For centuries, many diverse cultures and groups of people have called the Fort Myers area home. While one might expect a history of pirates, Native Americans and European explorers, not everyone knows about the utopian society established by the Koreshans.
In the late 1800s, some 200 colonists from New York followed Dr. Cyrus Teed to his "New Jerusalem," a utopian community where they were free to explore and meld their scientific and religious beliefs – the most notable being that the world was really a hollow sphere.
The Koreshans were a well-educated, prosperous community that established a publishing house, general store, art hall and the first power plant in the area. Many of the original buildings, dating back to 1880, still stand, and they're open for visitors to explore at their leisure.
Known as the Planetary Court, this building housed seven women who governed the Koreshans — Photo courtesy of Koreshan State Historic Site
The only building in this pioneer community that requires a guided tour for entrance is the Art Hall. Its walls are full of original artwork, and the stage is adorned with a piano from 1888. The Koreshans used it for their performances, and it's still used today for special concerts and park events.
Shell pathways lead you from building to building and through the gardens, which are full of exotic and native plants. The Industrial Area of the park is where you’ll find the original power plant, generators and other gear that are still functional and still get cranked up by park rangers during some tours.
You might even catch blacksmith and cooking demonstrations in this area.
The machines in the Koreshan Industrial Area still work, and they're often fired up — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
A river trail for hiking and biking leads you through lush Florida vegetation to a shaded picnic area, playground and boat ramp. If you want to enjoy the peaceful park for more than a day, there are 60 wooded and secluded campsites accommodating both RVs and tents.
The boat ramp allows for launches of private vessels, and it's where you'll find canoes ($5 rental at the ranger station) to paddle out to Mound Key Archaeological State Park.
Mound Key Archaelogical State Park is only accessible by boat — Photo courtesy of Koreshan State Historic Site
The history of Mound Key goes back some 2,000 years. Some historians believe this island was the capital of Calusa Indian Nation and even hosted the arrival of explorer Ponce de Leon.
Enjoy trails, wildlife and informational panels outlining the history of the Calusas on this quiet mangrove island.
The ranger station at Koreshan is also the information center for the Estero Bay Preserve, providing maps and giving the nearby jump-off locations to explore some of its 10,000 acres along the bay.
Four trails, covering about 10 miles, lead you to beaches and through wooded areas full of wildlife.
This three-in-one state park stop has history, scenery, adventure and activities to satisfy the entire family.