Fort Myers’ Islands, Beaches and Neighbourhoods are less focused on the commercial side of Florida and more on showcasing its authentic and nature-filled haven. The area is widely described as ‘Unspoilt Florida’. One of the best examples of this is Sanibel Island, where there is a rule that no building can be taller than the tallest palm tree (no more than three stories) which helps the stunning, natural scenery come into its own and stand out for everyone that sets eyes upon it.
All of this makes for the perfect hidden getaway where you can truly experience island life, encouraging rest and relaxation aplenty and providing the perfect backdrop for digital detoxing. The best way to experience this destination is to island hop around a few and discover the one which suites you best based on exactly what you like to get from your holiday, a concept which is pretty unique to Florida when it comes to US breaks. It provides a similar offering to that of the Caribbean, but with the added familiarity of a US setting and excellent value for money in comparison to other island destinations.
- Located in Southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers and the surrounding areas are made up of over 100 islands dotted around Pine Island Sound. Renowned for their laid-back appeal, the islands conjure up barefoot getaways and are abound with fascinating wildlife and beautiful nature on both land and on water.
Watch the below video to learn more about the different personalities our islands have to offer or scroll down to the ‘Where to Stay’ section.
Things To See & Do
- Watersports: With all the access to the beautiful Gulf Coast, and the many waterways going through both the cities and the wildlife reserves, most of the activities available to tourists are focused around water and nature. This includes kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and shelling.
- Bike: One of the best ways to see Fort Myers is by bike. Sanibel Island and Cape Coral are big biking communities with over 100 miles of cycle routes through wildlife parks, heritage sites and golf courses, ending on the beach where you can try a spot for shelling. Fort Myers Beach is the best place to cycle along the beautiful coast, whilst Caloosahatchee Regional Park is great for mountain bikers with its rugged inclines and forest terrain – and the park even offers night rides for the most adventurous visitors! Looking for a more gentle cycle? There is a family friendly 25 miles of easy and scenic bike trails on Sanibel Island with plenty of wildlife crossings and a cool ice cream shop to stop and refresh.
- Wildlife: Looking to get up close and personal with the local wildlife? The best way to do this is by kayak. Manatees will often appear close to you as you paddle through the sea grass, while dolphins are frequently seen playing in the wake of your boat and the region is home to some 245 types of bird, including the Roseate Spoonbill (the state bird of Florida), pelicans and the miniature burrowing owl. Any time between May and October is the best period to see the resident loggerhead turtles hatching eggs along the beaches, whilst alligators and iguanas can also be spotted near the wetland and lake areas.
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. 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.
- Island Hopping: The most popular activity amongst visitors to the area is island hopping. This is where people visit a large number of the smaller islands of the region to experience as many of the hidden gems as possible. Cayo Costa State Park, North Captiva and Cabbage Key are all excellent examples. The last of these is a small island with only one restaurant, which sells locally caught seafood as well as the self-described “island’s best cheeseburger”. You can also explore their nature trail, climb the water tower, and enjoy seeing the gopher tortoises roaming the island.
Where To Stay
Fort Myers has a total of eleven communities, each area offers a large variety of accommodation; self-catering units for extra space and comfort, luxury full service hotels and resorts, vacation homes and beach cottages.
- Sanibel Island: 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. The geography of the island is also unique, with the tides of the Gulf of Mexico washing up hundreds of shells each day. 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. 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 and Doc Fords Rum Bar & Grille.
Sanibel is great for those looking to: reconnect with family and friends, for a quiet and relaxed getaway, for sun-drenched beaches, clear balmy waters and Mother Nature on their doorstep.
- Captiva Island: The smaller sister island to Sanibel, it is renowned for its slow pace of life – a place where people come to relax. This island truly captures the bohemian culture with quirky stores and surroundings. Sit and read a book, walk the miles of pristine beach, learn to fish and be amazed by the picturesque sunset. Captiva truly is a place to savour. Artists have been drawn to Captiva for years and it’s easy to see why, with its laid back lifestyle coupled with its naturally beautiful, awe-inspiring, islands, dotted around Pine Island Sound with cacti and bougainvillea’s peppering the landscape.
- Cape Coral: To the west of Fort Myers, across the Calossahatchee river is Cape Coral, renowned as a waterfront wonderland with more canals than anywhere else in the world (over 400 miles of waterways). It is also well known to birding enthusiasts for its abundance of wildlife, boasting 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 firsthand.
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.
- Bonita Springs and Estero: 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. Lovers Key State Park is made up of four barrier islands and offers hiking, cycling, canoeing, kayaking and miles of pristine beaches. One of the oldest roadside attractions can still be found in Bonita Springs, The Everglades Wonder Gardens has been a landmark since 1936 and gives you the opportunity to see some rescued Florida wildlife close up and hand feed flamingos.
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.
- Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach: Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island is perhaps the best known and is situated at the northern tip of Estero Island on the tranquil Gulf of Mexico. The island faces Sanibel Island on one side and the mainland on the other. Visitors return year after year for its laid-back holiday atmosphere, alfresco dining on fresh seafood and the dazzlingly fine white sandy beaches which gently shelve into the ocean; giving the destination a Caribbean like feel. If visiting between May and October, you may see turtle nests along the shores and always look out for dolphins playing in the water.
- Fort Myers: The mainland of the region with a bustling metropolis and a large array of ecological, historical and cultural attractions, you can enjoy local or fine dining restaurants and bars over the Caloosahatchee River. The Caloosahatchee River is the newest leg of the Great Calusa Blueway, and this is the segment where blue turns green – as in lush, towering leather ferns, stately oaks dripping with moss and verdant vegetation along every shore. The Calusa used this river as a highway, as did the early settlers in Fort Myers. Today kayakers, canoeists, powerboats and sailboats use the river for recreation purposes. Fort Myers is the perfect place to soak up some history – budding historians, scientists and inventors will want to take a narrated tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, just south of downtown – children and adults of all ages will enjoy the indoor/outdoor celebration of the prolific inventors’ and industrialists’ lives by a self-guided audio tour or scheduled guided walks with a local historian.
Fort Myers is suitable for families and couples who are looking for great dining opportunities, culture and history.