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April 2024
Ray Sarracino, Jackie Parker, Miriam Dotson 239-338-3500

What’s New from Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches
and Neighborhoods

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium reopens, April calendar
full of spring events

LEE COUNTY, Florida (U.S.A.)
– The April calendar is packed with fun events
including concerts, a garden party at a historic home, a film festival, Earth Day
celebrations and much more! For vacation planning to our islands, beaches and
neighborhoods, check out the new 2024 Visitor Guide for everything to assist in
making vacation memories.

How did this area become a popular tourist destination?  It began in Tarpon
Bay on March 19, 1885, and Southwest Florida was changed forever.

A mighty silver-sided tarpon was captured on a rod and reel for the first time on
record. Southwest Florida became the epicenter of a new sport that generated
interest around the globe. Celebrities and presidents were lured (no pun intended)
to the area to catch the silver king. As a result, the area became a major tourist

Anglers still come in search of the silver king of gamefish beginning each April.
This year, three tarpon tournaments (catch and release) will take place in May.
Check each website for details on participation and sponsorships.

12th Annual “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament, Sanibel
May 10
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the location of the first
recorded tarpon caught on rod and reel in 1885. To celebrate the historical
moment and Southwest Florida’s history of fishing, the “Ding” Darling Wild-
life Society & Doc Ford’s began the “Ding” Darling & Doc Ford’s Tarpon
Tournament. All of the support raised from sponsors goes directly into the
vital work at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.   

South Seas Tarpon Tournament, Captiva Island
May 17
South Seas is hosting its first South Seas Tarpon Tournament, partnering with
Folds of Honor. The non-profit organization provides life-changing scholarships
for the spouses and children of America’s fallen and disabled military and first

World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, Boca Grande
May 22-23
Lee County boasts one of the most tarpon-frenzied bodies of water in the world:
namely Boca Grande Pass. The area’s oldest Tarpon tournament, it focuses on
conservation, education and sportsmanship, working on projects that teach future
generations to protect and love nature.   

Don’t miss this month!
India Fest 2024 brings taste of South Asia to Southwest Florida
A vibrant celebration of culture and tradition is set for 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 6,
at Caloosa Sound Amphitheater in Fort Myers, when India Fest returns. With food
and drink vendors, boutique shopping, a fashion show, live dance performances
and a DJ on the riverfront stage, the  grand finale is a Holi Color Play, a traditional
celebration of spring in which attendees throw handfuls of colorful powder on each
other. Details and ticket information:  

Garden Tea Party at Edison and Ford Winter Estates 
In celebration of Clara Ford’s birthday, Edison and Ford Winter Estates will hold a
garden tea party from 2-4 p.m. April 11.  The tea party will be held in the garden
space next to Thomas Edison’s caretaker’s house. Guests are encouraged to dress
for a tea party, with dresses and garden hats.    Historic character, “Clara Ford,”
will talk about the ongoing restoration of her summer home, Fair Lane in Dearborn,
Michigan, while sharing some insights into her life with Henry and how she used her
gardens to promote her favorite charities.  Reservations and tickets:  

“Ding” Darling Day Conservation Carnival returns to Lakes Park  
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge returns to Lakes Park in Fort Myers
for its 35th annual “Ding” Darling Day, April 20. The celebration also observes Earth
Day, which officially falls on April 22.   

The full day of family activities runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special free outdoor
activities include carnival games, prizes, archery, a dunk tank, a rock-climbing wall,
Earth Day crafts, art demonstrations, guided bilingual birding walks, a biking tour,
guided mindfulness programs, live music, food and educational interactions with
other local conservation organizations.  

Happenings at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers
Learn how to make plants a part of your life on April 24 at a Friends of Six Mile Cypress
Slough Speaker Series event from 5 to 6 p.m. Dr. Joyce Fassbender, Ph.D., will talk about
the essential role of pollinators in supporting agriculture, maintaining plant diversity, and
sustaining overall ecosystem health. A half-hour meet-and-greet begins at 4:30 p.m.
Reservations are required. Don’t miss the free daily walks and the April 22 Full Moon Walk,
along with many other activities at the Slough.  

Also happening this month
Concert in the Park, Cape Coral
April 4
Four Freedoms Park  

Clyde and Niki Butcher photography presentation
April 4 J.N.
“Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge  

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium lecture series,
Sanibel Island
April 11 at Sanibel Community House  

Culture Fest, Cape Coral 
April 27
Cultural Park  

Accommodations news
South Seas, Captiva Island
Visit for reservations. Resort amenities that are open include
Sunset Beach, Yacht Harbour Marina, trolley service and Bayview pool com-
plex with more scheduled for spring and fall openings.

Fins Up! Beach Club opens at Margaritaville Beach Resort,

Fort Myers Beach
Resort guests and day pass holders enjoy the amenities of this action-packed
aquatic playground situated on the Gulf of Mexico and Matanzas Bay.

Sanibel Moorings Resort reopens 
The Sanibel Island resort has reopened half of its one- two- and three-bedroom
condo suites on the Gulf of Mexico. Each unit includes a living room, dining
area, full kitchen and a large, private screened lanai.

DoubleTree by Hilton Fort Myers at Bell Tower shops in Fort Myers
The 224-room hotel opened with major renovations to the hotel’s lobby, 6,196
square feet of meeting space. Shoeless Joe’s Sports Cafe and deck are being
completed. The hotel features refreshed guest rooms, a fitness center and a
heated outdoor tropical pool.

Attractions news and more
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium reopens 
The museum has reopened its Living Gallery of Aquariums with a mix of
mollusks, corals, fish, and other marine life species that were featured pre-
hurricane. And there is also much that is new for visitors to enjoy. The sur-
rounding exhibits have been significantly expanded to dive deeper into the
biology and behavior of mollusks, the dynamics of their ecosystems, and
challenges and successes of their conservation. Species of marine life on
exhibit include two-spot octopus, flamingo tongue, disco clam, giant clam,
queen conch and others. Select other species, such as the giant pacific
octopus, will be added in the near future.

“Ding” Darling” is #3 in USA Today Reader’s Choice
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island came in
third in the top 10 in USA Today’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best Nation-
al Wildlife Refuge.

Calusa Blueway Challenge

Take the Calusa Blueway Challenge and celebrate 20 years of the Great
Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail by checking in at locations along the trail
for a chance to win prizes. Earn points as you paddle and check in at at-
tractions, restaurants, parks and nature spots along the trail. Paddle on your
own, experience a guided tour, shop at a local business or grab a bite to eat
as you explore the 200-mile marked trail that meanders through the back-bay
estuaries, rivers, and shorelines of Fort Myers Islands, Beaches and Neighbor-
hoods. Complete a certain number of check-ins on the pass to be entered to
win a Body Glove iSUP Performer 11’ or a two-night stay at Tarpon Lodge.
Details and sign up:

Sun Saver Passport: Dine, Play, Shop, Sip
This popular, digital savings pass provides instant access to a variety of deals and
experiences from area attractions, restaurants and more across four categories: Dine,
Play, Shop and Sip. Sign-up is simple and free. Passports are instantly delivered to
phones via text and email. And there is an option for users to save the pass on their
home screen for one-tap access. Sign up now to start saving.

Cape Coral Quest 2.0: Win prizes and explore 
Start exploring with the latest pass to earn discounts and rewards in Cape Coral.
Known for its unique shopping opportunities, restaurants, and more than 400 miles
of canal waterways, the area is full of vibrant culture. Each participating location has
a four-digit code somewhere on the property. Answer 20 riddles to be entered to win
the grand prize: a two-night stay at The Westin Cape Coral with daily breakfast. Enter
all 30 codes and you’ll earn a 2024 Sunsplash Season Pass! Get your pass, check out
details and tips at and start participating on any
mobile device. 

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) news
New air service at RSW

Frontier Airlines

-Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)-weekly, starting April 22
-San Juan, PR (SJU)-weekly, starting June 2

JetBlue Airways Worcester (ORH)-weekly, seasonal 
Spirit Airlines San Juan, PR (SJU)-weekly, year-round
Breeze Airways
-Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT) weekly, starting Oct. 2
-Stewart/Newburgh, New York (SWF) weekly, starting Oct. 2
-Lansing, Michigan (LAN) weekly, starting Oct. 3
-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania (AVP) weekly, starting Oct. 3
-Bangor, Maine (BGR) weekly, starting Oct. 5
For more information, visit

Restaurants/dining news
Southern Living has named iconic Mucky Duck on Captiva Island one of 18 of the
best beach bars in the south. A visitor and local favorite that dates back to the 1970s,
the British-inspired pub is known for its sunset views, beach location, food and drinks.

The owners of Island Cow and Mad Hatter restaurants on Sanibel Island have opened
the Magic Bus Ice Cream and Caffeine at 362 Periwinkle Way, in the plaza formerly
occupied by Lighthouse Café and Sanibel Ice Cream. Longtime island restaurateurs
Brian and Elke Podlasek and Max and Bridget Kolshak teamed up after the Podlasek’s
Island Cow restaurant was destroyed by fire and the Kolshak’s Mad Hatter was lost to
Hurricane Ian. The Magic Bus features vintage VW-inspired decor with indoor and out-
door seating offering an old-fashioned ice cream shop with 24 flavors, a candy store feel,
plus modern coffee beverages, refresher drinks and baked goods.

Venturino’s Comedy Club has opened in the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Estero.
Check schedule and tickets at

In the news featured the area in its 4 Must-Visit Places to Visit to Celebrate Earth Day.

Reader’s Digest loves our beaches 15 best Florida beaches in the publication included
Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island, Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island, Turner Beach on
Captiva Island and Lovers Key.  

Annual festivals and events
Concert in the Park, Cape Coral
April 4
Four Freedoms Park

Clyde and Niki Butcher photography presentation
April 4
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

Florida Lighthouse Day
April 6
Port Boca Grande Lighthouse & Museum and Gasparilla Island Lighthouse  

4th annual Rock the Ages Music Festival
April 6-7 Alliance for the Arts, Fort Myers

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum & Aquarium lecture series,
Sanibel Island
April 11 at Sanibel Community House

9th annual Bonita Springs Film Festival
April 18
Prado Stadium
35th Annual “Ding” Darling Day Conservation Carnival
April 20

Wonder Gardens Earth Day Celebration, Bonita Springs
April 20

Culture Fest, Cape Coral 
April 27
Cultural Park

12th Annual “Ding” Darling and Doc Ford’s Tarpon Tournament
May 10

South Seas Tarpon Tournament, Captiva Island
May 17  

World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, Boca Grande
May 22-23

14th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival
May 22-26

Fringe Fort Myers
June 6-9

National Seashell Day
June 21

Red, White & BOOM! In Cape Coral
July 4

July TBA
Pine Island

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest
Sept. 20-29

FITMIX FEST, downtown Fort Myers
Sept. 27-29

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge “Art in the Wild”
Oct. 19

Cape Coral Oktoberfest
Oct. 18-20 and 25-27

Sanibel Island Writers Conference
November TBA

Holiday Luminary and kick-off to Sanibel Island 50th anniversary
Dec. 6-7
Sanibel and Captiva islands
13-month celebration of Sanibel’s 50th anniversary.

40th Annual Cape Coral Art Festival and Market Place
January 2025

Bacon Jam
January 2025
Caloosa Sound Amphitheater, downtown Fort Myers

34th Tour De Cape in Cape Coral
January 2025
Rotary Park

ArtFest Fort Myers, Downtown River District
Feb. 1-2, 2025  

Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade, Fort Myers
February 2025  

23rd Annual Burrowing Owl Festival, Cape Coral
Wildlife and Environmental Expo
February 2025
Rotary Park  

26th Annual Southwest Florida Reading Festival, Fort Myers
March 2025
Fort Myers Regional Library, downtown Fort Myers  

89th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival, Sanibel Island
March 2025
Community House

Sanibel Shell Show, Fort Myers
March 2025
Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort  

Fort Myers Beach annual Lion’s Club Shrimp Festival
March 2025  

Southwest Florida Ag Expo
Feb. 27-March 9, 2025
Lee County Civic Center Complex  

ECHO Global Food and Farm Festival, North Fort Myers 
March 2025  

Spring training  Boston Red Sox 
February 2025
JetBlue Park, Fort Myers  

Minnesota Twins
February 2025
Lee Health Sports Complex/Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers  

EDITOR’S NOTE: Fort Myers – Islands, Beaches and Neighborhoods includes:
Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs,
Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Matlacha, Boca Grande & Outer Islands,
North Fort Myers, Alva, Buckingham and Lehigh Acres. For more information,
go to
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