This past week, I was on the road to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island and Captiva for a travel piece to run in the Orlando Sentinel in coming weeks.
Summer is prime time for the beaches, of course, but after checking out this list of fall activities on the Southwest Florida coast, I'm thinking that it's worth waiting until after Labor Day.
It's cooler, less crowded, with opportunities for off-season deals. Stone crab season begins Oct. 15.
Plus, there's plenty to do. Check out this list:
•26th Annual Oktoberfest, Oct. 21-23 and 28-30, Cape Coral: German culture, food, music and dancing at this event sponsored by the German-American Club. (239-283-1400; gasc-capecoral.com)
•22nd Annual J. N. "Ding" Darling Days, Oct. 16-22, Sanibel Island: The Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge hosts free refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, kid activities, art day, family day, birding and kayaking tours, environmental speakers and more. The event marks the birthday of the refuge's namesake, conservationist and Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Jay N. "Ding" Darling. (239-472-1100; dingdarlingdays.com)
•6th Annual Calusa Blueway Paddling Festival, Nov. 3-6, off the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel: This signature eco event along the 190-mile Calusa Blueway paddling trail includes competitive canoe and kayak races, a kayak fishing tournament, paddling clinics and demonstrations, seminars and family activities. (239-533-727; CalusaBluewayPaddlingFestival.com)
•25th Annual American SandSculpting Championship Festival, Nov. 2-6, Fort Myers Beach: The 2011 edition will feature 16 of the world's best master sculptors along with amateur sand artists, who will compete in front of an audience of thousands on Fort Myers Beach. (239-454-7500; sandfestival.com)
•Cape Coral CoCoNut Festival, Nov. 11-13, Cape Coral: This quirky event celebrates the coconut's role in Cape Coral's lifestyle with multicultural food, water-ski shows, carnival rides and more. (239-573-3121; cocofest.com)
Visit islandsfallfest.com for a complete event list.