Visitors return year after year to Fort Myers Beach; its laid back holiday atmosphere, dazzlingly fine white sandy beaches which gently shelve into the ocean, great seafood and entertainment – in fact you’d think you are in the Caribbean.
Fort Myers Beach at the northern tip of Estero Island on the tranquil Gulf of Mexico faces out to Sanibel Island on the one side and San Carlos Island and the mainland on the other. Visitors return year after year to Fort Myers Beach; its laid back holiday atmosphere, dazzlingly fine white sandy beaches which gently shelve into the ocean, great seafood and entertainment – in fact you’d think you are in the Caribbean.
Top 5 Things To Do in Fort Myers & Sanibel
1. Island Hopping – Florida Style
With 100 barrier islands to explore, the best way is to jump on a boat, whether paddle powered or escorted by a trusty captain, by getting on the water you will really experience The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Many of the area’s islands are uninhabited mangrove clusters while others take visitors’ breath away with their beautiful beaches and historic homes and wonderful restaurants on islands such as Cabbage Key and laid back Gasparilla
2. Become one with Nature at the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Lose yourself in the largest undeveloped mangrove eco system in the USA with miles of primordial wetlands. Watch flocks of birds migrate across land and sea and see alligators and manatees dance along the drivable wildlife trail. Birds of over 270 species are protected in this pristine habitat.
3. Watchable Wildlife
Anhigas dive, pelicans flap, herons pose, alligators cut through the water and manatees roll like giant grey jelly beans… animal lovers will find a lot here to enjoy. Watch dolphins when you hop on a seagoing charter with outfits like Tarpon Bay Explorers, or come to Sanibel Island and visit education centres like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. The clinic serves as an animal hospital for birds, otters, sea turtles and even deer.
4. Paddle the Same Trails as the Calusa Indians
Head out on one of the largest, best executed blueways in the country – a network of water trails. Get geared up with one of the local outfitters at Estero River Outfitters and hit the teal spiderweb that is the Great Calusa Blueway, which provides access to 190 miles of pristine, waterbound goodness.
A fantastic holiday favourite in the USA, it is something that The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel excels at. Miromar Outlets in Estero has over 140 top designer stores offering discounts of up to 70%. Grab a coffee or lunch as you will be sure to spend the day on those bargains! On your way to or from Sanibel, SANIBEL OUTLETS is the perfect for a pre or post shopping experience. And if you are in the Bonita Springs area Coconut Point Mall offers a nice selection of high end brands in a very walkable, outdoor space.
Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach, situated at the northern tip of Estero Island on the tranquil Gulf of Mexico, faces out to Sanibel Island on one side, and San Carlos Island and the mainland on the other. Visitors return year after year for its laid back holiday atmosphere, dazzlingly fine white sandy beaches which gently shelve into the ocean, great seafood and local cuisine and entertainment – in fact you’d think you were in the Caribbean. Hotels, cafes and restaurants line the wide white sand beach stretching for seven miles.
You can sit back and enjoy the sun, walk along the beach and stop off at one of the beach bars and listen to live music, or try your hand at one of the many water sports available on the beach. There is even a sailing school available in several locations, which is great for relaxed family days out in sheltered and shallow waters, or for those looking for a little adrenaline on the Gulf.
There is plenty to enjoy away from the beach too: head to the seafood market and try local shrimp and crab delicacies; people watch near Times Square and San Carlos Blvd with their beach stores, restaurants and bars – this is the heart of Fort Myers Beach and a great place to visit during the day or evening. Close by you can also explore Matanzas Pass Preserve, a small nature reserve which leads you through a maze of mangroves to the water and stunning vistas.
Fort Myers Beach also offers a daily boat service to Key West on the Key West Express by catamaran, where you can watch the dolphins play in the wake of the boat as you make your way down to the Keys, with stunning sunsets on the return journey. Ideal for a day trip without all the driving, getting there is half the fun on this full service passenger ferry from port to port in three hours.
Fort Myers Beach is suitable for families and couples who are looking to be close to amenities and places of interest and of course a great beach. Connected closer to the mainland, ideal for active visitors planning to including a shopping day, exploring Downtown Fort Myers, beach time and evening live entertainment whilst watching the sunset all in one day.
Sanibel Island, a barrier island stretching for 12 miles off the coast of Fort Myers, offers some the best beaches in the USA, left undisturbed by islanders who want to preserve the natural beauty of the region. There is an abundance of natural wonders on Sanibel including the largest Mangrove
ecosystem in the USA which gives home to an array of species such as Florida’s state bird the Roseate Spoonbill, manatees, dolphins, alligators, sea otters, pelicans and more. The J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge can be visited by car, cycle, foot or kayak, or for a nominal fee you can take a guided trolley tour and spot the wildlife for yourself. Guided trolley tours depart twice daily except Fridays, the refuge remains closed on Fridays. Trolley tours cost $13 per person. Recommended to book in advance. Don’t forget to stop in the Visitor Educational Center Admission: $5 per vehicle, $1 per pedestrian, $1 per bicycle.
The geography of the island is also unique, with the tides of the Gulf of Mexico washing up hundreds of shells each day. Shelling is a popular pastime and those who partake in gathering these beautiful shells develop what is fondly known as the ‘Sanibel Stoop’. You can walk for miles discovering different shells at every turn. Of course, the best way to discover Sanibel is by bike – there are 25 miles of cycle paths designed to make it safe and easy to get around. A visit to Sanibel Island is incomplete without getting out on the water to explore some of the nearby islands like Cabbage Key, Useppa Island, Boca Grande or Cayo Costa State Parkthere are over 100 of them). You don’t really swim in the Pine Island sound, therefore I would not mention it like this. Most hotels have boats and kayaks to hire so you can explore the local wildlife, paddle through mangrove canopies and visit the neighbouring island. Any boat journey from Sanibel requires a camera – you’ll be sure to see manatees and dolphins as you pass secluded beaches, private islands, lighthouses and spectacular waterfront homes. Maybe add a few recommendations of places, companies to use. To make it easier for agents to relate and have tangible items and activities to refer to.
Did you know that there are no chain restaurants nor fast food restaurants on Sanibel. Sanibel offers an array of local restaurants and venues in keeping with its un-commercialised approach, creating a great ambience and relaxed culture, particularly when enjoying a drink and watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. A few island classics are Island Cow, Lighthouse Café, Doc Fords….
Sanibel Island is suitable for families and couples looking for a relaxed holiday with options to explore the area and enjoy plenty of nature based activities.
Captiva Island, the smaller sister island just north of Sanibel, is renowned for its slow pace of life – a place where people come to relax. Sit and read a book, walk the miles of pristine beach, learn to fish, catch up with friends and family or pitch up to the Mucky Duck Pub on the beach and be amazed at the glorious sunsets you will see – whatever you do, Captiva is a place to savour.
Artists have been drawn to Captiva for years because of its lifestyle, and it’s easy to see why – the beauty of the area is awe-inspiring, with islands dotted around Pine Island sound, and cacti and bougainvilleas pepper the landscape. The heart of Captiva, whilst not quite a downtown , is home
to a wonderful collection of local cafes and restaurants where visitors can watch the slow moving Captiva-world go by, chat with locals and listen to live music.
Captiva Island is suitable for families, groups and couples who are looking for a quiet holiday with nature on their doorstep. Being relatively remote by road (one hour to the mainland) means that it is the perfect destination for longer stays, island hopping and exploring the area. Experience the slow pace of these islands, Sanibel and Captiva are 25mph or 35mph.
Just across the Caloosahatchee, to the west of Fort Myers is Cape Coral, renowned as a waterfront wonderland with more canals than anywhere else in the world, including Venice, Italy. (over 400 miles of waterways) and also by birding enthusiasts for its abundance of wildlife – it boasts the largest population of burrowing owls in Florida. Exploring Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is a great way to see local wildlife, with raised walkways through the mangroves allowing visitors to experience Florida’s eco system first hand. A short drive from Fort Myers and the historical Edison and Ford Winter Estates, on the shores of the Caloosahatchee River, Cape Coral is ideal for those who want to be by and on the water.
Many holiday home rentals in Cape Coral are waterside and offer the opportunity to add a boat as part of the rental so you can navigate to a nearby beach or moor up at a waterside restaurant. Making it a boaters paradise, easy enough for all levels of experience. All boat rentals include a full instruction on how to operate the vessel as well as local rules and tips.
Cape Coral is suitable for families, groups and couples who are looking for a relaxed holiday on the waterfront setting with many activities. Cape Coral also hosts SunSplash Water Park, ideal for families with small children.
Just to the south of Fort Myers, Bonita Springs looks out onto Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a great base for exploring nature parks and beaches – Lover Key State Park is made up of four barrier islands and offers hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and miles of pristine beaches. The Everglades are just a short drive away and can be explored alone or as part of an organised tour including a typical airboat ride Everglades Day Safari is one of the excursions available for half and full day tours departing from the area.
Bonita Springs is suitable for families and couples who are looking for a resort stay while being close to shops and attractions in a tranquil setting.