Emerald green waters and sugar-white sand make up the main attraction to the island of Fort Myers Beach. Dubbed 'the world's safest beach' because of the gentle waters, this area is known for small waves and calm seas; it also has gentle slopes and sand bars in the waters near shore. Add in some family-friendly resorts, quaint cottages with that Old Florida
charm, restaurants that serve seafood caught fresh from the Gulf of Mexico and it's a beach vacation paradise.
The community of Fort Myers Beach is made up of Estero Island and its sister island, San Carlos. It used to be a remote stretch of green, edged with sand and accessible only by boat. The first "Little Bridge" was built to bring tourists and locals alike to the seven-mile Estero Island through Bunche Beach on the mainland. Then, in the late 1920s, a new bridge was brought over from the East Coast of Florida and was put in near where the current San Carlos Bridge is today. Ft. Meyers Beach isn't a big town; it's just 6.2 square miles. However, there are more than 30 beach access points that are marked with colorful beach access signs that take you to developed, as well as secluded, pristine stretches of shoreline, many of which are near restaurants and outdoor cafes.
The History of Fort Myers Beach
Estero Island is, geologically, a fairly young barrier island; but because of how close it is to the rich, food-producing estuaries of Estero Bay, Estero Island was once at the very center of the Calusa Indian heartland. In 1566, just a few months after St. Augustine, the oldest city in America, was established, the Spanish explorer Pedro Menendez de Aviles arrived at Estero Island. He came to secure Florida for Spain, because many shipwreck survivors from Spain's treasure fleet were being held against their will by the fierce Calusa Indians. Menendez didn't succeed in his attempt to pacify the Calusa Indians or establish a mission on Mound Key. Today, the high shell mounds on Mound Key and on the Estero Island Archaeological Site in Fort Myers Beach still stand as monuments to the Calusa people. Most of the archaeological treasures in the area have been ravaged by modern day treasure hunters, who believe in stores of plunder and loot, left by pirates of old like the one of Jose Gaspar.
Some believe the story to be somewhat less than true; other say it's a complete fabrication invented somewhere around 1919 by those trying to boost tourism and the sale of land along what had been nicknamed "Florida's Famed Pirate Coast."
The story is that Gaspar was born in Spain, and at the age of age 12, he kidnapped a young local girl and held her for ransom. When caught, he was given the choice of joining Royal Spanish Naval Academy or jail, he joined the Academy. He was then framed for stealing the Spanish crown jewels. To escape, Gaspar stole a ship called the Floridablanca and left, but swore an oath to plunder any ship flying the flag of Spain in response of this incident. Gaspar took the Floridablanca to the Gulf coast of Florida and made his base in Charlotte Harbor, near modern-day Fort Myers, thus began Gasparilla the Pirate.
For 38 years, Gasparilla attacked ships from all countries and at times held women from wealthy families for ransom on Captiva Island. Tt's been said that's how the island got its name, if you believe the story at all. He roamed the west coast of Florida down to Cuban waters in search of loot and treasure. Then in December, 1821, at the age of sixty-five, he told his crew that he was quitting the pirate's life and that they were going to divide up the treasure. Before he could do this however, he was caught in a sneak attack and killed himself. The men he left behind to guard the treasure loaded it into twenty large chests then put them into a longboat and sailed, unnoticed, up the Peace River, it is rumored that $30 million dollars in gold and jewels still remains undiscovered....... the life, maybe legend of Jose Gaspar is a controversial subject, but a great story.
Little by little, the attractive features of Estero Island's Ft. Meyers Beach, including miles and miles of white, sandy Gulf Coast beaches
, waterside cafes, boating, sailing and fishing have captured the imaginations of visitors from near and far, and have made this island a real recreational and vacation playground. There are also just enough pirate stories to keep adventure seekers and treasure hunters intrigued.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com