Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center

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Stephanie Karasek
Stephanie Karasek

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Do you know how many eyes a horseshoe crab has? Or where a sting ray’s stinger is?  I didn’t either until I wandered into Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center.  Tucked under the bridge to Estero Island, on Fishermans Wharf, this little know science center gives an inside look at Florida’s marine life.

The Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center was founded in 1991 to promote the understanding, preservation and enhancement of our local marine environment. The center includes interactive exhibits, aquariums, a touch tank, collections of bones and shells and unique displays.

Watch as an aggressive eel is fed squid tentacles and roll up your sleeves and allow the stingray to eat from your hand.

Daniel Eaton, the center’s Volunteer Coordinator and Florida Master Naturalist, says that the purpose is education. “People do not protect what they don’t understand”.

Every Wednesday the center provides a Working Waterfront Tour. This 3 hour guided tour educates guests about the commercial fishing industry. Experience first hand how the boats are unloaded, the shrimp nets are hand sewn and the seafood is processed.

One of the programs the center is most proud of is its Summer Camp.  The camp is provided for kids ages 6-15 with 3 levels offered.  The campers participate in boat and beach trips and learn about mangroves, seagrass communities, bird nesting and all things marine life.

There is also a Naturalist program for adults offered in
partnership with UF as well as as Ostego Bay Oil Spill Co-op program which
responds to oil spills in Florida.

The center operates through donations from local businesses
and individuals.

The 2019 annual benefit, Tea by The Sea, is taking place on Saturday February 23rd. The benefit will include tea and a fashion show. The cost is $25 and a reservation is required.

The Ostego Bay Marine Science Center is worth checking out. It is off the beaten path and even though I’ve crossed the bridge to Ft. Myers Beach many times, I never knew it was there.  The cost is $5 for adults and $3  for kids. It is open Monday through Saturday 10am till 4pm. There is even a gift shop with all things marine life.

After petting sting ray and watching an eel devour a
squid,  it was time for lunch and the
menu had to include seafood! 

Dixie Fish Company is right next door and overlooks Matanzas’s pass. This waterfront restaurant is full of “old Florida” character and offers a full menu including some amazingly delicious shrimp dishes. 

We chose the Yucatan Shrimp Tacos, tangy with a kick, and the Pappardelle Pink Shrimp Salad Sandwich. 

If you love shrimp, you’ll love Dixie!

Next time you’re stuck in traffic trying to get to the beach, turn right onto Main Street and spend some time exploring the Marine Science Center. You’ll leave with a new appreciation for the creatures we share the water with.

And just in case you were wondering, a horseshoe crab has 6
eyes and a sting rays’s stinger is half way down their tail.