It only took two weeks on the picturesque shores of Tahiti and Moorea to send Craig Stewart into a tailspin. He and wife Evelyn fell in love with the South Pacific’s crystalline waters and beachy breezes, so much so that the prospect of remaining in their native Oklahoma turned gloomy. Six years after the Stewarts’ Pacific vacation, they stumbled upon Sanibel Island. With a love for the waters still coursing through their veins, they uprooted and moved there, making it home base for Adventures in Paradise. In 1986, they started out with one boat—Miss Paradise—and one tour, the sunset dolphin cruise. Today, the Stewart family maintains a much larger operation. Their tour topics range from fishing and shelling to dolphin watching to historical sightseeing on a trolley.
The men and women who live alongside Myerlee Country Club know that the serenity of the well-groomed golf course extends far beyond the fairway. Founded as a small active living community in the 1960s, the club now boasts 1,100 condominiums with stunning views and easy access to the palm-speckled links. Perhaps the most challenging feature of the course is its narrow river, which runs the length of the entire property, abutting almost every hole and slicing directly through the rest. The river offers a challenge for golfers and an attractive retirement home for errantly hit golf balls. When members aren't busy working on their short games or grabbing drinks at the Tiki Bar, they're staying active in the community; Myerlee frequently sponsors food drives for the Harry Chapin Food Bank, and hosts charitable golf outings whose proceeds bolster beneficiaries such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
Course at a Glance
18-hole, par 60 course
Total length of 3,509 yards from the back tees
Three sets of tees per hole
Pirates cheer as cannons fire smoke across the sea. Yet while the pirates are actors and the cannons are just miniaturized toys, the ship they sail upon is anything but pretend—it's a 65-foot steel-hulled vessel designed by a naval architect to look like a Spanish galleon.
Named for the prized Spanish currency of yore, Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise evokes the golden age of buccaneering as it sets sail from Salty Sam’s Marina. The ship is helmed by a merry band of pirates—such as Pick Pocket Pete, Peg Leg Meg, and Fancy Face Phil—that bookends lessons on pirate history with sing-along chanteys and skits. The 90-minute family-friendly cruise also includes map-reading trivia, face painting, yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum. During the ride, passengers are welcome to explore the upper and lower decks or step inside the grand salon for ice cream, pretzels, and other treats.
In addition to its all-ages cruises, Pieces of Eight hosts an adults-only cruise on Friday nights, which includes cocktails and its own revue. It also charters private cruises to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions.
The 9-hole SNAG (Starting New at Golf) course at Alico Family Golf does not look like your average course. To begin with, there are no holes; instead, players take aim at a raised target called a Flagsticky (which looks like a thicker but shorter flagstick). A hole is completed when players have stuck their ball?a velcro sphere slightly smaller than a tennis ball?to the Flagsticky using two colorful clubs: a Launcher (made for all full swings, pitches, and chips) and a Roller (the SNAG equivalent of a putter). The modified game fosters golf skills for players of all ages, though its colorful nature and lower degree of difficulty make it ideal for kids or aspiring cartoonists.
The golf complex cultivates a love of the game across other facilities, including an 18-hole miniature golf course and a driving range with 60 grass hitting stalls and ten covered bays. For its efforts in promoting golf, Alico Family Golf has become the home for The First Tee Lee County. The charitable organization supports golf programs for young people as a means of developing character and enriching lives.
At the helm of Mangrove Masters is Florida native and USCG-certified Captain Jack Boutchyard, who loves to introduce visitors to the waters he calls home—specifically those surrounding Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Captain Jack brings along all gear, including fishing licenses, rods, and bait for flats fishing charters that chase trout near the grass flats and redfish when the tide goes out. For a hands-off outing, the sunset cruise charts course toward a horizon bathed in soft pinks and purples, presenting a colorful backdrop for dolphins and manatees at play. Treasure hunters can also opt to meet Captain Jack on the dock for a short jaunt to the white, sandy shores of North Captiva Island, which is only accessible by boat and teems with riches such as conch shells, sand dollars, and buried chests filled with pirate baseball-card collections.
The scope of the Southwest Florida Museum of History is as vast as the ocean that once covered the region. The art, artifacts, and reconstructions that comprise the museum's permanent exhibits and rotating exhibitions explore the period some 40 million years ago, when the giant megalodon swam in the area's shallow seas; the early half of the Common Era, when Calusa Indians occupied the same terrain; and the point in 1904 when railroad tracks reached southwestern Florida for the first time, connecting it to the rest of America. The fossilized remains of a giant ground sloth, a 1920s luxury railcar, and an 1800s cattle driver's cabin are highlights of the museum’s exhibits and displays, which together serve as a humbling reminder of history’s vastness and an indirect reminder to walk your giant ground sloth.