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​Two Gulf-front pools and a private beach at Sandpiper Gulf Resort

Nature and Recreation

From shell museums to wildlife refuges, there are so many wonderful nature-focused things to do in the Fort Myers Beach area. Hop from Estero Island to Sanibel Island to San Carlos Island and discover all of the natural gems that Southwest Florida has to offer.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is a one-of-a-kind attraction on Sanibel Island. It’s the only museum in the United States dedicated solely to seashells! There are loads of exhibits featuring stunning shells from local, national and international beaches.

While looking at the striking shells is already interesting enough, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum also has quite a few interactive exhibits. Touch live mollusks, participate in an exciting scavenger hunt, stroll along the shell-themed outdoor story walk and pay a visit to the friendly Giant Pacific Octopus!

Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation

The Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF) protects quite a few preserves on Sanibel Island and beyond. They help to restore animal habitats, track water quality changes, monitor local animal populations and educate the public on how to preserve these natural landscapes.

Today, you can visit some of SCCF’s preserves that are open to the public. Do a little bird-watching in Periwinkle Preserve, take a seasonal tour on the Bailey Homestead preserve or stroll along a nature trail in Pick Preserve.

Manatee Park

Many people don’t realize that there are loads of manatees in Florida’s waters. And one of the best places to see manatees in the Sunshine State is right next door to Sandpiper Gulf Resort at Manatee State Park.

Each winter, manatees will flock to Manatee State Park for warmer waters (courtesy of the Florida Power & Light electric plant next door). You can get a glimpse of these calming creatures from one of the many observation decks or on a kayak.

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Situated on Sanibel Island, J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best nature-focused spots to visit in Southwest Florida. There are a few different reasons this wildlife refuge is so special, including its thriving mangrove ecosystem and its fascinating variety of wildlife.

But the main reason that people love J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is because of its incredible bird-watching opportunities. This area is home to over 200 species of birds, including ospreys, herons and the bright pink roseate spoonbills.

Bowditch Point Park

Just a few miles from Sandpiper Gulf Resort, Bowditch Point Park is an absolutely stunning shoreline – one that you should definitely make the time to visit.

Bowditch Point Park offers many different nature activities, including swimming, shelling, bird-watching, kayaking and hiking. But the best part of Bowditch Point Park is that it’s an incredible place to watch the sunset. With its minimal crowds and sandy shores, this western-facing beach is the ideal spot to watch pastel colors paint the sky every evening.

Ostego Bay Marine Science Center

Located on San Carlos Island, the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center is a great place to learn all about marine life in Southwest Florida. This waterfront museum has touch tanks, interactive exhibits, captivating displays, beautiful aquariums and so much more.

Holiday Adventure Tours and Boat Rental

Get out on the water with Holiday Adventure Tours and Boat Rental! Located at our sister hotel, Pink Shell Resort & Marina, this boating company offers something for everyone. 

First, you can rent one of their three types of boats – from the 21-foot skiff to the 22-foot tritoon – and head out on the gulf on your own. You can also take advantage of Holiday Adventure Tours and Boat Rental’s fantastic tours and charters. Dolphin cruises, fishing charters and sunset cruises are just the start! And last but certainly not least, Holiday Adventure Tours and Boat Rental also rents out kayaks and stand up paddle boards for you to enjoy.

woman looking at shell-covered tree at Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park

While there are many gorgeous beaches in Southwest Florida, Lovers Key State Park stands out as one of the best. Go for a swim in the turquoise gulf waters, enjoy a relaxing beach picnic or just soak up the warm Floridian sun.

That said, you won’t be the only ones enjoying Lovers Key State Park. There are quite a few animals who like to visit too! Keep an eye out for dolphins, manatees, eagles and ospreys during your visit.

Matanzas Pass Preserve

Just five minutes from the Sandpiper Gulf Resort lies the Matanzas Pass Preserve. This 60-acre sanctuary is packed with nature-focused things to do. Take a walk through the mangrove forest, keep an eye out for interesting wildlife and even kayak down the Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail.