Want to find the most beautiful, sun-soaked beaches in North America? One of the best destinations for a relaxing, fun beach vacation is Fort Myers, Florida, located less than a hundred miles south of Tampa. Fort Myers averages 271 days of sunshine per year. Rainy days are usually from June to September when brief thunderstorms pass through. Fort Myers was founded in 1866 as a trading post for nearby Seminole Indians. As the town grew, it drew such American icons as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, whose winter homes are now open to the public.

01Visit the Edison Ford Estate

Fort Myers

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford built their winter homes adjacent to each other in Fort Myers at the turn of the 20th century. For the inventor and the industrialist, the houses were more than a respite from northern winters; they also featured a laboratory and workshop where the two men tinkered endlessly. The Edison Ford Estate is now 21 acres housing a museum and botanical garden, which contains trees and plants from all over the world.

DrieStone / Getty Images

02Go Dolphin Watching

visiting Fort Myers

Families of dolphins year round frequent the shallow bays and protected waters of Fort Myers. Visitors often spot the playful animals from shore. However, the best dolphin watching opportunities are found on one of several area dolphin tours that take guests to places where the dolphins like to congregate. Island Time Dolphin Cruises and Just Add Water and Sun provide numerous boat tours. The Estero Bay Express schedules sunset cruises daily.

savilleization / Getty Images

03Scoop Up the Love Boat Ice Cream

eating in Fort Myers

Nothing cools a person off after a day on the beach under the glowing sun than a big scoop of ice cream. The Love Boat has been churning out its homemade ice cream since 1967. They have locations in Fort Myers and on Sanibel Island featuring more than 50 flavors of the creamy cold stuff.

travnikovstudio / Getty Images

04Dine on Fresh Locally-Caught Seafood

dining in Fort Myers

Fort Myers has some of the best fresh seafood restaurants in the state of Florida with names such as the Shrimp Shack, the Clam Bake, and the Twisted Lobster. Check their menus as they change almost daily. Scallop lovers will want to visit from the last Saturday in June until September 24 for scallop season. And the Stonecrabs season starts soon afterward from October 15 to May 15.

margouillatphotos / Getty Images

05Explore the National Shell Museum

museums in Fort Myers

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island is the only museum in the country devoted exclusively to seashells and mollusks. The museum has an astounding number of sea shell exhibits that can dazzle the eye, but they have live sea creatures on exhibit as well. Check out the ever-changing daily schedule to find out what program are being offered. Experts hold educational programs at the Live Tank Talk.

Max_Xie / Getty Images

06Grab a Cheeseburger at Cabbage Key

dining out in Fort Myers

The story goes, unofficially, that Jimmy Buffet wrote his famous song “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after eating lunch on this island. Now you can join in the fun eating after spending the morning or afternoon out on a boat. There are luncheon cruises offered by Captiva Cruises that feature a guided cruise around the island with a two-hour layover for lunch and exploring.

graphixel / Getty Images

07Discover Cayo Costa

Cayo Costa in Fort Myers

Cayo Costa State Park is a short boat ride from Fort Myers where visitors can explore nine miles of pristine beaches and walk through acres of a green pine forest. Guests can spend the time searching for some of the prettiest seashells along the beaches or snorkel through the island's waters teeming with sea life. Camping is allowed on Cayo Costa, but you must make a reservation in advance.

Jupiterimages / Getty Images

08Travel to Captiva Island

Captiva Fort Myers

The island community of Captiva is a quick ride from Fort Myers over a bridge that leads to long white beaches and an eccentric restaurant. Captiva offers the outdoor activities that families love: biking, sailing, birding and all kinds of water activities. But here you can dine at a restaurant where Christmas is observed 365 days of the year. Captiva's South Seas Island Resort features 2.5 miles of beaches and an assortment of children’s programs, including pirate and mermaid playtimes.

pabradyphoto / Getty Images

09Watch a Major League Baseball Game

Fort Myers baseball games

March brings many Major League Baseball teams traveling to the Sunshine State to get ready for the season. Fort Myers hosts both the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins during the spring training season in February and March. The Minnesota Twins have played and trained at Hammond Stadium since 1991, the year they won the World Series. The Red Sox plays at JetBlue Park; a modern facility holds up to 11,000 people. Attend spring training games to see major league players up close and at a fraction of the cost of a regular season ticket.

cmannphoto / Getty Images

10Collect Seashells

seashell collecting Fort Myers

The folks in Fort Myers believe their beaches are the best place to find seashells on the North American continent, so much so that they founded National Seashell Day. Those who want to find the best place for finding shells should head to Cayo Costa, where the beaches are not as crowded, and the prettiest shells are waiting to be found. But any beach you walk along in Fort Myers is almost certain to hold nice shells. Locals claim the best time to find shells is during low tide, and during the winter months, the winds bring forth good shelling as well.

anzeletti / Getty Images