Of course, families can’t leave the area without visiting one of its most famous attractions, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, a 14-acre riverfront estate with Old Florida-style homes, a laboratory, experimental gardens and carefully preserved memorabilia. For families with smaller children, a self-guided audio tour is recommended because they’ll be able to go at their own pace—cool spots not to miss are the Caloosahatchee River outlook; the banyan tree; the lovely moonlight garden; the old-school swimming pool; the Ford automobile exhibit; and our personal favorite—the laboratory, possessing both an eerie and magical quality.
Remind clients, though, that the summers here are brutal, so touring these open-air attractions, as beautiful as they might be, can be a beat down. So just like they would at the beach, use lots of sunscreen, light clothes and sunglasses.
Additionally, the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has a dedicated website for travel professionals where you’ll be able to find the right attractions for your client: fortmyers-sanibel.com/departments/travel-professionals. There’s also a travel agent help desk where you can request customized kits containing a Traveler’s Guide, map and individual hotel and attractions information: (800) 237-6444.
where to book As befits a beach resort town, there are myriad properties available for booking, but with four properties in the area—from luxe to more low-key —SunStream Hotels & Resorts offers the best array of inventory. We made ourselves right at home at the collection’s Pointe Estero property, located on the widest stretch of Fort Myers Beach, with roomy accommodations and wraparound, screened-in private balconies that offer stunning views from every vantage point. This three-star condo resort is a very welcoming property without any bells and whistles, except for the fact that it has a stretch of paradise for a backyard. Here, guests will find 60 fully appointed, 1750-sq.-ft., 1- and 2-bedroom accommodations with, of course, fully equipped kitchens, so families can cut down on eating out costs. We must also make note of the en-suite oversized—make that ridiculously oversized—jacuzzis in which clients can relax while looking out over the bay and the surrounding area. It’s a wonderful treat that should definitely be taken advantage of. A nice touch for families was the kid-friendly-sized sink area in the second bathroom, which adjoins the second bedroom with twin beds, a small flat-screen TV, and desk, as well as access to the terrace. Recommend the penthouse suites, which feature a loft with fireplace and large rooftop sundeck, as well as a kid favorite—a spiral staircase.
Onsite amenities include a pool, a fitness center, tennis and volleyball courts, and a common area with gas grills for those who want to cook up their day’s catch.
Next door, there’s Pointe Estero’s more contemporary sister property, GullWing, with 66 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom accommodations. It offers all of the same amenities as Pointe Estero, but its pool overlooks the beach front, and there’s a more sophisticated touch to the property and guestrooms. Both properties offer daily housekeeping at an add-on to the daily hotel rate.
Closer to Fort Myers Beach’s Times Square, you’ll find the more exclusive DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa. This is a more traditional hotel experience, with 124 700-sq.-ft. suites that can accommodate up to four, with private balconies offering views of the Gulf, but note these accommodations do not have fully equipped kitchens. Onsite, though, are various restaurants, including the poolside Cabanas Beach Bar & Grill. There’s also the Esterra Spa & Salon—which is available to all SunStream guests—and access to endless watersports. Housekeeping, too, is included in the daily rate. Nearby is The Resort at MarinaVillage, in Cape Coral. It’s the newest of the SunStream properties, and offers studio, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom suites with up to 1,347 sq. ft. of living space complete with full kitchens, living/dining areas and large private balconies with sweeping views of the Caloosahatchee River, San Carlos Bay and the Gulf. There’s also waterfront dining, a full-service marina, pools, and the spa. The resort, however, does not have direct access to the beach, although it does offer a free shuttle; families with smaller children might want to opt for one of the beachfront properties.
SunStream is offering a Free Florida Nights promotion: book two nights at DiamondHead, or The Resort at MarinaVillage, and clients get their third night free or book three nights at GullWing or Pointe Estero and they’ll get their fourth night free. Offer available through Oct. 28, 2010 (black out dates may apply).