The Photographer’s Winter Escape:
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Planning a winter escape next year? Does the family need some time on a beach? Anticipating that “cold weather twitch” in your shutter-release finger?
Southwest Florida, in March, has the ideal winter climate: low humidity, moderately warm daytime temperatures, and cool evenings.
Fort Myers Beach is centrally located amidst a number of “hot-spot” birding areas, from Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in the south, to the Venice Rookery in the north … and includes the Little Estero Lagoon and Bowditch Point Park right on the beach, the famous Ding Darling Refuge and lighthouse area on Sanibel Island, Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers, and nearby Cape Coral, with its burrowing owls and eagles.
Sure, you could stay in Fort Myers itself, and avoid the Estero Island bridge and its horrendous daytime traffic, but you wouldn’t be able to play photographer all day long, and that beach offers miles of walking, swimming, and birding. Yep, right on the beach, the yellowlegs, laughing gulls, and skimmers are so tame, you almost have to kick ‘em out of the way. Dolphins are swimming up and down and your family will love searching for shells.
The “Beach” has everything–hotels, good restaurants, grocery stores, a post office, marina, boat cruises, … and a nightly flight by a unique scarlet ibis, that works its way up Matanzas Pass, in the company of a huge flight of white ibis, to the delight of the locals, who gather in a variety of viewing areas to enjoy the spectacle.
You’ll soon learn, as the locals have, to adjust your travels to avoid the mid-day traffic on the Estero Island bridge and the heavy one-lane (in each direction) traffic up and down Estero Island. If you leave the beach for a sunrise arrival at the Venice Rookery, for instance, be prepared to spend an hour or more on the Bridge, on your return.
If you’ve not photographed birds intensively before, be prepared for the fact that they are usually in motion. A long lens is a must, and if you don’t have a Wimberley tripod head, you may find a monopod is more useful than a tripod.
A great spot for a sunset shot is at the marina, on the left side of the road just after you come off the Estero Island bridge, at the “Boulderwood” intersection. The sun goes down behind a group of palms at the marina entrance at 6:30pm and you can frame it beautifully with a 300mm lens. Then, you can take the family for “drinkies” and a great seafood supper at Pinchers Crab Shack…a five-minute walk away on the same side of the road.
Our own dinner favorite is Anthony’s On the Gulf, where you can sit and watch the sun go down and the waves roll in, and where the chicken marsala is to die for. Drink all you wish, then go home on the Fort Myers Beach Trollee–another delightful experience.
…the only down side of this wonderful place is that, sooner or later, ya gotta go home!
by Mike Goldstein
Story and photos: © 2009 Mike Goldstein. All rights reserved.