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The summer holidays are drawing to a close and the evenings are getting shorter by the day. Are you feeling ever so slightly cheated this year? We certainly are, and we're just not ready to say goodbye to summer so soon.
If you feel the same, there's still time to pack your bags and make a beeline for the Sunshine State before winter sets in. South Florida's Gulf Coast has average daily autumn temperatures of 26°C, and this time of year sees far fewer crowds. The Fort Myers and Sanibel area in particular has an exciting calendar of events and festivals to look forward to, with plenty of opportunities to relax and explore the tropical wildlife, beaches and islands.
Pirate Festival: 5-7 October
The 6th annual Pirate Festival on Fort Myers Beach is a riotous weekend party of treasure hunts, costume competitions, street performers, musicians, storytellers and interactive games. Join thousands of locals and visitors by dressing up in swashbuckling pirate costumes and enjoying a ride on the pirate ship cruise. For adults there will be a pirate's ball on October 7 (£7 donation on the door) and a pirate pub crawl along the beach front all weekend.
Fort Myers Wine Trail: 13 October
The monthly Fort Myers Wine Trail and Beyond showcases Fort Myers' wide variety of quality wine from all over the world by taking visitors on a guided tasting of the city's wines in its hotels, restaurants and galleries. To compliment the tastings there will also be chef demos, food sampling and live music. Tickets are £22 per person and the tours last for three hours from 7-10 pm.
"Ding" Darling Days: 14-20 October
The J. N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island celebrates its abundant wildlife with "Ding" Darling Days from 14-20 October. The week will include hundreds of interactive activities showing Sanibel's wildlife at its best, including a beach birding tram ride, bike tours, nature cruises, guided kayak tours, sunset paddles and talks on manatees, sea turtles, sharks and other animals from the area.
The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival: 1-4 November
The Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival is the fastest growing paddling event in North America. Over the four day event, there will be organised group kayaking sessions along the 190 mile Calusa Blueway, passing mangrove islands and hidden bays and stopping off to enjoy demo sessions and local cuisine. Festival goers will also be able to try out different kayaks, canoes and stand up paddle boards along the way. The festival costs less than £50 per person including festival admission, all events and kayaking demos.
Fort Myers Art Walk: 2 November
The monthly Art Walk takes visitors through more than 10 art galleries and art spaces in the Fort Myers River District with new exhibitions and live music. Highlights of the Art Walk include the Art of the Olympians Museum and Gallery, which features art work by past and present Olympians and has just returned from its successful London pop up during the Olympics, along with modern art gallery Space 39 and Art League of Fort Myers, the artistic hub of the city.
30th Taste of the Town: 4 November
Fort Myers will celebrate its culinary wealth on 4 November with an all-day festival dedicated to local delicacies. Over 40 restaurants throughout Fort Myers participate in the festival every year, each cooking up their most interesting and popular dishes, including coconut shrimp, jumbo crab cakes, Mariachi chicken and Tiki rolls. Entry is £3 and children under 12 enter for free.
Sanibel Taste of the Islands: 11 November
This much-anticipated annual food festival sees 20 local restaurants participate in culinary competitions and tasting sessions, which are all judged by a local celebrity panel. Families and friends can join in the fun by sampling the signature tastes of the islands and enjoying live music. Tickets are £3 for adults and children under 10 enter for free.
American Sandsculpting Championship: 16-25 November
The making of enormous and highly impressive sandsculptures can be watched at the annual Sandsculpting Championship on Fort Myers Beach. Each year about 100,000 visitors watch experts from all over the world turn sand into spectacular works of art using what is thought to be the world's best sculpting sand, due to its high shell content. Inspired visitors can join in the creativity with the amateur competition.
Virgin Holidays are Florida experts and can arrange everything you need for the ultimate South Gulf Coast Florida holiday. Choose from hotels in Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Captiva and Cape Coral for a slower pace of life, beautiful beaches and abundant wildlife. For further information about The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Orlando from London Gatwick, Manchester and Glasgow and flights to Miami from London Heathrow.
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About the author: MaxineMaxine Sheppard
Maxine is the editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.