Towering oak trees and a sun-kissed waterfront surround the historical Burroughs Home & Gardens, providing comfortable blankets of shade and cool breezes while exemplifying the reverent collaboration between classic architecture and the natural world. The 1901 Georgian Revival mansion—once the setting for a silent 1920s reality show starring businessman Nelson Burroughs, his wife Adeline, and their glamorous daughters, Mona and Jettie—currently facilitates tours throughout its parlors, dining rooms, and sweeping verandas.
Guides share anecdotes from the family's journals and oral histories and point out examples of such turn-of-the-century luxuries as indoor plumbing, electricity, and steam-powered Nintendo. In keeping with the grounds' esteemed history, the public can also arrange to schedule weddings and social events like those that once hosted members of the Fort Myers elite, including the Edisons, Fords, and Firestones.
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.
Gulf Coast Kayak sits on the edge of Matlacha Pass Aquatic Preserve, a scenic sprawl of estuaries, back bays, and mangrove tunnels roofed by the interlaced branches of waterside trees. Their single and tandem kayaks give paddlers a way to drink up this scenery, instead of waiting on the shore, thumbs-outstretched, hoping to catch a ride from a passing mermaid. Alternatively, paddlers can opt for a guided tour, such as the Sunset Birding Tour, which can afford birdwatchers glimpses of osprey, herons, and spoonbills. For those who cannot make it to their storefront, Gulf Coast Kayak is able to deliver kayaks anywhere in Matlacha or Pine Island for a fee.
Captain Will Olds is an aquatic Renaissance man. The U.S. Coast Guard master mariner has dedicated his life to the water—from time spent piloting charter boats across Lake Superior to his days teaching boat safety at the Chapman School of Seamanship—and to his passion for history and the natural world. The multitalented skipper translates his many skills into a daily roster of eco-tours and excursions that whisk visitors along the fluvial highways of southern Florida.
From behind the wheel of his trusted ship, the Calusa Queen, the captain delivers entertaining and educational anecdotes along with views of Charlotte Harbor Estuary and Cape Haze. While not included in this offer, the Matlacha Art Community cruise features stops on terra firma to visit local galleries, and the Peace River Eco-Tour and Cruise wends through a nature preserve for a peek at manatees, alligators, and dolphins. Named for the Native American peoples of Florida’s southwest coast, the ship is inspected and certified by the U.S. Coast Guard and can hold up to 28 passengers along with their spare sets of sea legs.