at 239-765-8101. Marine Science Center hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with admission $5 adults, $3 students, with children 5 & under free. For information, see www.ostegobay.org.

 

By Gary Mooney
gary@fortmyersbeach.news