Head east of Naples along Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) to immerse yourself in the region’s wild side and Old Florida culture. For glimpses of wildlife, try W.J. Janes Memorial Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park or Loop Road in Big Cypress National Preserve. Backroad Route 92 takes you from 41 to the time-stilled fishing community and seafood restaurants of Goodland.
Views along the Sanibel Causeway and Captiva Drive star in many commercials, but all of the coast’s islands promise glimpses of sea and local color. The drive through Bonita Beach, Lovers Key and Fort Myers Beach and another from Lido Key through Anna Maria Island in Sarasota and Bradenton are particularly representative of island life.
From Fort Myers, head east along Route 80 to visit the historic small towns of riverside Alva and Labelle, and lakeside Clewiston. Glimpse the region’s rural, agricultural personality along the way. Or plan a trip to Pine Island to the northwest. Its four communities are known for exotic fruit farming, ancient Calusa shell mounds, an artists’ village and fishing.
In the Port Charlotte area, a road trip to Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island scores for historic intrigue and lovely beaches. To its north, Sarasota lays claim to a number of small organic and other farms you can visit. Look for the 2016 Agriculture Guide of Florida’s Gulf-Coast. Cross the Manatee River from Bradenton to reach the historic attractions of Palmetto, a riverside beauty also known for its agricultural heritage
You can’t leave Southwest Florida without getting out on the water, whether it’s a paddleboard or kayak excursion, a shelling or sightseeing tour, or a fishing charter.