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Top scenic spots in alluring Southwest Florida

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Southwest Florida is a rich region of the Sunshine State that continues to attract increasing attention for a diversity of offerings for visitors and residents alike. Anchored by the growing cities of Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Punta Gorda, and Sarasota, this vacation mecca continually reminds travelers that there is far greater habitat than mere swamp-lands in the territory between Tampa and Miami.

Naturally, much of the frivolity and pleasure here in Southwest Florida leads one to venture near the bountiful access to the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. While the area's beaches provide some of America's top waterfront destinations, there are an array of rivers, bays, lakes, and --yes -- even swamps to explore. Such activity might excitingly lead to opportunities for hiking, swimming, or boating, but merely soaking in the plush scenery on a light stroll typically produces satisfying results.

An additional fun challenge is deciding among the many prime spots to experience these eye-catching views. While rising skyscrapers and centuries-old historic landmarks are substantially more limited in this newly booming region, residents of Southwest Florida have no reason to be frustrated by such restrictions.

Instead, the area's many piers, bridges, and parks serve as perfect locations for capturing a great photo, seeking peaceful tranquility, catching a fish for dinner, or simply stealing a memorable kiss. And the best feature of these backdrops is that such settings are typically free of charge and widely available for public use by the local populous of over 1.5 million residents.

While the water is undeniably the region's brightest calling card, many communities have nurtured a thriving tradition for sight-seeing, dining, shopping, sports, and more. These developments have been widely noticed and regional airports continue to serve increasing numbers of visitors. As part of a continuing series, here is a look at how to enjoy five of the most scenic spots throughout Southwest Florida.

Cabbage Key
Cabbage Key Jeff Briscoe

Cabbage Key

You won’t find a car on this 100-acre private island in the middle of Pine Island Sound. Yet, if taking a boat to tiny Cabbage Key, you will encounter some of the best views in Southwest Florida. Much of the island is still devoted to natural vegetation, so hiking and birding are ideal activities. A popular restaurant and resort eagerly welcome visitors and local boats ferry passengers on day-trips to the waterside destination from Pine Island and Punta Gorda.

Fifth Avenue South District
Fifth Avenue South District Jeff Briscoe

Fifth Avenue South District

Visitors to Southwest Florida typically spend a majority of time near the region’s desirable waters. Though this business district in old Naples sits less than a mile from the Gulf of Mexico, its allure little concerns sand and surf. Instead, the destination draws visitors to the downtown area with opportunities for boutique-style shopping, viewing world-class art, savoring elegant dining, and a chance to hobnob with the finer citizens of upscale Naples.

Fisherman's Village
Fisherman's Village Jeff Briscoe

Fisherman's Village

This former commercial pier once served as a hub for fishing boats delivering their catch, which was quickly iced for shipment by railroad. Located in Punta Gorda, near the merging waters of the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor, the aging facility has been renovated into a modern waterfront resort. Open to the public, the historic pier at Fisherman’s Village features Florida-themed shops, multiple dining choices, a courtyard for live music, and a full-serve marina.

Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach Jeff Briscoe

Fort Myers Beach

Perhaps the defining beach in Southwest Florida, this resort town on Estero Island provides easy access to pristine sands, warm waters, and fun nightlife. Always a lively destination for spring breakers and summer vacationers, Fort Myers Beach offer ample meter-style parking near the beach at the Lynn Hall Park, and a bustling pier juts into the Gulf of Mexico by the Times Square tourist area.

Fort Myers River District
Fort Myers River District Jeff Briscoe

Fort Myers River District

When deteriorating conditions from a changing economy took hold in downtown Fort Myers, the city aggressively promoted the redevelopment of the neighborhood’s commerce. Still serving as the legal and municipal center of Lee County by day, the historic area along the Calooshatchee River additionally functions as a center for nightlife, fine dining, live music, dancing, and even showcasing art.

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