The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel in southwest Florida are made up of over 100 barrier islands strung along the Gulf of Mexico - including Captiva, Cape Coral, and Bonita Springs. The area is renowned for its laid-back, barefoot holiday destinations, each offering visitors a different experience, but drawn together by nature and the water.
Kayaking On The Estero River
Fort Myers White Sandy Beach
Sunrise on Sanibel Island
Fountain at Bloomingdales
Beautiful Crabs on Fort Myers
Captiva Island Aerial View
Fort Myers is a bustling metropolis with ecological, historical and cultural attractions, as well as shopping across the spectrum – high-end outlets, antiques, boutiques, and outdoor shopping malls. Dining and nightlife entertain when the sun goes down, with almost nightly spectacular shows as it sinks over the Caloosahatchee River.
Fort Myers is also the perfect place to soak up some history. Take a historic downtown walking tour with the Southwest Florida Museum of History, or take the family to the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum & Aquarium for an afternoon of hands-on learning and exploration. Budding historians, scientists, and inventors will want to take a narrated tour of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, just south of downtown - children of all ages will enjoy the indoor/outdoor celebration of the prolific inventors’ and industrialists’ lives.
Sanibel Island, a barrier island stretching for 12 miles off the coast of Fort Myers, offers some the best beaches in the USA due to it being 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 a 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 is free to visit by car, cycle, foot or kayak, or for a nominal fee you can take a guided trolley tour and spot the wildlife for yourself.
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.
Located close to Fort Myers, you will be captivated by beautiful, alluring Captiva Island with its white sandy beaches. There are so many activities to choose from, fishing, golf, boating, kayaking, canoeing, tennis, swimming or bike riding. Go boating down the waterways and view a variety of wildlife such as dolphins, blue herons, raccoons and many different species of colorful birds. Don't forget to go 'shelling' a local activity collecting the prettiest pastel colored seashells.
Captiva Islands shops are clustered at the north end of Captiva Drive and on Andy Rosse Lane. Strolling along the village paths from shop to shop, you will find antiques, casual fashions, pottery, and many unique gifts for that special someone. Your visit to Sanibel Island or Captiva Island is not complete without sampling some of the local fare and succulent fresh seafood. You will also find a wide selection of ethnic foods in the area.
Cape Coral is the largest city between Tampa and Miami on the Gulf of Mexico. It is connected to Fort Myers by two bridges. Renowned Gulf Coast beaches, verdant golf courses, and family attractions make it a great holiday destination. Over 400 miles of canals make this city a boater's and fisherman's paradise. Many canals lead to the Gulf of Mexico, others to lakes and favorite fishing spots. It is the perfect destination for any outdoor enthusiast, and from hiking one of the many trails at the Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park to fishing at the Cape Coral Yacht Club there are activities for just about everyone. Coral Oaks Golf Course is a great place to work on your game, and if history is your thing or you just love beautiful flowers, don't forget to check out the Cape Coral Historical Society Museum to see some interesting relics and their prized rose garden.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico between Fort Myers and Naples, Bonita Springs has a tropical climate, with southern charm, rivers, bays and finger canals. Relax on the sunkissed pristine beaches or have fun with the water sports readily available. Enjoy fishing and boating on the backwaters. Improve your handicap at one of the beautifully designed golf courses or pamper yourself at one of the many spas. Take a sunset cruise on a catamaran and watch the dolphins play.
Visit the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Boardwalk or hike through Koreshan State Park and experience the Western Everglades. Restaurants in the area offer diversified cuisine. Many spotlight Florida's freshest, finest seafood "straight from the docks" - jumbo shrimp, sweet scallops, succulent crabs and, of course, great grouper.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO
1) Sunrise or Sunset – a picture postcard
Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, experiencing the sun rise and fall against the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico is a truly spectacular event. The sky above transforms into a performance of soft light that melts into the horizon. Fort Myers Beach entertains the morning sun quite majestically while Captiva is renowned for its sunsets which change with a blink of an eye. Why not choose our Dolphin and Shelling Sunset Cruise
2) Become one with nature at the J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Lose yourself in the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the USA with miles of primordial wetlands. Watch flocks of birds migrate across land and sea and see alligators and manatees in their natural habitat as you head along the drivable 'safari' trail. Grab a pair of binoculars from the visitor center to help you spy on some of the 220 migratory species of bird that are protected in this pristine habitat.
3) Step back in time at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates
As well as learning about Edison and Ford's lives and inventions, visitors can go back further and learn about the Koreshan settlers, Florida pioneers and the areas original inhabitants, the Calusa Indians. If you are interested in the history of Fort Myers we have the perfect tour for you - Historic Walking Tour of Fort Myers
4) Island-hopping, Florida style
With over 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 and Sanibel. Many of the islands are uninhabited mangrove clusters, whilst others take visitors' breath away with their beautiful beaches, historic homes, and wonderful restaurants. Places like Cabbage Key and laid back Gasparilla are well worth visiting.
5) Sanibel sea school
Living with nature is the lifeblood of The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel and every effort is made to ensure the beaches and wildlife is protected for everyone to enjoy. Sea Schools are fun ways for kids to learn about nature and the waters of Sanibel and Captiva. Kids get to spot dolphins, search for crabs, discover beautiful shells and learn about the abundant wading birds that live off the islands. A variety of fun and educational courses are available.
A fantastic holiday favourite in the USA, and something that The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel excel 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? Tanger Outlets is 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.
7) 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 go to Sanibel Island and visit education centers like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. The clinic serves as an animal hospital for birds, otters, sea turtles, and even deer. Get up close and personal on our Dolphin and Wildlife Cruise
8) 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, water-bound goodness.
9) Get your fish on
From March through June, anglers from all over the world come here for Megalops – the tarpon, one of the world’s great game fishes. You can catch some yourself at Boca Grande Pass, on the south edge of Boca Grande, known as the ‘Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World’. We have two fantastic fishing trips to choose from Lake Okeechobee Fishing Trip near Fort Myers and Cape Coral Inshore Fishing
10) Watch the world go by
Head to Times Square and San Carlos Boulevard on Fort Myers Beach to watch the world go by. Street cafés and restaurants offer live music and beach stores sell all you need for the kids to look the part on the beach.