15th December 2006 at 00:00
David Autry and his wife Karen live on Pine Island and teach art and design at Fort Myers High. The south-west Florida school's marching band will lead London's New Year's Day Parade

Favourite place when you have a dayweek off?

We take a boat over to Cayo Costa, a state park rated number one in the nation for its pristine beauty. Mostly we have it to ourselves. It's great for hiking, kayaking and photography.

Lunchtime treats?

Take the Tropic Star (www.tropicstarcruises.com) for $29 for the round trip to Cayo Costa and Cabbage Key. Cabbage Key Inn (www.cabbagekey.com) charges big bucks for a beer but a hamburger is about $6 and well worth it.

Evening delights?

South Seas Resort (www.southseas.com) is an upscale place to stay on the tip of Captiva - great accommodation and tennis. 'Tween Waters Inn (www.tween-waters.com) is casual and not so expensive and has good food.

For dining, we like The Bubble Room (www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com). It's a fantasy place where the food and service is always superior. The Veranda (www.verandarestaurant.com) is a special place. It's an old wooden house with fireplaces and you eat dinner in the rooms.

Don't miss

The Edison festival of lights in February; Bob Rauschenberg, the artist, lives on Captiva and has a gallery there (www.edison.edu); the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum (www.shellmuseum.org); the Edison and Ford winter estates (www.edison-ford-estate.com); and the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge (www.fws.govdingdarling). We have everything from alligators to egrets.

Visitors beware

In summer, we have noseeums, tiny bugs the size of a full stop. Watch out too for stingrays. We do the "stingray shuffle" walking in the sea looking for shells, shuffling our feet along the bottom - that way you don't step on one.

Remember to bring or buy

Polarised sunglasses, and good sunscreen. Also good footwear for walking on the beach - sometimes there are sharp plants called sandspurs.

When's a good time to come?

Thanksgiving (end-October) to Easter is the best time - there's little rain, low humidity and very few bugs. The hurricanes are gone by the end of October

Find out more


How to get there

British Airways flies five times a week direct to Tampa from Gatwick from pound;414.60 per person return including taxes and charges over February half-term.

Price to the planet

Offset the climate cost of a return flight to Florida for pound;14.65 per adult (www.climatecare.org).

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