What’s the Word in Lee County

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Island Inn, Sanibel
A serene Gulf view at Island Inn in Sanibel.

There’s so much to do in Lee County. While hotels boost their offerings and amenities, events and attractions continue to grow, making the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel an excellent place for family outings, spa retreats or a plain-old beach vacation.

Upcoming Events
Coming up this November is a free event that promises fun for all, the 26th annual American SandSculpting Championship and Beach Festival. Scheduled this year to run Nov. 7-11, the festival will feature 16 master sculptors from around the world, plus a selection of Florida and amateur sculptors. Though the calendar of events has not yet been finalized, give your clients a good idea from last year’s calendar, which included a Sand Vendor Village, SandSculpting 101 Instruction classes, Luau Beach Fest, Sand Fest Street Party and of course the judging and awards ceremony.

In February 2013, it’ll be time again to celebrate the birthday of Fort Myers’ most famous historical resident, Thomas Edison. The 75th Edison Festival of Light features a month’s worth of invention competitions, parties, craft shows, junior fun run and 5k run, with a few parades dotted throughout as well. In fact, what better way to celebrate the inventor of the lightbulb than with a Grand Parade to close the festivities, featuring marching bands, government officials and floats all lit up to shine through the night. Admission to the Grand Parade is free, with $10 street seats on sale as a fundraiser for local non-profit organizations, and $50 VIP passes sold through the Edison Festival of Light, inclusive of dinner and beverages.

Known around the state for the array of shells that can be found on its beaches, Sanibel Island is perfect for shelling. Start your clients off with a bit of knowledge by having them head for The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, where shells from around Southwest Florida are displayed alongside other large and rare shells from around the world. Admission is $9 for adults and $5 for children ages 5-16.

For a slightly more adventurous excursion, have your clients take a chartered cruise around the islands. If they really are into shelling, Captiva Cruises offers a Cayo Costa Beach and Shelling Cruise ($45 adults/$35 children for full-day; $35 adults/$20 children for half-day) that will deposit them right onto Conde Nast Traveler’s recent pick as one of the “world’s best hidden beaches.” Or for something a little different, have them try a Night Sky Astronomy Cruise or a Dolphin Watch & Wildlife Adventure Cruise. Captiva Cruises offers plenty more options, so be sure to check them out at captivacruises.com.

Massage, Anyone?
Named one of the Top 10 Spa Resorts in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler, Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers offers guests 40,000 sq. ft. of rejuvenation, with 28 treatment rooms offering more than 60 treatments. A unique option here is the BETAR (Bio Energetic Transduction Aided Resonance) sound bed, one of just 16 in the world, where guests relax with aromatheraphy treatments and surround-sound music while the bed creates energy wave impulses. Make your client’s spa retreat into a vacation with the Revitalize and Rejuvenate package, inclusive of lush accommodations plus four 25-minute services or two 50-minute services. Rates range from $399-$589, valid through Dec. 31. Use promo code SPA. For more information, call (800) 767-7777 or visit sanibel-resort.com.

Recent Renovations
With $850,000 in recent renovations and upgrades, Island Inn on Sanibel Island is looking better than new. The on-property restaurant, Traditions on the Beach, has been reimagined to feature a bar and lounge with live music and dancing nightly. Guestrooms and suites have been completely revamped, too, featuring new furniture, draperies, fixtures, artwork and hardwood and tile flooring, plus updated kitchen facilities. In-room entertainment now boasts flat-screen TVs and DVD/CD players in each room, plus free WiFi throughout the property.

Additional amenities at Island Inn feature heated pool, sports equipment rental and babysitting services. Rates start at $129 per night. For more information, call (800) 851-5088 or visit islandinnsanibel.com.

Meanwhile in Boca Grande, boaters are always welcome at The Gasparilla Inn & Club, where recent enhancements have upgraded the Inn Marina with 71 new dry slips up to 30 ft. in length, plus a renovated boat ramp and new ship’s store. Golfers, however, will have more appreciation for the par-72 Pete Dye Signature 18-hole Championship Course, recently improved to enhance play. Additional on-property amenities include the spa/salon, Croquet Club and Tennis Club, or the property’s concierge can set up adventure excursions, sportfishing trips, sunset cruises and shopping excursions.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club’s upcoming regular season lasts from Oct. 11, 2012-July 7, 2013, with starting rates ranging from $225-$385 per night. For more information, call (877) 403-0599 or visit gasparillainn.com.