Since we’re spending the winter in Southwest Florida we decided we should get to know the area a little better, specifically Bonita Springs, since that’s where we’re currently staying. Are we glad to be out of the snow and cold of Michigan? Yes! Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE our home state and even like the snow – we like to downhill & Nordic ski, snowshoe and hike as much as the next person – for a few weeks. But then we’re ready to blast off for the sun and warmth of the south so we can be outdoors without having to bundle up all the time!
Old Bonita Springs is located between Ft. Myers and Naples. It’s not really a city, but rather an historic village, reminiscent of an old Florida fishing town, about 3 miles inland from some beautiful beaches. One thing that’s obvious when you drive down the boulevard on Old 41 is that there’s an extensive downtown redevelopment project underway. You might miss some of our favorite spots if you don’t look closely enough.
Everglades Wonder Gardens
This hidden gem was established in 1936 and has a 3.5 acre botanical jungle with plants, flowers, flamingos, alligators, rescued birds and reptiles as well as an onsite natural history museum. Talk about Old Florida!
Bonita Springs has several authentic Mexican restaurants, so we went on the hunt for a good taco. We stopped at several places before we found El Gran Taco Loco behind Bensons Grocery Store. I had a vegetarian version with beans, rice, carmelized onions (YUM!), cilantro and cheese. Mike had uno pollo taco – I think that means one chicken taco. It’s a small open kitchen with a few picnic tables outside, friendly staff and really delicious tacos!
Art In The Sun On Old 41
There are a number of street murals that caught our eye in Old Bonita, but one in particular is a huge landmark. “Mi Pueblo Bonita” consists of five 8 foot by 8 foot panels along the north side of Benson’s Grocery Store. It was designed and painted by Cuban born local artist Alejandro Nunez and spans centuries of local history. Imagery comes from the area’s indigenous people, the Calusa, as well as animals and plants native to SW Florida, Old Bonita historic buildings and more. Nunez included a banner, “Small town charm, big bright future”, the city’s new motto. The last panel ends with a golf course and high rises at the beach – Bonita’s future? The colors are crisp and bright and can be seen when driving south on Old 41. (More pictures of Bonita street art on our 3/20 Instagram post)
Pottery As Art
Again, right on Old 41, this is a feast for the eyes, with rows of brightly colored landscape pottery in all shapes and sizes. There is also an array of garden décor, water features, birdbaths, décor spheres, pot feet, garden stools, metal art, blown glass pieces, wind chimes and other whimsical items. So much beauty to explore and take in!
This quaint and charming café was converted from an old Florida cottage with a wrap around porch. Apparently it was so named because a group of surveyors made camp here in the 1870’s. Just one block off Old 41, the outdoor patio under live oaks and palms can’t be seen from the street. The owner is French and everything is made from scratch. Check out their Farmers Market Panini and Smoked Salmon Flatbread. YUM again!
When you visit the village of Old Bonita Springs, don’t forget to take in a couple of the area’s fantastic beaches – Barefoot Beach Preserve County Park and Lovers Key State Park!