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Gulf & Main Magazine

The Shell Factory Celebrates 80 Years in Southwest Florida

Jul 13, 2018 07:09PM ● By Kevin

There's fun for the entire family at the Shell Factory. Experience the Nature Park Animals, Petting & Feeding Zoo, Minature golf, Climbing Pole, Trampoline, Retail Store & Gift Shop, Christmas House w/ Collectables, Shell Museum, Fossil Museum, Military Museum, Capt'n Fishbones Seafood Grill and much more. Photo and caption courtesy of Shell Factory on Facebook.

The Shell Factory and Nature Park in Fort Myers celebrated its 80th anniversary serving Southwest Florida at the end of June. The local attraction provides residents and visitors a place to shop, eat, or just gather with friends. There are things to do both indoors and outdoors, which provide visitors hours of fun. Visitors are granted free entry, except to the Nature Park, and can even park for free.

The celebration event was in the style of an old-fashioned carnival, featuring games and music. On top of that, prices were set back in time - 1938 to be exact - which brought visitors out in droves (carnival games were just 38 cents and admission to the nature park was a quarter).

The North Fort Myers park has been in operation since 1938, when Harold and Mildred Crant first began selling shells in Bonita Springs, according to its website.

"As a foundation for Lee County tourism and institution among southwest Florida Attractions 'the Grand Old Lady' has seen days of great popularity and times of significant deterioration, the latter having reached its lowest point in 1997," the website says. "The obstacles seemed insurmountable, one of the oldest landmark attractions in southwest Florida was about to become nothing more than a paragraph in history books and photos pasted in visitors scrapbooks. That was until developer, entrepreneur and philanthropist Thomas R. Cronin, Sr. cast his vision, creativity and financial support toward the failing attraction."

Recently the Cronin's celebrated their 21st anniversary recreating the Shell Factory, the website says. Tom and his wife, Pam oversee the day to day operations of the iconic attraction.

Attractions at the park are constantly rotating. Some examples include: Four Free Museums, the Year 'Round Christmas House, a Fun Park, a Fossil and Gemstone Mining Rig, Game Room, Full Scale Dinosaur Exhibit, US Post Office, Subway Sandwich shop, Gulf Coast Homemade Fudge, and 68,000 square feet of shopping including beautiful gifts, nautical d├ęcor, jewelry, pearls, toys, and of course shells. Most recently, a Soaring Eagle Zip Line was added to the outdoor fun.

The nature park features more than 400 critters, birds, reptiles and fish, a gator slough ecological laboratory, and a petting farm.

For more information, visit the website, or Like the Shell Factory on Facebook.