Tucked into the bay side of Fort Myers Beach is a little piece of barrier island that time forgot – Matanzas Pass Preserve – a perfect place to enjoy a cool walk in the shade during the heat of summer.
This unspoiled sanctuary is composed of nearly 60 shady acres of undeveloped preserve along Estero Bay. It holds one of the last remaining maritime oak hammocks in the area. It also is home to three other natural plant communities: tidal swamp, mangrove forest and coastal grassland. Each of these holds many native Florida plants and supports a variety of wildlife.
The Preserve offers 1.25 miles of trails that wind through canopies of mangroves and oak hammock and lead to a bayside pavilion with a beautiful view of Estero Bay. Next to the pavilion is a paddlecraft landing that is part of the Great Calusa Blueway Trail, so visitors can paddle in to visit the Preserve. See bit.ly/MPPblue
The Preserve is also a designated Great Florida Birding Trail site. For maps and guides visit bit.ly/FLbird
The Preserve property was donated to The Nature Conservancy in 1974, and then donated to Lee County in 1994. The Friends of Matanzas Pass Preserve work with Lee County to protect and enhance the preserve and provide educational opportunities within the Preserve. To learn more, visit www.FriendsofMatanzasPassPreserve.org.
Each week, The Island Sand Paper publishes a photo and description of a different wildflower, many of them found in the Preserve. These are provided by Matanzas Friends member Jim Rodwell.
The Historical Cottage and Nature Center is located at the entrance to the Preserve. Housed in the Davison Cottage, built in 1921 and moved to the site, the cottage is maintained by the Estero Island Historical Society and includes unique historical items, photos and books detailing the history of Estero Island. It is open Wednesday and Saturday from 10am-noon.
The Preserve is protected by Lee County Parks & Recreation rules: No pets, alcohol, bikes, motorized vehicles or taking of live shells, plants, animals.
Matanzas Pass Preserve, 199 Bay Road (approximately one mile south of the Matanzas Pass Bridge-turn at the Beach Library). Hours: Open 7am-dusk daily. Parking is limited.