The holidays in Fort Myers are typically full of sunshine and more heat than in most parts of the country. As one might expect, many gifts of the season that are unique to the area represent the tropical climate here.
A truly typical gift is citrus, fresh, juicy fruit full of sunshine. Sun Harvest is popular among both locals and tourists, who want its just-squeezed juices with no preservatives and its fruit.
Here, you can also get wreaths made from oranges and grapefruits, along with well-packaged crates.
A less common fruit, but still unique to the area, is the calamondin. The flavor is a cross between a lime and orange, but the fruit is smaller and more delicate.
A brand new kind of spirit, RumShine, is found at Wicked Dolphin — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Handpicked at a local grove, it's then made into an exceptional coulis at the Calamondin Café. The flavor-packed spread is perfect for marinades, dressings and icings.
Local fruit is also used by Wicked Dolphin (along with Florida sugarcane) to make an exclusive, award-winning rum.
“Florida is rum; it just seemed the perfect spirit to distill," says Wicked Dolphin Owner JoAnn Elaro.
Even more of a standout is the Wicked Dolphin RumShine, or moonshine made of rum, an entirely new spirits category. Try the apple pie variety, perfect for the holidays, or the strawberry or blueberry. Each of these contains chunks of intoxicating fruit.
Wicked Dolphin’s distillery in Cape Coral is full of other specialty products, like hot sauces, spices and colorful hats and T-shirts.
For the historian on your list, Fort Myers is the winter home of inventor Thomas Edison and car magnate Henry Ford. The Edison & Ford Estates is one of the most visited sites in the area.
A popular memento includes the gold finished replicas of the sprawling homes and their lush vegetation. Other ornaments include light bulbs and cars.
In fact, light bulbs come in all forms of unique gifts at the estate gift shop (You don’t have to tour the property to shop here.) and a satellite boutique at The Bell Tower Shops. The hanging glass terrariums are popular and offer the receiver many options, as in using for candles, plants, etc.
Additional ornaments, well-known in the area, are made of shells. You’ll find an abundance of shell wreaths and stars at She Sells Sea Shells on Sanibel Island. In addition, look for Santa Clause starfish and hand-painted sand dollars, all made by local artisans.
Sand dollars aren’t the only natural item painted and sold at locally owned shops. Coconuts are everywhere, and those that don’t get used for meat and juice are often turned into treasures.
Using native palm fronds, artists take their former yard trash and make colorful hanging fish, found at Wildchild Art Gallery on Matlatcha Island.
No more liquids needed, thanks to Naples Soap's shampoo bars — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
Downtown Fort Myers is a wonderful place to find native gems, with its growing number of galleries and shops. Naples Soap is a local maker of bath and body products that not only feel good, but are also good for your skin.
Walk into this boutique, and find trays of colorful shampoo and conditioner bars. They may look like delicious macaroons, but these haircare products are perfect for your carry-on. No liquids to pass through security!
Also downtown, you’ll find a menagerie of fun at the Franklin Shops. Artists like Janie Cechman and Ellie Stephen rent space to sell their one-of-a-kind creations.
Cechman makes whimsical boxes, full of tropical colors and themes, while Stephen's all about mermaids as ornaments, hooks and everything in between. Both of these are perfect possibilities for gifts that represent the island and water life of Southwest Florida.
Holiday shopping can be a fun adventure in Fort Myers.
Locally made keepsake boxes make great gifts for the holidays — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch