With a population of roughly 67,000, the small city of Fort Myers, Florida, is popular with both the young and old for year-round warm temperatures, access to beautiful beaches, amazing sunsets, and baseball: both the Boston Red Sox (which embarked on a five-year plan to make Fenway Park green in 2007) and the Minnesota Twins call the City of Palms their home away from home.
Located just two hours south of Tampa, Fort Myers is also more than just a relaxing place to erect your beach umbrella—with plenty of outdoor activities to keep your trip green, from swimming with manatees to canoeing trips. Before making your trip, check the weather: While Florida is the sunshine state, hurricane season can be a bit rough.
Little known fact: Long before the hybrid car and the energy-efficient CFL, Fort Myers was the home of both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who were friends, and today you can still tour their homes and grounds.
For the most recent green happenings in Fort Myers, scroll through TreeHugger's Florida Archives.
1. Take Public Transportation: Bus From the Airport and the Trolley
Transportation can be tough to navigate in Fort Myers, but doable with a little planning. From the Southwest Florida International Airport, the LeeTran bus company will take you to a transfer point that serves several central destinations. All buses come with bike racks. Several hotels also offer a complementary shuttle bus service. Once in the city, the Park and Ride Trolley System can get you from downtown to the Fort Myers Beach for just $.50 each way or $3 for a three-day pass.
2. Stay in a Certified Green Hotel
Fort Myers has several hotels proudly showcasing the One Palm designation from the state of Florida awarding their green efforts, including the Crowne Plaza Fort Myers, the Courtyard by Marriott Fort Myers and Gulf Coast Town Center and the Diamondhead Beach Resort. To earn this designation, hotel management embraced green thinking like water-saving faucets, linen reuse in each of the guest rooms, upgrading to programmable thermostats, and purchasing materials in bulk.
3. Relax and Rejuvenate at a Green Spa
Ready to be spoiled? Both the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Spa and the Sanibel Harbour Resort and Spa offer organic spa treatments as well as organic products for purchase. At [url='http://www.aquagenespa.com/services/index.cfm']Pink Shell's Aquag
4. Enjoy Local Produce at Sandy Butler Market and Restaurant or Cru
Swing over to the veranda or sand bar at Sandy Butler Market and Restaurant or Cru, and you'll find two establishments dishing up delicious local fare. All citrus used in the Sandy Butler Restaurant is grown at a garden in Alva, Florida. Desserts are made fresh, without "canned, frozen or shelf stable" ingredients. Plus, the entire building has a metal roof, which helps keep heating and cooling costs lower. In Fort Myers for a business meeting? Sandy Butler can cater your event.
At Cru, you can enjoy exquisitely prepared dishes like the Local Field Greens Salad or the freshly-caught Caramelized Diver Scallops. Items are carefully selected from local farmers' markets based on season, and if you'd like to recreate your meal at home, Cru also offers cooking classes.
5. Dine at an Organic Vegetarian, Vegan, and Raw Restaurant: Food for Thought
Food & Thought is a grocery store and restaurant all in one. Fare is exclusively organic, with mostly vegan or vegetarian with raw options. The menu changes daily, but includes three entrées (fish, fowl, vegetarian), plus 100 percent fruit smoothies, wraps, bakery goods, and more. When in season, most of the produce comes from an organic garden out back.
6. Rent a Bicycle and Bike to Fort Myers Beach
Getting around town by bike is a great way to discover the area, get some exercise, and reduce your emissions to zero. The Bike Route is one of several bike rental facilities around town, and can get you equipped with both a bike (starting at less than $9 a day or $55 a week) and tips on bike trails. You'll also skip out on the parking—which can be challenging here during peak season.
7. Pack an Organic Picnic for the Beach
Beaches—only requiring a bathing suit, towel, and some green sunscreen—are eco-friendly expeditions. Pack a picnic lunch from food purchased at one of the several local health food stores in the area, including Ada's Natural & Organic Food Supermarket, which includes a hot food buffet, juice bar, and a wide range of produce. Ada's even has a rainforest-theme (several of their other locations are themed as well—Zen, Canadian Woodlands, and a Caribbean Resort). Southern Florida has two growing seasons, so be sure to check for locally grown produce, especially the citrus. And before you leave the beach, make sure to recycle and/or clean up all of your garbage so you don't unintentionally harm local wildlife.
8. Swim or Kayak with Manatees
Ever wanted to swim with an endangered manatee? The Lee County Manatee Park is located in Fort Myers and for just $10 you can rent a kayak and float around with these large sea creatures (also known as sea cows), not to mention contribute to their cause. A little further off the path is the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, home to almost 25 percent of the world's manatee population. Visitors to the Refuge can rent wetsuits and snorkels, and brave the chilly water to get up close and personal. The best time to visit is October through March, when the sea cows vacation in the springs around Crystal River.
9. Take a Guided Canoe Trip
Canoe trails are abundant here, and a great way to see nature at a leisurely pace. A few recommended, official Florida canoe trails are around Pine Island and on the Estero River. Caimans, manatees, birds, turtles, dolphins, and other wildlife are all in residence. Canoes offer the benefit of no carbon emissions, and come with plenty of space to store food and snacks at your feet—you can eat while your partner paddles. Gaea Guides provides naturalist-led guided tours of the area--call for reservations and location information. Koreshan State Historical Site also offers canoe rentals for just $5.30 an hour, but you'll have to find your own way on this tour.
10. Visit Lee County Parks and Recreation For Free Wi-Fi
Hopefully you don't need to work while on vacation, but meeting deadlines while relaxing in nature has never been easier: Lee County Parks and Recreation offers free WI-FI at most of their facilities. They also recently opened a 11,000-square-foot LEED-Certified Interpretive Center, which uses rainwater collection for toilets and has educational displays with information on birds and native flora and fauna. Don't miss the boardwalk winding through the 2,500-acre park.
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