Estero a south county hub
May 28, 2009
panish for estuary, Estero has been slowly transformed from undeveloped land that was once little more than a remote home for a newfound religious sect and habitat for an Everglades-draining ecosystem.
Until just a few decades ago, Estero, nestled in south Lee County, was a nearly empty expanse of cow pastures, orange groves, historic homes and a lazy Estero River draining to Estero Bay. But, boy, how times have changed.
The Estero River is still there for visitors and residents to paddle up or down the scenic waterway, but perhaps that has been overshadowed in recent years by the break-neck pace at which Estero has developed into one of the fastest growing areas of Lee County.
To keep growth under control, local residents have banded together to persuade the county to only allow Mediterranean-style architecture and top-of-the-line stores. Even gas stations must conform to the look of luxury.
With more people has come the housing, amenities and attractions to support the growth.
Things to do
If shopping is your draw, Miromar Outlets offers some of the best savings at name-brand stores in Southwest Florida, while Coconut Point and Gulf Coast Town Center offer, between them more than 260 stores, shops and restuarants.
Spectator sports more your thing? Then the three professional sports teams that call Germain Arena home should keep you entertained. The arena is also open to the public for a cool ice skating or hockey treat, plus major concerts and other events are held there all year. Florida Gulf Coast University is also home to college athletics, including men’s and women’s basketball and hockey, all of which play at Alico Arena on campus.
* State parks
And if the great outdoors suit your nature best, there are three Florida state parks, including the Koreshan State Historic Site that commemorates the 1894 settlement of the somewhat peculiar followers of Cyrus Reed Teed. At least two outlets rent kayaks and canoes to explore some these preserved areas, including a newly –acquired 104 acres adjacent to Koreshan park on the Estero River.
If you like something a little different while enjoying the Florida sunshine, there is no shortage of golf courses in Estero. With an average high temperature of 75 degrees in the winter, you can enjoy the greens at nine Estero golf courses all year long. Or travel just a few miles to Fort Myers or Bonita Springs for countless other opportunities to seek your reward at the 19th hole.
While in South Lee County, it’s hard to ignore some of the other attractions just outside of Estero.
* Neighborhoods and communities
Just to the north is San Carlos Park, a community of winding streets, lakes and canals, which was built starting in the 1960s. Driving south on U.S. 41, you will see a large archway on Constitution Boulevard, the gateway to the community. If you spend time there, check out San Carlos Plaza. The shopping center sports not one, but two ice cream stands, and is a popular spot with a sports bar, clothing shops, retail stores and neighborhood hardware store.
Head south of Estero and enter a world of fine dining, grand hotels on the water and charming boutiques. U.S. 41 eventually takes you to cities like Bonita Springs and Naples and the relaxation of Marco Island.
For beach lovers, drive west on Bonita Beach Road to Lovers Key, with miles of pristine beaches, and even a special beach for dogs to run without a leash — heaven for beachwalkers and their best friends. Like every coastal area in southwest Florida, it’s easy to find an outdoor restaurant, beach or marina to watch the sun set over the calm blue Gulf of Mexico.
Finding your way back to Estero, perhaps the most interesting attraction is its history.