Step Out on a Tour: Walking Through the Sights and Scenes Southwest FloridaSep 22, 2022 11:35AM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan
Taking a tour is a great way to learn more about Southwest Florida. We gathered some local offerings so you can slip on your walking shoes and join the tour fun.
For those interested in history, the Bonita Springs Historical Society offers educational and entertaining tours of its downtown. “There are several different walk itineraries, each focusing on a particular area and with different stories,” says Charlie Strader, president of the historical society. Walking-tour themes include How Bonita Got Its Name (featuring Shangri-La Springs), Places of Wonderment (Everglades Wonder Gardens and historic tourist attractions), Downtown Landmarks (past and present landmarks and early development), Cruising Down the River (the Imperial River and local waters), and the Land of the Calusa (local archaeology).
The tours are scheduled on Saturdays during the season, and customized walks are available for groups of 10 or more.
For a historical perspective of Naples, the Naples Historical Society offers tours of its historic district. “Naples Historical Society is the central voice of Naples history, and our educational tours are exceptional,” says John Telischak, education manager. All tours begin at Historic Palm Cottage, the portal to Naples history. Guests can take a tour of Naples’ oldest house and learn about the early pioneers who built the town. Or they can enjoy a mile-long walking tour of the Naples Historic District, where they’ll walk back alleys and see the original “downtown” of Naples. Reservations are recommended.
Fort Myers visitors can step back in time via a tour of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. “Guests stroll through the Edison winter home, botanical gardens, and historic research laboratory and get a glimpse into Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s lives in Southwest Florida,” explains Lisa Wilson, marketing and public relations director. The tour features an up-close look at original artifacts and historic plants used in the two men’s research projects. A number of different tours, both self-guided and led by historians, are available.
Tours of the Sanibel Historical Museum & Village tell the story of Sanibel from the Calusa and Spanish eras to the early pioneer families who settled on the island in the 1800s. Both guided and self-guided tours are available. Participants learn about warriors, adventurers, fishermen, farmers, and proprietors. “The island’s way of life is re-created in a village of nine structures that have been relocated from their original sites, restored, and preserved,” says executive director Emilie Alfino. “Visitors trace the footsteps of the island’s past as they meander along a handicapped-accessible path lined with buildings.” The grounds include a pioneer home, fishing cottage, post office, schoolhouse, tea room, general store, and more. The museum closes for the summer on August 1 and reopens on October 18 on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm.
History aside, those who love good spirits and want to learn more about how they are made might enjoy a visit to Wicked Dolphin in Cape Coral. Tours include a chance to see the distillery where all Wicked Dolphin products are handcrafted and bottled. Guests will also see the Barrel Room, home to more than 160 once-used American white oak bourbon barrels filled with rum, being aged to perfection. And they’ll get to sample the product. “A free tour consists of a free sample cocktail and one of our distillers walking you through our facility, explaining what our equipment does and how our rum is made. You then go full circle back into the tasting room,” says Maria Venegas, graphic designer and social media coordinator for the distillery. Wicked Dolphin offers free tours every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Reservations recommended.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
IF YOU GO
Bonita Springs Historical Society
27451 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
Edison and Ford Winter Estates
2350 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Naples Historical Society
137 12th Avenue S, Naples
Sanibel Historical Museum & Village
950 Dunlop Road, Sanibel
131 SW Third Place, Cape Coral