Hurricane Irma came to Florida in September with a vengeance, even sending this reporter to an Orlando hotel for several days with power outages all over the city.

Southwest Florida, however, was even harder hit, with more than 100 homes destroyed by the hurricane, according to a story in the Miami Herald.

Damage to the entire state, according to Bloomberg, is expected to cost over $50 billion.

Thankfully, hotels, beaches and attractions around Naples have reopened, with one notable exception. The Naples Grande Beach Resort as of a report on Oct. 3 will reopen Dec. 15 after an extensive clean up.

“The Paradise Coast is clear,” said Debi DeBenedetto, group sales and marketing manager for the Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB.

 “Most of the attractions and hotels are back open and on-line,” she continued. “A few are still under clean-up and renovation but 2018 will be fully open and ready for all group meetings business, and better than ever. With many of the hotels already under renovations prior to Irma, resorts will be offering a new product.”

Similarly, the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach area was mostly spared, with the exception of two hotels with some water damage, according to Lora Steiner, director of tourism, Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach CVB.  

“One reopened shortly after the hurricane and the other should come back on-line very soon,” she said. “Restaurants and retail reopened within days of the Hurricane.  The very popular Fishermen’s Village shopping and dining area along with its marina are also open. Accommodations on our beaches and islands are accepting reservations,” she said.

Pamela Johnson, deputy director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, said, “The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel suffered minimal damage due to Hurricane Irma. We are 100 percent operational for group business. We are excited to welcome meetings and groups to the Greater Fort Myers area to show everyone that the natural beauty of the destination still exists.”

Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

The region is more than ready to host groups, not only showcasing outdoor highlights, but also focusing on the area’s vibrant arts scene, including many art galleries, historic homes and cultural institutions.

Lee County, which includes the cities of Fort Myers and Cape Coral, has made a commitment to the history of the city, according to Johnson.

“We’re lucky so many homes and other structures have been preserved so visitors can experience the history of these cities,” she said.

To learn about the Calusa Indians, who inhabited the area 2,000 years ago, the 1921 Mound House in Fort Myers Beach was built on top of an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound. Its three new galleries tell the story of its people.

Events can be booked at the house, including in the museum and its patio, overlooking the natural surroundings of Estero Bay. The maximum capacity is 200 for events on the grounds and the main museum has an occupancy of 130 for events.

The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is another Fort Myers cultural gem. The site was originally a Native American Calusa settlement and in the mid-1800s became home to the original fort of Fort Myers. In 1933 a post office replaced the fort, however the building still attracted visitors who came for its unique architecture, including walls embedded with coral and seashells.  

“Not only are we centrally located in the heart of downtown, groups love events here because it’s a lovely and extravagant setting,” said Angela Patane, marketing manager.

The 1901 Burroughs Home & Gardens in downtown Fort Myers is a Georgian Revival mansion once owned by Nelson Burroughs and his wife Adeline. It was the scene of many social events that played host to the Fort Myers elite, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Antique furnishings and historical artifacts are on view.