If you’ve been following my Alternative Florida series, you’ll know that I spent a few days in the gorgeous south western coast of Florida, exploring with the lovely lot from Virgin Holidays. Waving goodbye to beautiful Sarasota, we jumped in our bus and headed down the coast towards Fort Myers. Here, we stayed at the Virgin Holidays 4V rated Pink Shell Resort, walked in the footsteps of Edison and Ford, and even went shelling!
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel, to give them their official title, are possibly the prettiest little cluster of communities I’ve ever seen. From Fort Myers, the ‘City of Palms’, the delightful Colonial hub that meanders alongside the Caloosahatchee River, across the causeway to the blissful beaches of Sanibel and Captiva Islands, the whole place is as pretty as a picture.
I’m presuming this is why Thomas Edison and Henry Ford decided to make this their summer home. The Edison and Ford Winter Estates cover over 20 acres of prime riverside real estate and encompass gorgeous tropical gardens, the historic homes of both men, plus a museum, Edison’s laboratory and even a garden centre. We started with a wander through the gardens, which are utterly beautiful. First off, though, when you pull into the entrance, there’s an enormous Banyan tree. Planted in 1927 as a 4′ sapling, it’s the second largest in the USA, and continues to take out pieces of parking lot as it expands:
The gardens are stunning. You can buy cuttings of heritage plants at the garden centre (sadly not to bring through customs), and Thomas Edison’s wife, Mina’s moonlight garden is heavenly, full of scented plants that take your breath away. Thomas and Mina’s house, and Henry Ford’s next door (complete with a garage full of Model T Fords dating from 1914) are both stunning. I’d love to come back at Christmas as they’re all decorated too.
Check out the Edison’s swimming pool!
After swooning over the houses, sniffing Ylang Ylang, eating fresh mango from the trees and wandering the gardens, we headed indoors where there’s a huge museum of Edison’s inventions, plus his research laboratory. It’s a fascinating place and we could have spent hours more there.
Still, it was lunchtime, and we were VERY excited to be heading just down the road to Pincher’s Crab Shack. I’ve never visited a place like this and oh my word, the food! We ordered a ton of starters, plus cocktails and beers, and all basically just dived in. The table groaned with crisp calamari, this incredible crab and cheese dip…
…pincher claws: delicious fresh Blue Crab claws sautéed in white wine and garlic butter (gloriously messy and utterly divine)…
…and they were just the starters – more deliciousness was still to come in the shape of my fish tacos:
And, frankly, the best dessert I’ve eaten in a very long time, the Pinchers key lime pie (they’ve very kindly given me the recipe for this, so I hope to be recreating it very soon):
We then basically WADDLED back to our coach and headed back to beautiful Pink Shell Resort, to lie on the beach like beached whales.
The resort consists of 213 units that are all condos, so they all have kitchens. The condos are individually owned (there’s also a marina at the property), and then managed by Pink Shell Resort. It’s GREAT for children here, from the warm, shallow waters lapping at the perfect sand, to the enormous octopus that looms over the lovely swimming pool, kids will have a ball at this place. This is the view from our balcony:
Lots of families do twin stays when they come to Florida, so maybe a week at Walt Disney World and Universal, followed by a gorgeous chill-out week on the beach. It seems like the perfect holiday to me.
That evening, we headed out to Fresh Catch Bistro, another must-do if you visit Fort Myers. It’s right on the beach (we darted down to take pictures as the sun began to set), and the cocktails, seafood and desserts are incredible. Sadly it was too dark to take any pictures, but, wow, what a gorgeous place.
The next morning we were up early and pretty amazed when we found out where we’d be eating breakfast. Pink Shell Resort had laid on the most stunning breakfast table I’d ever seen:
We dined on fresh fruit and shrimp and eggs Benedict and oh, it was just the most heavenly breakfast. We didn’t want to leave, but we had an appointment with a special lady:
Pam Rambo has a business called ‘I Love Shelling‘ (follow her on Instagram for the most amazing pics). Pam took us along the shoreline from the Sanibel lighthouse, pointing out different shells, and telling us all about the sealife. Pam is just the most beautiful, positive, uplifting soul to spend time with and I think we all fell in love with her a bit. Each shell is a treasure, and she’s just so passionate about the shore and the area, and all the gorgeous shells…
For an idea of how a twin stay would work, I asked Virgin Holidays for a sample price (review of La Playa Beach and Golf resort coming soon – it’s gorgeous):
14 nights in Florida with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, seven nights room only accommodation at the 3V Disney’s All-Star Resorts and seven nights room only accommodation at the 4V+ La Playa Beach & Golf Resort and car hire starts from £1,079 per adult and £355 per child. Price is per person based on 2 adults and 2 children travelling and sharing a standard room and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on November 16 2015. Disney’s 7 day Ultimate Ticket starts from £319 per adult ticket and £299 per child ticket (aged 3-9). Start your holiday before you’ve even taken off in the v-room at Gatwick Airport… adults £24.50, kids from £14. Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected. To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk , 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 126 stores located in Debenhams and House of Fraser stores nationwide.
For more information on anything to do with visiting Florida, check out visitflorida.com.