Surprising Facts About Fort Myers, Sanibel, and Captiva

How well do you think you know the area around Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands? Whether you are a native to Southwest Florida or a first-time visitor, we’re sure you’ll find something new to interest you in these surprising fun facts.

  1. More than half of Sanibel and Captiva Islands are dedicated to wildlife refuges and nature preserves. They are home to 230 types of birds, 250 different shells, and 50 species of native fish. More than half of Sanibel and Captiva Islands are dedicated to wildlife refuges and nature preserves. They are home to 230 types of birds, 250 different shells, and 50 species of native fish. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. #birding #sanibel #thingstodo #florida #vacation #wildlife

    More than half of Sanibel and Captiva Islands are dedicated to wildlife refuges and nature preserves. They are home to 230 types of birds, 250 different shells, and 50 species of native fish. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. #birding #sanibel #thingstodo #florida #vacation #wildlife

    Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

  2. Fort Myers has the highest number of sunshine hours in the whole of Florida – even more than Miami and Key West!

    Fort Myers has the highest number of sunshine hours in the whole of Florida – even more than Miami and Key West! Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. #Florida #FortMyers #vacation #beaches #thingstodo

    Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

  3. Originally the location of Fort Harvey, the city was renamed Fort Myers in 1850 as a rather unorthodox wedding gift in honor of Colonel Abraham Myers, son-in-law of the fort’s commander, Major General David E. Twiggs.
  4. Sanibel was originally named “Ybel” after the Spanish Queen Isabella by explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513.
  5. In 1876, Fort Myers was home to just 10 families and McGregor Blvd was a dusty cattle road!
  6. Fort Myers’ award-winning marina is the longest continually operating marina in Florida. The Richards Building boasted the first elevator in the city and Robin Stuckey Furniture Store had the first Coca-Cola vending machine.
  7. Lakes Regional Park is home to the 3200ft² Railroad Museum of South Florida. It is filled with artifacts, photos, exhibits, and model railways.

    Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers, Florida is home to the 3200ft² Railroad Museum of South Florida. It is filled with artifacts, photos, exhibits, and model railways. Photo by Gary Jung. #FortMyersFlorida #vacation #kidsactivities #thingstodo #trainride

    Photo credit Gary Jung

  8. The Great Calusa Blueway is a 190-mile network of kayaking and paddling trails around the coves, rivers, and backwaters of Sanibel and the Gulf of Mexico.
  9. Fort Myers received electric light in 1898, thanks to its famous resident Thomas Edison who invented the light bulb among over 1000 other patented inventions. Unfortunately, the street lighting was unpopular with the locals as it kept the cows awake all night!

    The best way to get around Sanibel and Captiva, Florida is by bicycle. The islands have 22 miles of shady traffic-free bike trails – and no stop lights! Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. #Florida #vacationideas #biketrails #Sanibel #activities #familyfun

    Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

  10. The best way to get around Sanibel and Captiva is by bicycle. The islands have 22 miles of shady traffic-free bike trails – and no stop lights!

    The best way to get around Sanibel and Captiva, Florida is by bicycle. The islands have 22 miles of shady traffic-free bike trails – and no stop lights! Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald. #Florida #vacationideas #biketrails #Sanibel #activities #familyfun

    Photo credit Mary Carol Fitzgerald

  11. First Street is home to some of Fort Myers’ oldest building including Heitman House (1908) and the Bank of Fort Myers Building (1920). However, the oldest house in the area is Mound House, accessible only by boat on Mound Key. It was built on a shell mound discarded by Calusa Indians who occupied the area 2000 years ago.
  12. One of the most unusual businesses in Fort Myers is the fancy feather factory. Established in 1906, this family business spans four generations and still supplies feathers to the wholesale industry for boas and Mardi Gras décor.
  13. The Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum is the only dedicated shell museum in the USA!

    The Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel is the only dedicated shell museum in the USA! Photo by Debi Pittman Wilkey. #Florida #Sanibel #museum #shells #thingstodo #attractions #FortMyersFlorida

    Photo credit Debi Pittman Wilkey

  14. Sanibel and Captiva are a fishing mecca. Visit the world’s smallest fishing museum at Jensen’s Marina and see antique tackle and old photos of famous fishing folks who have cast a line.
  15. Burroughs House and Gardens sits on what was known as Millionaire’s Row at the turn of the 20th This gracious Georgian Colonial Revival building came as a flat pack from the Roebuck-Sears catalog. The 137 crates were delivered by train to Punta Gorda and then finished the journey by boat down the Caloosahatchee River.
  16. Estero is home to a Fortune 500 company – Hertz Rentals. It employs over 700 locals in Lee County and has more employees in Florida than any other state except California.
  17. The reason why Sanibel is a top shelling destination is its east-west orientation on a shallow water plateau that stretches out into the Gulf of Mexico. It acts as a natural shelf for shells to collect.
    The reason why Sanibel is a top shelling destination is its east-west orientation on a shallow water plateau that stretches out into the Gulf of Mexico. It acts as a natural shelf for shells to collect. Photo by Jennifer Brinkman. #Sanibel #shelling #Florida #vacation

    Photo credit Jennifer Brinkman

    The reason why Sanibel is a top shelling destination is its east-west orientation on a shallow water plateau that stretches out into the Gulf of Mexico. It acts as a natural shelf for shells to collect. Photo by Mary Carol Fitzgerald. #Sanibel #Florida #shelling #shells #vacation #beaches

    Photo credit Mary Carol Fitzgerald

  18. Thomas and Mina Edison were winter residents and donated the first Royal Palms to line McGregor Blvd, earning Fort Myers the nickname “City of Palms”. There are now over 2,000 trees, many reaching over 75 feet in height.

    Thomas and Mina Edison were Fort Myers, Florida winter residents and donated the first Royal Palms to line McGregor Blvd, earning Fort Myers the nickname “City of Palms”. There are now over 2,000 trees, many reaching over 75 feet in height. Photo by Nita Ettinger. #EdisonFordWinterEstates #FortMyersFlorida #attractions #museums #vacation #thingstodo

    Photo credit Nita Ettinger

  19. Chico’s was founded in Fort Myers in 1983. This nationwide fashion house now employs 2,000 designers and staff in its 146,000ft² headquarters on Metro Avenue.
  20. Sanibel and Captiva were popular haunts for pirates including Lafitte, Blackbeard, and Gasparilla – before the causeway was built, of course!

Did you score 20 out of 20? Even if you didn’t we bet you learned about some interesting places you might like to visit!

Discover things to do when you visit Fort Myers, Sanibel, or Captiva Florida at MustDo.com!

Related Posts:

Written by:

Nita Ettinger is the co-publisher for Siesta Publications and the Editor in Chief for Must Do Visitor Guides. Must Do Visitor Guides provides Southwest Florida visitor information through printed publications and the website MustDo.com. Must Do Visitor Guides are published bi-annually and are available at no cost in Sarasota, Lee, and Collier County chambers of commerce, visitor information centers, select Southwest Florida hotels, and wherever free publications are found.

[gravityform id="2"]

Newsletter Sign-up