So around 10:00 a.m. we headed over towards Fort Myers where we stopped at Beef O’Brady’s for breakfast. O’Brady’s is a chain in the area and is a sports bar kind of place – the food is good, typical of a chain restaurant but nothing special. There are TV’s everywhere and each table has a small one playing sports shows (yes, we had to watch the end of the Superbowl over and over again and to make things even worse, they were having a debate about whether Eli Manning should be inducted into the Hall of Fame)! We had stopped there for supper the night before on our way back from Punta Gorda where I had my hair cut at a salon recommended by a friend in Fort Myers and had noticed that they had pretty reasonable breakfast prices.
So after a good breakfast, we headed down the road to Manatee Park which is managed by the Lee County Parks and Recreation Department. Admission is free although you do have to pay $1 per hour (honor system) for parking. The park covers 17 acres and is a great place to view the endangered Florida manatees between the months of November and March. The manatees are abundant here during those months because of the discharge of warm water from the nearby power plant.
Just as we arrived, one of the staff members was giving a talk under a big ol’ live oak tree about manatees so we sat down on the benches provided to listen. It was quite interesting and we learned a lot of facts about manatees that we never knew before. Did you know that the nearest relative to the manatee is the elephant? We didn’t! Did you know that manatees have teeth – molars just like humans? We didn’t! Their teeth are unique in that as a molar wears away from the repetitive grinding from eating vegetation, the back molars actually move forward to take up the space, thus their teeth are referred to as “marching molars”. The talk must have lasted at least a half hour if not longer and there were a lot of other hands on items like skulls and bones as well as facts provided but who can remember them all!
After the talk we wandered around the park. We did see a few manatees but they were too far away to get any good photos. There is a manatee in the photo on the left but I guess it wasn’t feeling very photogenic so it was difficult getting a decent picture. The park also has an extensive butterfly garden with lots of pretty flowers and bushes to attract native butterflies. All flowers, bushes and trees were labelled so you knew what you were looking at. Board walks lead through various habitats and nature study areas including mangrove, hardwood, pine flatwoods, Florida oak groves, and a wetlands area. The park is really nice – we highly recommend a visit here if you are in the area during the November through March time frame.
After spending well over an hour, we left the park and headed to our next stop – the W.P. Franklin Locks. We’ll do a separate post about that.