Estero is a city in southwest Florida with approximately 23,000 inhabitants. Rich in history, Estero can name its heritage, filled with the aborigines, Spanish conquerors, citrus and cattle farmers, a unique religious sect and the retirees of the 20th century. Today, the city is marching towards the 21st century with young families and professionals. The citrus and cattle herds are less and less, but Estero's colorful history is carefully preserved by the Estero Historical Society. The members of this Society want Estero's inhabitants to know and transmit this story.
They have collected hundreds of photographs, artefacts and eyewitness accounts chronologically showing Estero's past - and everyone is invited to marvel at them. Tribes, most recently the Calusa, died out in the late 17th century. Estero, along with other major Southwest Florida coastlines, was inhabited thousands of years ago by primitive tribes of the Native Calusa’s. The Calusa’s fished in the Gulf of Mexico, established settlements near freshwater habitats and paddled in cypress canoes to colonies in other areas.
Archaeologists believe that the tribal center may have been near Estero Bay's "Mound Key". The half square mile area is about 30 ft high and covered by massive piles of shells transported here. In the 15th century, Spanish explorers and active pirates travelled along the coast of Southwest Florida with their treasure-filled galleons.
They called this area "Estero," the Spanish word for estuary. Many came ashore to rest from the journey or to increase their water supplies. Others were driven here by storms involuntarily - and others ended up on the seabed due to severe hurricanes. When the Spanish monarchy learned of this new land and the mighty Calusa’s, Ponce de Leon was sent on a conquest mission. He sailed into the bay of Estero, but the tribesmen defeated him and pushed him back to the sea.
Other Spaniards followed and in the end the Calusa were defeated - not by war, but by diseases such as smallpox or flu. By the mid-18th century, Florida had become a land of opportunity. Pioneer families moved south, settling on the raised land of the Calusa, cultivating citrus and raising cattle. Frank Johnson, one of Lee County's early pioneers, settled on Mound Key and began excavating the historic site. He collected artifacts and gold left by the Spaniards.
In 1904, the Koreshan’s, a celibate utopian community, settled near the Estero River, set up a post office in their settlement, and Estero officially became a city. Three years later, citizens protested against this community, and the new town became part of unincorporated Lee County. Gradually, the number of Koreshan’s was reduced and their leader, Dr. Cyrus Teed died in 1908, the group began to disband. The four remaining members in 1961 overruled the Koreshan property of the state of Florida.
Today, the "Koreshan State Historic Site" shows some surviving buildings from that period. Fishing, camping, picnics and boating are popular activities. Canoes can be rented and Park Ranger offers guided tours according to seasonal needs. Estero remained a quiet and sleepy citrus town for the next 50-60 years, with small retiree settlements and mobile home parks. Estero River Heights, the area of the first major development, was built along the river during the late 1960's.
Estero is known today for the variety of gated communities and shopping facilities:
The Miromar Outlet is a 700,000 square ft shopping center and one of the largest outlets in Florida. There are over 140 shops of all famous brand manufacturers. The beautifully landscaped outdoor passages and architecture with fountains and ponds provide a unique shopping experience. The many restaurants invite you to take a break from spending money and in the evening, the opportunity to end the day with a good meal.
Similar is the Gulf Coast Town Center. Visitors to the open-air shopping center will find around 105 shops and restaurants. The big difference is that you have to walk a bit more here, as many of the shops are housed in a separate building and the total area of nearly 1.3 million square ft are almost twice as large as the Miromar Outlets. Located in the south of Fort Myers, it almost connects to Estero.
A third large shopping center is the Coconut Point Mall. Equipped with about 145 stores, there are also department stores and major retailers as well as smaller boutiques and restaurants. The Coconut Point Mall is laid out like a small town and is as walk-intensive as the Gulf Coast Town Center. Artificially created lakes and bridges also invite you to take a walk far away from the grocery stores.
If you want to experience something sporty, then the Hertz Arena, formerly known as the Germain Arena, is the right place for you. For around 28,000 spectators, the complex offers events around hockey and American football. Wrestling and Bull Riding championships are held at different times of the year, as well as being used for concerts or other events - while the public regularly uses them for skating. In the event of a hurricane or other disaster, the Hertz Arena can accommodate up to 7,000 people.