The combination of shells, sand and surf is a powerful incentive to visit the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel in Southwest Florida.
If you need more reasons to visit the area that includes Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande and Outer Islands, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres, here's an array of festivals stretching from summer into cooler fall months:
•MangoMania Tropical Fruit Fair (July 21-22): Yes, the mango is the star attraction for two days each summer on Pine Island. There's a variety of locally grown delicacies at the annual event to celebrate tropical fruit grown on the island, which includes lychee, carambola, longan, papaya and "chocolate pudding fruit." Visit mangomaniafl.com for hours and details.
•"Ding" Darling Days (Oct. 14-22 ): It's a week of eco-activities with free tram tours of the wildlife refuge, wildlife presentations, children's activities, Federal Duck Stamp artist presentations, birding and kayaking tours, environmental speakers, a nature photography contest and more. The festival celebrates the birthday of the refuge's namesake, conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Jay N. "Ding" Darling. Visit dingdarlingdays.com for details.
•Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival (Nov. 1-4): Pack up the paddle board, kayak or canoe and check out the Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, which showcases the recreational opportunities on the 190-mile Great Calusa Blueway paddling trail. Events include a family fun race, a kayak fishing tournament, paddling clinics and demonstrations, seminars, wildlife activities, guided tours and more. Visit calusabluewaypaddlingfestival.com for more information.
•26th Annual American Sandsculpting Championship and Beach Festival (Nov. 7-11): Fort Myers Beach makes use of one of its distinctive natural resources — soft, sugar-white sand — for a competition featuring 16 of the world's best master sculptors along with amateur sculptors. These artists will meet on the beach to create their stunning works of art. Visit sandsculptingfestival.com for more information.
Go to fortmyerssanibel.com for a year-round list of events.