- Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León is credited as the first European to reach Florida in 1513. He returned in 1521 with two ships, 200 men, and cattle, landing along the Southwest Florida coast and releasing the cows into the scrubland. De León was fatally injured when the explorers were attacked by the native Calusa people; he died after fleeing to Cuba. De León named the state La Florida for “the place of flowers.” The Spaniards’ abandoned, wild-roaming cattle drew resourceful settlers and became a vital export commodity.
- Inventor Thomas Alva Edison bought a winter home in Fort Myers on the banks of the Caloosahatchee in 1885, and the famous family returned for six decades. He publicly professed his love of the community, “There is only one Fort Myers in the United States, and there are 90 million people who are going to find it out.”
- Tourism in Lee and Collier counties is an economic powerhouse. In Lee County in 2018, 4.8 million visitors spent $3.1 billion, supporting 1 out of 5 jobs. More than 1.8 million visitors spent more than $1.43 billion in Collier County, supporting nearly 40,000 jobs and making it the No. 1 private-sector employer.
- In 1923, Collier County was named for Barron Collier, who at one time was reputed to be the largest landowner in the state. The New York City advertising mogul and real estate developer agreed to complete the slow construction of the Tamiami Trail (its name derived from its Tampa-to-Miami route) from Naples to Miami. Collier County was carved from Lee County, and is the largest county in the state by geographical size.
- Big-game fishing was born in Southwest Florida when William Halsey Wood landed a 93-pound tarpon (known as the “Silver King”) near Sanibel Island on March 25, 1885, with an ordinary rod and reel—news that traveled around the world and made the region the epicenter of the brand-new sport.
- The top employers in Lee and Collier counties are the two primary healthcare providers: NCH Healthcare System with more than 7,000 employees and Lee Health with more than 13,500.
- Since the 1990s, Southwest Florida has claimed the No. 1 status in the nation for golf holes per capita. With some communities featuring two and in, some cases, three 18-hole courses, Lee and Collier counties boast well more than a combined 150 courses.
8. Naples has been named the No. 1 “happiest city in the nation” for four consecutive years by the Gallup National Health and Well-Being Index, measuring career, social, financial, community, and physical wellbeing. Collier County ranked as the second-healthiest county in the Sunshine State for six years in a row by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
- For paddlers, Lee County’s Great Calusa Blueway encompasses 190 miles through three distinct regions of the Gulf of Mexico coast. Collier County’s Paradise Coast Blueway paddling trail features six daytrips from Everglades City to the village of Goodland on Marco Island. The Everglades Waterway kayak and canoe trail is 99 miles long.
10. Lee County is home to two Major League Baseball spring-training facilities and stadiums for the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Spring training has been at home in Southwest Florida since the Terry Park Ballfield stadium, east of Fort Myers, was built to host the Philadelphia Athletics in 1925.