As the largest city of the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast, Fort Myers is the epicenter of fun and relaxation. In addition to the quintessential Fort Myers Beach experience, the area also offers a variety of activities that are a little off of the beaten path. Here are five hidden gems that you must check out when you are visiting this tropical paradise.


SANIBEL ISLAND: The quieter and more laid-back counterpart to the energetic Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island is an ideal place to relax and rejuvenate in a tranquil setting. This stretch of sand is best known for its massive amount of seashells. Because two-thirds of the island is designated protected land, you are also likely to spot a variety of wildlife, including endangered loggerhead sea turtles. The island is home to a myriad of art galleries, funky shops, and premium dining experiences.


THE SHELL FACTORY: This iconic destination is conveniently located on US 41, making it an easy stop on your travel itinerary. It is hard to put into words what you will find at the Shell Factory. The unique venue features a nature park with over 400 animals, a vast collection of seashells for purchase, an arcade, mini carnival rides, paddle boats, and much more. The Shell Factory also offers plentiful dining opportunities. Parents can enjoy a drink at the Dogbones Cafe while their kids splash around with the bumper boats or soar high on the Eagle Zipline. The attraction also boasts about its distinction of featuring the largest collection of taxidermy animals.


VERANDAH GOLF CLUB: This prestigious golf club offers two of the best 18-hole championship courses in Florida. Old Orange and Whispering Oak were designed by Jack Nicklaus, Jack Nicklaus II, and Bob Cupp, guaranteeing a fantastic golfing experience every time that you step out onto the greens. Set on the beautiful natural setting of the Orange River, Verandah golf in Fort Myers should earn a top spot on your travel bucket list. After your day on the course, be sure to stop by for a delicious meal at the River House. There is no better golfing experience in Southwest Florida than the one that you will find at the Verandah Golf Club.


MANATEE PARK: A visit to Manatee Park is a must for any animal lover. The gentle manatee is one of the star inhabitants of the Sunshine State and this park is the perfect place to get up close and personal with these creatures. The best viewing happens during the winter months when the manatees migrate to these warm waters to escape the dipping temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. If you really want to see these animals up close, consider renting a kayak to traverse the waters. The park also features paved walking trails, a playground, and more.


EDISON AND FORD WINTER ESTATES: History buffs will appreciate the vast collection of items at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estate homes. In addition to a historical museum, this estate also features a laboratory full of inventions and a 21-acre botanical garden. The centerpiece of this garden is the stunning banyan tree, considered to be one of the largest of its kind in the country. Visitors to this estate will get a glimpse into the minds and accomplishments of these iconic figures in American history.


Taking the time to travel a little off of the beaten path will ensure a unique experience when visiting Fort Myers.