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The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel in South West Florida are made up of over 100 barrier islands strung along the Gulf of Mexico. 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. No visit to Florida’s Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel would be complete without taking to the water to island hop and discover the rich wildlife and flora that exists there.
Think perpetual sunshine, white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Think fashionable boutique and outlet shopping. Think of days spent spotting dolphins and searching for sea shells. Read a book, build a sandcastle or enjoy the warm gulf waters with the kids. Imagine evenings spent enjoying delicious seafood as the sun sets. From the moment you arrive, you'll feel connected to the people and unspoilt nature around you. Find your island on The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Driving Distances (Fort Myers Beach)
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 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.
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 centres like the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. The clinic serves as an animal hospital for birds, otters, sea turtles and even deer.
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.
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’.
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.
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Find your island…Discover the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are located in Southwest Florida and made up of over 100 barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico. The area is renowned for being a laid back, barefoot destination, but these are just a couple of the things this hidden getaway has to offer.
Think perpetual sunshine, white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Think fashionable boutique and outlet shopping. Think of days spent spotting dolphins and searching for sea shells. Read a book, build a sandcastle or enjoy the warm gulf waters with the kids. Imagine evenings spent enjoying delicious seafood and watching sunsets. From the moment you arrive, you’ll feel connected to the people and unspoiled nature around you. Find your island on The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.
Finding your island is liberating
Just a few hours from Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Key West visitors will discover endless stretches of white-sand beaches and hundreds of islands waiting to be explored. Hundreds of secluded islands dot the sun-splashed coastline like tiny jewels, some uninhabited and accessible only by boat or seaplane. Each community holds its own personality - take in the music and nightlife of Fort Myers Beach, the world renowned nature parks and alfresco cafes in Fort Myers or find bohemian beachside craft stores in Sanibel and Captiva. Each island offers a healthy dose of peace and quiet, and beach life with exceptional sunsets. The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are perfect for a relaxing beach holiday or as part of a fly-drive along the Florida coast. The beach of your dreams is here.
Finding your island is natural
Many of the islands provide sanctuary to wildlife, so take advantage and get close to the natural side of Florida. Watch dolphins play in the wake of your boat, or glide beneath the shade of mangroves while on a guided kayak tour of the Great Calusa Blueway. Paddle inches from manatees bobbing near the water’s surface, or spy on them at Manatee Park. Spot the pink Roseate Spoonbill and more than 300 kinds of birds in the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the U.S.
Finding your island is inspiring
Art galleries of every colour and variety burst from the seams on Matlacha and Pine Island. The Boca Grande and Sanibel lighthouses are inspirational to visit and the brilliant minds of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford enjoyed their visits so much they put down roots here. Their historic estates are filled with tropical gardens, workshops and museums which encourage creativity in every heart and prove the only limit on success is one’s imagination.
Only one question remains: where to stay? To experience Florida’s most naturally-preserved islands and beaches, choose from accommodations ranging from hotels and cottages, to villas and private homes. Visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com to start planning your vacation today and download a free Lonely Planet guidebook.
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 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 the perfect place to soak up some history – take a historic downtown walking tour with the Southwest Florida Museum of History, or take advantage of the ample opportunities for antiques hunting. You could also take the kids 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.
There’s a range of accommodation available in Fort Myers from affordable luxury at the Residence Inn Fort Myers Sanibel, to the boutique Hotel Indigo with a rooftop pool and bar overlooking the Caloosahatchee River – there’s something to suit every taste.
Fort Myers is suitable for families and couples who are looking for great dining opportunities, culture and history.
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 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 bar/cafes and listen to live music, or try your hand at one of the many watersports available on the beach. There is even a sailing school located on the sound 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 in Times Square and San Carlos Blvd with their beach stores, restaurants, bars and cafes – 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.
Accommodation options on Fort Myers Beach are varied – Outrigger Beach Resort is a full-service resort on the southern, quieter end of Fort Myers Beach, whilst Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina – perfect for families – is on the northern end of the beach.
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.
Driving Distances (Fort Myers Beach):
Accommodation comprises of hotels and holidays home rentals from apartments to four bed homes with pool. Following is a selection of properties:
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 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.
A visit to Sanibel Island is incomplete without getting out on the water to explore some of the nearby islands (there are over 100 of them). The surrounding Pine Island sound is incredibly clear and calm making it perfect for kids. 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.
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.
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. Guests can choose from a range of holiday lets and rentals – with the likes of Beach Cottages of Sanibel and Island Vacations, or more traditional resorts such as Holiday Inn Sanibel Island Beach Resort.
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.
Accommodation comprises of hotels (no hotel can be higher than the surrounding palm trees) and holidays homes for rent, from apartments to four bed homes with pool. Following is a selection of properties:
Captiva Island, the smaller sister island to 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 metropolis, is home to a wonderful collection of local cafes and restaurants where visitors can watch the slow moving Captiva-world go by.
The island boasts a number of brilliant resorts such as ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa which has 13 picturesque acres of grounds for guests to enjoy, as well as an extensive stretch of white-sand beach; and South Seas Island Resort - located at the tip of Captiva it offers a stunning resort experience with 2.5 miles of beach on its doorstep and is home to the Offshore Sailing School. Being located at the gateway to Pine Island sound and the Gulf of Mexico, it’s the perfect launch pad from which to discover the surrounding islands.
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.
Accommodation on Captiva is mainly focused on holiday home rentals through Royal Shell Vacations and the South Sea Island Resort;
Hotel lodging on Captiva: ‘Tween Waters Inn
To the north of Fort Myers is Cape Coral, renowned as a waterfront wonderland with more canals than anywhere else in the world (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 include a boat as part of the rental so you can navigate to a nearby beach or moor up at a waterside restaurant.
Cape Coral also boasts a stunning resort - the Westin Cape Coral; a paradise for those looking to relax and be pampered after a long drive and fun filled Orlando visit. The Westin is surrounded by water with its own marina with a daily boat transfer to Fort Myers Beach for those looking for more activities. With a kids club, golf course, spa and array of eateries, The Westin is a great place to chill in the sun.
Cape Coral is suitable for families, groups and couples who are looking for a relaxed holiday on the waterfront setting.
Accommodation Cape Coral offers holiday home rentals directly onto the sound via canals that run through the area. Most properties have direct water access with boats included. Osprey Villas are specialists in this area. For hotel resort accommodation The Westin Cape Coral Resort offers an excellent resort stay with all rooms featuring kitchen facilities too.
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 also a short drive away and can be explored alone or as part of an organised tour by airboat.
The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa is set in 26 acres of lush tropical gardens, offering a perfect resort stay. The resort boat takes guests to its private beach on a barrier island just off shore, whilst the resort itself has an 18 hole golf course and waterslides (soon to open is an on-resort waterpark in October 2016) to keep guests occupied.
At nearby outdoor mall, Coconut Point there is an array of shops and restaurants to browse or, if you are looking for a bargain, the Miromar Outlets Mall in Estero is a collection of over 140 brand name and designer stores and restaurants.
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.
Accommodation in Bonita Springs is focused on the Hyatt Regency Coconut Spa & Resort
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