Located in the southern region of Florida’s west coast bordering the Gulf of Mexico, Estero in Lee County is known mainly for the interesting group who originally founded the village in 1894.
The founders were the followers of a man named Cyrus Teed, who believed that the earth is hollow and that the world we know is actually on the inside of its outer layer.
The original village consisted of just more than 300 acres, and though Estero is still small, it’s grown significantly since then – especially its population.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Estero, Florida.
1. Koreshan State Historic Site
Once the home of a religious group known as the Koreshans that was founded in New York State more than 150 years ago, Koreshan State Historic Site has been set aside to preserve the last colony of the group that disbanded in the early ‘60s.
The site is operated as a state park, and in addition to its unique historical aspect, is home to a variety of natural habitats and wildlife, including gators, bobcats, foxes, and American river otters.
The site has been listed on the National Register of Historic Sites since the mid-‘70s and offers visitors a variety of recreation options, such as fishing, kayaking, hiking, and camping.
2. Estero Community Park
Estero Community Park is comprised of nearly 60 acres in Lee County and is an often overlooked community resource that packs a huge punch for those looking for inexpensive ways to spend their valuable vacation time and money.
The park consists of a traditional outdoor park and an indoor community center.
Admission to the outdoor park is free, and for those who’d like to take advantage of the community center’s amenities, there’s a nominal fee. It’s also possible to buy a one-time membership that’s surprisingly inexpensive.
The park’s attractions include a swimming pool, playgrounds, beach volleyball courts, and an off-leash dog park.
3. Stoneybrook Golf Course
At more than 7,300 yards, the Stoneybrook Golf Course in Estero is a bit on the long side but has been rated as appropriate for beginners by a nationally known golf association.
The par-72 course offers players a variety of tees, and for those who choose to play from the shortest, the course’s length is significantly reduced.
The course is known for its serene natural habitats, clear lakes, abundant sand hazards, and multi-tiered greens; much of it has been renovated in the last few years.
You’ll want to reserve your tee time in advance during peak times.
4. Coconut Point Mall
Featuring more than 125 stores, the Coconut Point Mall is the perfect place to hang out when the weather isn’t conducive to being outside.
Though Coconut Point is an outdoor mall, there are plenty of shaded seating areas, and the individual stores are air-conditioned. Previous guests have marveled at the number and diversity of shopping, dining, and entertainment options available.
There’s a movie theater, an authentic Belgian chocolatier, a California Pizza Kitchen, and a Build a Bear Workshop that’s always a big hit with the little ones.
The complex is built around a central lake, and there’s a boardwalk that’s great for an afternoon stroll.
5. Mound Key Archaeological State Park
Mound Key Archaeological State Park is one of the area’s most significant historical sites and is comprised of more than 100 acres on an island in scenic Estero Bay.
The park includes archaeological ruins of the Native American Calusa people, who were known for constructing large ceremonial mounds.
The site also contains remnants and artifacts left behind by Spanish explorers who explored Florida hundreds of years before it was officially settled.
The park is accessible by a boat that departs from the Koreshan State Park; check online for the boat schedule and park hours before making a special trip.
6. The Happehatchee Center
Since the early ‘70s, the Happehatchee Center has been a private retreat. In the language of the indigenous Native Americans, the name means ‘happy river.’
The center’s land area is small but particularly scenic. In addition to outdoor recreation activities like hiking and kayaking, the center’s staff offer a wide variety of wellness programs, many of which are based on old-world practices like yoga, tai chi, and Ayurveda.
The center is located on Corkscrew Road in Estero, and they also offer a number of environmental and sustainable agriculture courses including composting and aquaponics.
It’s a must-visit attraction for those who could use a little help getting their lives back in balance.
7. Ford’s Garage
If relaxing in a comfortable atmosphere, dining on world-class burgers and beer while surrounded by cool, early 20th-century automobile memorabilia sounds like a great way to spend a few hours, then Ford’s Garage in Estero should be on your list of must-visit establishments.
The family-friendly restaurant is a Ford Motor Company officially licensed business and was built to resemble a vintage auto mechanic’s garage.
Don’t worry, it’s much cleaner than a garage, and is known as the home to some of the area’s tastiest and most inventive gourmet burgers as well as several locally brewed craft beers.
8. Miromar Outlets
Sporting more than 130 individual stores, Miromar Outlets are a popular shopping destination for those looking to mix things up a bit and add a bit of retail therapy to their list of vacation activities.
The mall is set up in open-air style, but individual stores are air-conditioned, and there’s plenty of shaded seating between them.
Nationally-known brands include J. Crew, Puma, and Osh-Kosh, and in addition to the retail outlets, there are many dining options, such as Starbucks, Dairy Queen, and even a Japanese steak and sushi restaurant.
Many guests end up staying longer than expected, so don’t be surprised if you do too.
9. Gulf Coast Symphony
When visiting a state like Florida that’s chockfull of natural beauty, it’s easy to forget about cultural attractions, but for those who’ve had their fill of the great outdoors and find themselves in need of a little refinement and culture, the Gulf Coast Symphony would be a great place to spend an evening.
The symphony was founded in the mid-‘90s and is considered by symphony aficionados to be one of the country’s preeminent venues.
In addition to their world-class performances, the symphony’s musicians and staff offer a variety of community outreach programs aimed at promoting the performing arts, as well as encouraging young ones to take an interest and perhaps even become performers in the future.
10. Sanibel Sea School
Located on Sanibel Island just across from Fort Myers Beach, the Sanibel Sea School is a unique business that offers a number of programs, camps, and activities that have been designed to engage, entertain, and enlighten children of all ages.
The school offers both full and half-day programs that are available year-round at two area facilities.
Swimming, nature studies, and guided tours are all available; with such a full schedule of educational, interactive, and calorie-burning activities, there’s little chance of anyone getting bored.
The school also has some adult programs, so check out their website for specifics.
11. Center for the Arts – Bonita Springs
Featuring visiting performers from all over the state and country, Center for the Arts – Bonita Springs is another community resource that warrants a serious look for live performance lovers who find themselves in the Estero area with some free time.
The center offers year-round entertainment that includes plays, concerts, dance, and even indie and international films that are a bit artsier than what you’ll see at the national chain movie theaters.
The center has hosted some big-name musical performers in recent years, and blues, jazz, classical, and contemporary music are all on their calendar of events – as are stand-up comics and some well-known plays.
12. She Sells Sea Shells
Sanibel Island’s long stretches of beach are renowned for their abundance of odd and beautiful seashells. For those who’d like to pick a few up without spending hours combing the sunbaked sand, stopping at She Sells Sea Shells would be a wise choice.
From coral and shells to locally made jewelry, arts and crafts, hats, t-shirts, and other uniquely Florida items, She Sells Sea Shells is definitely worth a look when on the island.
Open year-round until 9 PM daily, the shop has been a family-owned business since 1976, drawing many of the same repeat customers year after year.
13. Key West Express
For many travelers, no place more embodies the spirit of Florida than Key West. Even for those staying in the Estero area, there’s a convenient and reasonably priced way to get there without spending half your day in airports.
The Key West Express is comprised of a few massive boats capable of holding hundreds of passengers that make the daily trek from the southern Gulf Coast to Key West.
The trip takes a few hours, food and drinks are available onboard, and passengers will see some of the incredible island and ocean vistas imaginable.
They’re open year-round except Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving.
14. Fossil Expeditions
Apparently, in eons past, the land that’s now Florida was largely covered in a shallow sea that was home to some of the most terrifying creatures imaginable; many of them made the modern Great White shark seem soft and cuddly by comparison.
Fossil Expeditions is a guided tour service that’s open year-round and appropriate for all ages. They specialize in taking guests on fossil-hunting expeditions that commonly uncover giant shark’s teeth and bones from long extinct saber-toothed cats, wooly mammoths, and other prehistoric beasts.
It’s a unique, family-friendly option that’s typically among the most memorable of most vacationer’s activities.
15. Bowditch Point Park
Located at the north end of Estero Island, Bowditch Point Park sits on nearly 20 acres of beachfront that’s particularly well-known for its panoramic ocean views, clear waters, and abundant activity options.
Don’t expect to find a Starbucks or a retail outlet nearby, but if you’re looking to swim, sunbathe, take a long walk, or do a bit of kayaking, you could do a lot worse.
The park’s amenities include bathrooms, covered picnic areas, and snack and drink concessions. Kayaks are available to rent for those who’d like to take to the water.
Unless there’s a special event, the park isn’t usually too crowded, and there’s ample onsite parking.