Since we were staying in between Fort Myers and Naples, we were going to try and hit up both locations in the short time we had. We definitely took advantage of the beaches and the warm weather by relaxing quite a bit, but we also wanted to get out and explore a few different things. Not only that, but our friends were staying just south of Naples so we got a chance to meet up with them as well.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was not very far from where we were staying in terms of actual distance, but because there are no roads directly through there, we had to drive all the way around it. Once there, we paid the entry fee and started walking down the boardwalk. The entire path is about 2.5 miles but there were still some areas that were closed off from the damage from Hurricane Irma. We had hoped to see more alligators while we were visiting, but were not lucky enough to see them. However, we did see a ton of birds and some really crazy Cypress trees. The area is well worth the visit, even if you don’t see any wildlife, it’s an extremely tranquil walk through the marshlands.
Night Lights in Naples
We met up with our friends Paul and Heather of the Roamin’ Ryans at the Naples Botanical Center for their night lights demonstration. While it was nice to hang out with them for the evening, and it was kind of cool to walk through the gardens, we felt that it wasn’t anything extravagant and that they could have done a lot more. Especially since it cost us $40 just to get into the gardens. They did have music and a few drink stands throughout the grounds, but it just could have been cooler. We wouldn’t mind going back to see the gardens in the daytime.
Sanibel Island & Bowers Beach
Sanibel and Captiva Island are known for the crazy amount of seashells that cover the beaches, so we wanted to go check them out. We drove out to Sanibel Island and tried to pick up some lunch but both of the restaurants we went to were closed. Boo!! The first was because of an emergency, and the other was because of complications from Irma. So we ended up just picking up chips and hummus from the grocery store and some extra snacks. Once we arrived at Bowers Beach, we paid the $5 / hour to park which felt pretty steep to us, and then walked about 5 minutes until we actually got to the beach.
The beach itself was pretty secluded as there aren’t any hotels or condos right off the beach and so there were only maybe a dozen families or so. This allowed us to post up in a spot where we had our own area to relax and soak up some sun. They weren’t lying that there are a ton of seashells on the beach and when they get between your foot and your sandals, they can feel like tiny shards of glass stabbing you, but they are very cool to see in such large quantities. We walked down to where nobody else was and launched our drone to do a few fly-bys and take a few photos as well. We spent a good two and a half hours just relaxing on the beach before heading back home for the day.
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
We had already been to Sanibel Island but wanted to go do some more exploring. The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge kept coming up as a top rated excursion in the area so we decided to check it out. There are two options for exploring the area, you can walk the free boardwalk trail, or you can pay the $5 vehicle cost to drive the 4-mile road that runs through the entire refuge. We elected to pay the $5 and do the driving tour.
While on the driving tour, we saw pretty much all of the wildlife we wanted to see. White pelicans, egrets, cormorants, the elusive roseate spoonbills, a bald eagle fishing in the lake, tons of other birds, fish, clams spitting water, jumping fish, and yes, even an alligator! What really bothered us, however, was how much they stressed that we were entering into a wildlife refuge and how many fishermen we saw along the way. Fish aren’t even safe in a wildlife refuge… There were even signs stating what kind of crabbing you can do. We really can’t fathom how you can have a refuge and allow animals to be murdered there.