All the latest inspiration and guidance for help you plan your next family hoilday

When people think of the islands, beaches and neighbourhoods of Fort Myers, they usually picture gorgeous golden beaches and flying south for the winter. And while the sand and sunshine is reason enough to visit on its own (Fort Myers enjoys more days of sunshine than any other city in Florida), there is so much more to this vibrant community.

So, whether you’re planning your first trip to Fort Myers or are a long-time lover of the area, here are five things you may not know about it.

1. Fort Myers' beaches have more shell varieties than any other place in North America

Sanibel, Fort Myers

Shelling is taken seriously in Fort Myers and with different specimens found each day, you're likely to head home with a shell or two in your luggage.

There are even dedicated 'shelling charter captains’ in the Fort Myers area as intrepid shellers seek out more and more remote locations to give themselves the best chance of finding something rare and special for their collections.

If you fancy giving it a go yourself, remember to leave any live shells behind, as these are protected by state law.

2. Captiva Island got its name from a famous pirate - probably

Captiva Island

Today, Captiva Island is a popular tourist destination for beach lovers in the Fort Myers area. But its name has interesting origins. According to local folklore, the legendary pirate, José Gaspar (also known as Gasparilla) ruled the waves of the Gulf of Mexico from his base in Southwest Florida in the 1700s. Legend says that he amassed a huge fortune through theft and by ransoming many hostages.

Captiva Island is supposedly where he held these hostages captive. We’re not sure if Gasparilla actually existed but it's a great story and the legend lives on in the island’s name.

You can visit Captiva Island today to have a pirate adventure of your own, complete with gorgeous white sandy beaches and frolicking dolphins off-shore.

3. Thomas Edison offered to illuminate Fort Myers' streets but cows made this an unpopular suggestion

Edison Ford Winter Estates

Thomas Edison is generally recognised as one of Fort Myers’ most famous residents. He and his friend, Henry Ford, lived next door to each other in what is now known as the “Edison Ford Winter Estates”.

But, initially, Fort Myers' residents seem to have been rather unimpressed by Edison’s invention, and his offer of a power station and electric lights for the city. This was mostly because they were concerned that electric lights would stop their cows from sleeping and impact milk production.

Don’t worry, though, things changed and Fort Myers is now very proud of its Edison connection. Since 1938, the city of Fort Myers has even run the annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade in his honour.

You can learn more about Edison and his connection to Fort Myers by visiting the Edison Ford Winter Estates.

4. You can visit a 2,000-year-old Mound House on Fort Myers Beach

Mound House

It’s often said that ‘In America, 100 years is a long time and in Europe, 100 miles is a long drive’. But, in this case, we think that everyone would agree that a structure still standing 2,000 years later is incredibly impressive.

Mound House is a unique archaeological site in Fort Myers Beach created by the Calusa. The Calusa were a Native American people who became known as ‘Shell Indians’ because they used the shells that washed ashore in a number of unique and innovative ways. This included building mounds to protect themselves.

There are many surviving mounds all over the Fort Myers area but Mound House allows visitors to explore the inside of a real mound as well as seeing other artefacts and learning more about the Calusa’s way of life.

5. You can access 190 miles of canoe and kayak trails on the the Calusa Blueway

A memorable way to explore Southwest Florida's shoreline is on the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. Named after the Native Americans who once populated the region, you can explore parts of this 190-mile trail by canoe or kayak while getting up close to its nature and wildlife.

The trail is broken down into three manageable sections, and its clearly marked paths and guides en route make it suitable for paddling newbies. Consider paddling from Estero Bay to Mound Key to combine natural attractions with a historic manmade one.