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.
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.
Presented by the River District Alliance, the annual Fort Myers New Year's Eve Downtown Countdown helps tens of thousands of local revelers ring in the New Year in style. As midnight approaches, the main stage's ball drop counts down the waning seconds till the New Year and braces visitors for the keynote spectacle: a dazzling fireworks display over the New Caloosahatchee water basin. The bands and DJs play long after the display, entertaining crowds until as late as 2 a.m., at which point guests are encouraged to return home and set all their clocks one year forward.
With iridescent miniature golf courses in malls throughout North America, Glowgolf adds elements of phosphorescent fun to shopping sessions. Courses contain sights such as light-defying blush corals, incandescent animals, and lush foliage reminiscent of the glowing trees on Neptune. Each pass is good for three 18-hole games, giving golfers ample opportunity to get familiar with each hole's obstacles. Equipment is available on the spot, so players won't have to carry around personal clubs or seek out a bioluminescent caddie.
Marina Mike's Boat Club helps get people out on the water with a variety of vessels. Motorized pontoons steer out onto the bay, with a Bimini shade to keep passengers cool and optional fishing equipment so they can cast lines out into the water to catch fresh fish or old boots. Kayaks and other paddle-powered watercraft are also available for those who aim to take a quieter jaunt into the surrounding waterways.
Situated in the midst of a wildlife-rich preserve on the Lee County coast, Kayak Excursions, based at Bunche Beach, doles out an arsenal of paddleboards and kayaks for fishing, sightseeing, or motorized water-skimming. Guides lead sightseers out on three-hour tours that pass by lush mangrove forests, salt flats, sandy beaches, and sirens holding band practice in secluded coves. The densely populated waters of southwest Florida open their cache of sea candies to wide-eyed fishermen, who can paddle out to cast lines for snapper, cobia, and sea trout with or without a professional guide. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available by the half-day, full-day, or week.