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Now that the busy season in our corner of Southwest Florida is speeding ahead at full throttle, with festivals, fairs and social obligations galore, who has time to cook? Or, to be honest, who even has the inclination, when so many good eateries will do it for us?

For our cover story on the area’s best restaurants, we struggled to narrow the list to just 15. After all, in a tourist/vacation destination like ours, people expect there to be plenty of good restaurants, and indeed there are. They range from casual waterfront spots to health-conscious cafes to more formal traditional establishments, as you’ll see in Abby Weingarten’s story. We’ve even thrown in a few fast, affordable but still delicious options for when you’re really on the go, thanks to our “cheap eats” expert, Cooper Levey-Baker. So whether you’re in the mood for fresh seafood, authentic Italian or just something new and creative to surprise you, you can find it here.

You can also find some great dining options in nearby Boca Grande, as you’ll see in Ilene Denton’s piece about her recent visit to this charming and unique little town. Boca Grande is well-known not only for its tarpon fishing but for its wealthy part-time residents and the upper reaches of its real estate prices. But you don’t have to break the bank just to escape here for a day or so and stop in to dine at the Loose Caboose or the Pink Elephant. With Boca’s beautiful setting, it’s no wonder a coalition of conservation-minded residents recently banded together to purchase 30 waterfront acres to add to its natural assets.

And speaking of conservation efforts, we think you’ll find David Hackett’s story about the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast inspiring. In less than 15 years, the foundation has acquired almost 10,000 acres of sensitive habitat along our shores, and it continues to seize opportunities to save these lands before they disappear to development. We, and future generations, owe them a debt.

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