The Shell Factory and Nature Park

The Shell Factory and Nature Park  Logo

Basic Information

Address: 2787 North Tamiami Trail North Fort Myers, FL 33903
Phone Number: 239-995-2141 ext 116
Fax Number: 239-995-3538
Director: Pam Plummer

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The Shell Factory and Nature Park
The Shell Factory and Nature Park
The Shell Factory and Nature Park
The Shell Factory and Nature Park

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Additional Information

Days and Hours: 7 days a week Nature Park 10 am - 5 pm Fun Park 10 am - 5 pm Retail store 10 am - 6 pm restaurant Sunday 11 am - 7 pm Mon - Sat 11 am - 8 pm
Description:

The Shell Factory and Nature Park is a one-of-a-kind educational and entertainment experience with many indoor and outdoor attractions including Nature Park, Fun Park, Arcade, Zipline, Live Entertainment, Full Service Restaurant, 68,000 sq. ft. of some of the most unique gifts in the world and 4 free museums! We also provide guided Field Trips, Overnight camping, Birthday parties and Special events to make your groups visit a special one. The Shell Factory and Nature Park has been in this area for 80 years making it a favorite Family Fun destination for locals and travelers a like.

For a day of outdoor fun, students or campers will enjoy a guided tour through the Nature Park. We have over 400 animals living here from alligators to a zebra! Learn about a variety of critters including vertebrates, invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians. Feed our animals in the petting farm, explore our Eco lab and visit the Touch Center or have an animal presentation. We also have a Dinosaur Park, playground and picnic area. Bring your own lunches or order from our restaurant and have a picnic in the park! Customize your field trip with additional options from our Fun Park!

The Nature Park is alive at night! Join us for an overnight adventure. Dinner, snacks, continental breakfast, tents and chairs provided! Educational programs and behind the scenes encounters along with a guided tour of the park to see our nocturnal animals. Create animal enrichment and join in campfire activities!

Grade Levels:
Pre-K
K-5
6-8
9-12
Group Type: All are welcome! We offer activities for all ages.
Disabled Access:

All venues are wheelchair accessible. We also have wheelchairs and motorize wheelchairs on property for your convenience. No charge!

Program Type:

Educational and Entertainment

Admission/Tickets: Varies depending on activities
Food: Bring your own lunch or order from our restaurant and have a picnic in the Nature Park!
Length of Visit: From one hour to all day
Student/Staff Ratio: Based on your organizations requirements
Exhibits: Over 400 critters in our Nature Park from Alligators to Zebra, Dinosaur Park, Petting Farm, EcoLab, Touch Center, Buy food to feed alligators, goats, zebu, porcupines, guinea pigs, rabbits, birds, pig, turtles and fish. Military Museum, Shell Museum, Fossil and Gem Museum, Natural History Museum. Pirates Cove
Freebies: All our museums are Free!
Gift Shop/Factory Outlet: 68,000 square feet of Gifts and Souvenirs
Amenities: Nature Park, Fun Park, Gift Shop, Arcade, Museums, Restaurants, Outdoor Dining, Full service bars, Dog Friendly cafe and bar, Dog friendly atmosphere.
Reservations Needed: Yes for field trips and events
Directions:

From the North on I-75: Take exit 158 onto Tucker's Grade; go 1/4 mile to US 41; turn left, 12 miles south on US 41
From the South on I-75: Take exit 143, turn left onto State Road 78 (Bayshore Road) ; Go 5 miles to US 41; turn right; go 1 1/2 miles north on US 41

Mission Statement:

We encourage all our guests to love our animals that call the nature park their home, as much as we do.
Our cherished family of “pets” have come from all walks of life, some have come here as a rescue, others have been brought to us by Florida wildlife officers, or have been donated to us by a loving family member, who can no longer care for their pet. 
All of these animals are in various stages of rehabilitation and acclimation, ranging from getting used to their new surroundings and new caretakers to being nurtured back to health.
Please love them as we do, and come back and see how they are developing after receiving care and love from our keepers.
 

Testimonials:

We just wanted to take a moment and thank you for being the best tour guide ever! You were so great with our class and the love you have for your profession is evident! We will be back next year and we look forward to it! Love, RHS Life Skills

Thank you for making our field trip fun and memorable! We can't wait to come back next year! Cafferata Elementary

Thank you so much for the wonderful tour of the Animals and the nature center. We all learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves! You were patient and understanding, and very informative. We appreciate that! We hope to come back again :) The trip was so much fun! Thank you again. ICHS

We truly enjoyed our field trip to the Nature Park and plan on setting up another on next school year. Your patience, compassion and understanding with my special needs students was so greatly appreciated. I especially wanted to share the pictures of Angel and Kayla with the birds!! I look forward to working with you again next year. The kids have requested over and over again that we return! We will have a few new students too. Oak Hammock Middle ESE teacher

Thank you so much for making our first field trip so wonderful! Our kids and our adults had a magnificent time! Hope you enjoy the pictures and we look forward to seeing you again! All of room 4 and staff

Thank you so much for providing a wonderful experience to our summer campers on their visit to the Shell Factory and Nature Park! Our campers loved seeing all of the animals and hearing their stories. The also learned a lot :) Thank you also for being so flexible and accommodating when the rain storm hit! We hope to work with you again in the future! Conservancy of SWFL.

Facility History:

Since 1938 when Harold and Mildred Crant first began selling sea shells in Bonita Springs until today The Shell Factory has seen hundreds of changes. 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 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 north, to The Shell Factory. This month, the Cronin's are celebrating their 20th anniversary recreating the Shell Factory, Tom and his wife, Pam oversee the day to day operations of the iconic attraction.

For 80 years, The Shell Factory (and now Nature Park) has been entertaining tourists and locals alike with a dizzying (and constantly changing) array of diversions and amusements reminiscent of Florida roadside attractions of yesteryear. Which, by the way the Shell Factory was one of the first. The changes will never be complete. The addition of displays and activities within the attraction such as; Four Free Museums, the Year 'Round Christmas House, a Fun Park, a Fossil and Gemstone Mining Rig, a Game Room and Video Arcade, a Full Scale Dinosaur Exhibit, US Post Office, Subway Restaurant, a rehab of Rosie's Homemade Fudge (now in its second generation of family ownership) it is known as Gulf Coast Fudge and 68,000 square feet of shopping including beautiful gifts, nautical décor, jewelry, pearls, toys, artful designs and of course shells began to create the one of a kind experience that is still evolving today. A recent addition, the Soaring Eagle Zip line is thrilling the young and young at heart with every ride high into the North Fort Myers sky. The redesigned Video arcade is the latest renovation.

One of the most significant embellishments to the Shell Factory was the addition of the Nature Park. Animals from an armadillo to a zebra call it home. The over 380 animals, birds, reptiles and fish that inhabit the lush environment are staged in aviaries, a gator slough, ecological laboratory, petting farm and all manner of habitats and dwellings.

Capt'n Fishbones Restaurant and outdoor cafes; Dogbones and the Swamp are thriving thanks to enthusiastic community support. Adjacent to the restaurant is a large special event venue, host to weddings, corporate events, and receptions of all kinds. Featured political events include visits by a number of influential figures and local officials from across the political spectrums who have also hosted receptions and campaign kickoffs hosted at the Shell Factory's Dolphin Room, Party House and Outdoor Venues. www.shellfactory.com

Shell Factory (and Nature Park) Chronology

1938 - Harold and Mildred Crant began selling shells in Bonita Springs

1943 - Harold Crant began an aggressive outdoor advertising program utilizing sets of series of billboard signs

1951 - Fire destroyed the store in Bonita Springs and The Shell Factory moved to its current location in North Fort Myers

1955 - Beginning of the "highly developed" outdoor advertising program of billboards from Gainesville to Miami and grew to a program of over 100 billboards from Georgia and Alabama to Miami. Signs lined the highway that promoted the Shell Factory and on the bottom of the board progressively changed and said "only 249 miles"…

1960 - Hurricane Donna destroyed the Shell Factory Quonset hut portion of the building

1964 - The main entrance was moved from Business 41 to U.S. 41

1979 - Crant-Heisz Enterprises bought The Shell Factory from Harold Crant's son-in-law Richmond Powell for $600,000.00

1980 - Gary Link recorded "The Shell Factory Billboard Blues"

1981 - The warehouse caught on fire and destroyed approximately 15,000 square feet

1982 - Fantasy Isles Theme Park Opened

1983 - Interstate 75 takes traffic from U.S. 41, this was a devastating blow to the roadside attraction

1984 - Shell Factory filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and remained a failing and decaying business for over 13 years. By the time it was sold all outdoor activities had been removed and only 10,000 square feet of the retail store (in terrible disrepair) remained open

1997 - Thomas R. and Pamela J Cronin (through FLORDECO) purchased The Shell Factory from a New Jersey based insurance company who had come to ownership through foreclosure, Cronin (and then fiancé Pam) began management and reconstruction of the devastated property

1997 - After the massive renovation, (approximately $4 million by the end of the following year) November 14 was designated by then Governor Lawton Childs as "Shell Factory Day" in Florida

1997 - Cronin brought the water, light and music presentation "Waltzing Waters" to The Shell Factory complex, the attraction had not been available in Lee County since the early 1980's

1998 - Capt'n Fishbones Restaurant opened brought a full service restaurant and bar to the property

1999 - 4000 square feet of the retail store became a year round Christmas Shop, making it the largest in south Florida (later expanded to 6000 square feet) and the video arcade was added to the north end of the retail store

2000 - On April Fool's Day the Octagon Animal Showcase opened, Gumbo Fest (the largest fund-raiser of the year for the foundation) had it inaugural event, the Fun Park was developed by enhancing the miniature golf course with Bumper Boats, Water Wars and other outside fun activities.

2001 - The Dolphin Room and Party House were renovated as Special Event Venues for Fundraisers, Wedding Receptions and other private and public events

2002 - The ECOLAB (short for Ecological Laboratory) opened bringing spiders, snakes, baby gators, monitor lizards and many other interesting creatures to the Nature Park

2003 - The US Postal Service announced the opening of a contract post office (just in time for holiday shopping) at the Shell Factory

2004 - A multimillion dollar renovation and the Showcase became the Nature Park, an Environmental Education Foundation and nature based attraction including a botanical trail and gator slough were developed

2005 - The 6000 square foot aviary opened in the Nature Park and the Foundation began funding field trips for Lee County School children, now over 50,000 children have been provided free transportation to the attraction through this funding

2006 - Dogbones Café (the dog friendly outdoor café) opened and Single Mingle Gatherings began on Wednesday evenings resulting in 4 Weddings after just 3 years!

2007 - The Day of the Dinosaur and Fossil Exhibits Open

2008 - Was a stellar year with the addition of Mc Shell and Company Mining Rig, the Fossil and Gemstone Exhibit and the contribution from the Johnson Estate of animal, reptile and fish mounts, bringing the Natural History Collection to over 300 pieces.

2010-2011 - Years of the dog, with the opening of Doggie Heaven, Doggie Church, Weiner Dog Races, Golden Fest and Dock Dog Jumping Competitions

2013 - The Butterfly Garden in the Nature Park opened

2014 - Soaring Eagle Zip Line, a $265,000.00 addition soared over the pond at the landmark attraction

2015 - Renovations and additions to the Swamp Bar and Patio and Dogbones; the two outdoor venues bring entertainment, dancing, dogs and frivolity to the daily activities. A third "exotic" bird aviary was opened in the Nature Park

2016 - The video arcade received a $400,000.00 face lift and the Safari Café was added to the north end of the retail store. Years of extensive additions and millions of dollars in renovations, the decline in the economy (2007-2013) and the failure of the bank that held the first mortgage on the property placed the owners in a precarious financial situation. Bank United saw the potential of the property and commitment of owners and staff and granted a new commercial loan

2017 - July of this year, the owners Thomas and Pamela Cronin celebrate 20 years of renovation, ownership and an undying labor of love!

Social Networking:

facebook/shellfactory. com