John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art : The circus business made John Ringling a very rich man, and his gargantuan Gilded Age mansion is a circus of a different kind. Regardless of his penchant for overload, Ringling definitely had an eye for fine art, and the art museum on the grounds has one of the best-curated collections of masterworks in the state.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates : Thomas Edison was so taken by Fort Myers’s swampy rugged environment — all the better for quiet innovation — that he not only built a large permanent winter residence here and equipped the city with an electrical grid but also convinced his friend Henry Ford to build his own winter home here. The two estates, conveniently enough, are next door to each another and can be visited together.
Lovers Key State Park : Formerly only accessible by a backwater boat trip — hence its reputation as an ideal spot for amorous couples to escape to — Lovers Key State Park still maintains a secretive feel, with secluded and quiet beaches, nature trails, and out-of-the-way canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
Cayo Costa State Park : Routinely ranked as one of the state’s best beaches, the nine miles of white sand at Cayo Costa are, indeed, impossibly gorgeous. Accessible only by private boat or ferry, and with only the most basic amenities, this rustic tropical island is a great place to get away from it all.
J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge : Most visitors to Sanibel and Captiva Islands head there for the quiet white-sand beaches and the combination of flip-flop laziness and upscale amenities. However, this wildlife refuge — named after one of the early 20th century’s most notable (and ecologically minded) political cartoonists — welcomes thousands of guests annually who show up for some of the best bird-watching in the entire state of Florida.
Everglades National Park : Covering 1.5 million acres across the southern tip of Florida, Everglades National Park is the third-largest national park in the continental United States and is a focal point of the restoration and preservation efforts that are undertaken to maintain the ecological diversity of the Everglades. More than a million people visit the park every year to escape the bustle of civilization and commune with a spectacularly wild environment filled with hundreds of species of birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals.