For the past five years, I’ve been spending most of the winter months in Fort Myers Beach, FL. During that time, I’ve explored the area and visited most of the popular attractions. So as a public service to my readers, I figured some may be interested in the Dawg’s first hand take on some good things to do while visiting the area. So, here’s eight things to do while you’re in Fort Myers Beach.
Go to the Beach
This is probably the number one reason why many people come to Fort Myers Beach. Estrero Island, which makes up most of Fort Myers Beach, has seven miles of flat white sand beach. Being on the gulf side of Florida, the waves are mostly non-existent. But, the flat beach areas are very popular with tourists for sitting, people watching, or bike riding.
There are plenty of places to stay, eat, and drink right on the beach. The whole beach area is very casual. For public beach access, there are 4 major sections that provide plenty of access, rest rooms, and parking. Bowditch Park is at the northern tip of the island and allows beachside and bayside access. It has plenty of parking, and nice bath houses and restrooms.
About a mile south from Bowditch is Lynn Hall Memorial Park. This is a very popular area with visitors. It has parking and rest rooms. It’s also right next to the popular TImes Square retail area which has plenty of food and drink options.
Crescent Beach Family Park is just a short walk from Lynne Hall Park. There’s no parking here, but it does have picnic shelters, volley ball courts, and 2 rest rooms. About 3 miles down the beach is the small public Newton Park. This spot was a former ocean front residence that was donated to the Town. It has limited parking, picnic shelters, and nice rest rooms. This park doesn’t get the crowds and is my favorite beach spot to hang out.
Visit Lovers Key State Park
Right off the southern tip of Estero Island is Lovers Key State Park. In the 1960’s and 70’s, this collection of four small islands was slated for development, In 1983, the state purchased it and turned it into a lovely 1,600 acre state park.
The park has 2 miles of nice remote white sand beach. It’s a popular place for kayaking along several miles of canals. Rentals are available. It also has 5 miles of hiking and biking trails. I did a vlog post on the park which you can see here – Vlog #12 – Lovers Key State Park.
Parking is plentiful. They offer kayak, canoe, and bike rentals. There’s a food concession, store, and rest rooms. It’s also serviced by local Fort Myers Beach trolley.
I’m not a kayaker, but I see lots of folks kayaking on the calm bayside waters of Estero Island. Hurricane Bay has plenty of beaches, canals, and mangroves to explore. The Great Calusa Bluewater Paddling Trail is a 190 mile marked water route that meanders across Estero Bay.
There are public access put ins at Bowditch Park, Bunche Beach Preserve, Matanzas Bridge Fishing Pier, and the Mound House. There are also launch points at Salty Sam’s Marina and at San Carlos RV Park. Kayak rentals are available at several places near Estero Island.
Visit the Mound House
Located at about the mid-point of Estero Island, the Mound House is one of the oldest houses on the island. The original house was built in 1898 on what was an ancient Calusa shell mound. The mound is over 2,000 years old. The house has been restored and it’s now preserved as a museum and historical site.
In 1958, the owners of the house decided to add a swimming pool and unearthed the contents of the shell mound. The site is now preserved as a historic and archeological site. It’s interesting to see the layers of shells over a time line. It’s also a nice place to learn about the native Calusa people who were the first inhabitants of Estero Island
The site is open to the public. The house is contains a small museum. There’s a kayak launch point and a nice fishing pier on the property.
Go to Sanibel & Captiva Islands
Just seven miles away from Fort Myers Beach are the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. Sanibel is a vacation destination known for its beaches and lack of commercial development. You won’t find any high-rise condo’s, dense packed development, or crowded strip malls on Sanibel. It’s very laid back and summery.
Both islands are reached by a bridge that connects Sanibel to the mainland. The bridge was built in 1979 and passes over three causeway islands. These islands are a park that offers free water front parking and picnic tables. It’s a great place to park and spend a day. The bridge has bike lanes for cyclists. If you bring a bike, it’s an easy bike ride over to Sanibel from the causeway islands. Also, there’s a paved bike path the runs the length of Sanibel
There’s one main road on the island and traffic can be slow at busy times. The key beaches are the Light House Beach at the southern end, Bowmans Beach midway up the island, and Blind Pass Beach at the northern tip. All the beaches are very nice and shelling is one of the big draws. All have limited parking and the lots fill up fast. It’s also pricey to park ($4 per hour).
Another attraction on Sanibel is the J.N. “DIng” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge occupies most of the bay side part of Sanibel and it’s loaded with salt water lagoons. It’s a great place to see migratory birds. There’s a scenic drive through the preserve with plenty of turnouts for viewing. It’s costs $5 per vehicle to visit the refuge but entrance is free if you have a National Park Senior Pass..
Capitva Island is much smaller than Sanibel. It’s reached via a small bridge at the northern tip of Sanibel. Capitva is more exclusive and appears to be a place where some of the top 1% of the 1% spend the winter.
Visit the Edison Ford Winter Estates
In 1885, Thomas Edison came to Fort Myers and decided to buy land along the Caloosahachee River for a winter vacation residence. It took a few years to build the house and develop the property, but once complete Edison became a regular winter resident. In 1911, his good friend, Henry Ford bought the adjoining property and built his own vacation home.
Edison used the property as his winter home until his death in 1931. In 1947, his widow deeded the property to the city of Fort Myers. The Ford Estate was donated in 1988. Both properties are now called the Edison Ford Winter Estates and are open to the public.
Touring the 21 acre property is a nice 1/2 day outing. The setting is lovely, just a mile south of downtown Fort Myers. Both houses can be seen as well as a botanical garden and two museums. Here’s a link to my blog post about a visit to the estates in 2015 – Edison Ford Winter Estates.
Take a Day Trip to Key West
Driving down to Key West along US 1, is a very scenic and memorable road trip. For those visiting southwest Florida who want to avoid the long drive across the state and then down US 1, there’s a high-speed ferry that runs daily between Fort Myers Beach and Key West.
The boat leaves Fort Myers Beach daily at 8:30 am and arrives in Key West three hours later. The return ferry departs Key West at 6:00 pm and gets back to Fort Myers Beach around 9:00 pm. If you book a room to stay over in Key West then you can return on a subsequent day.
The ferry cost is a bit pricey at $165 per person for a round trip ticket. A small discount can be had if you book eight days in advance. Hotel rooms in Key West are also pricey during the winter months. Be prepared to spend anywhere from $200-$300 per night for a room.
I have driven to Key West but have never taken the ferry. The winter, my RV park neighbor did take the ferry to Key West and had a great time.
Take in a MLB Baseball Game
Fort Myers is the spring training home for two MLB teams – The Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox. Both teams have beautiful stadiums that are owned and operated by Lee County. The Twins play at Hammond Stadium (9,300 seating capacity) in Century Link Park and the Red Sox play at JetBlue Park (11,000 seating capacity). Each is within 10 – 15 miles from Fort Myers Beach.
The spring training season starts at the end of February and runs through the end of March. Game tickets are usually readily available and much less than a regular season MLB game. The small stadiums are great places to watch a game.
This year, I went to Hammond Stadium to see the Twins play the Red Sox and had a great time.
There’s much more that can be done in the Fort Myers area, but these are my top picks for things to do in Fort Myers Beach.