About Fort Myers beaches
Fort Myers is a subdued alternative to Florida’s bustle-and-bling Miami.
Fort Myers is on the Caloosahatchee River and has no notable beaches, but some of America’s finest are on Sanibel Island, 42km (26 miles) from downtown Fort Myers, over a toll bridge.
The 19km (12 mile) long island is bounded by talcum-powder sand beaches, and Sanibel is one of the world’s best seashell-collecting spots. In Florida, all of the coast up to the high-tide mark is public, but if you are driving, you must find a public parking field or meters rather than pulling off to play on the sand.
On Sanibel, major beaches with parking include Lighthouse Beach (31 km, 20.5 miles), which has a functioning light, fishing pier and boardwalk nature trail, and farther north on the island, Bowman’s Beach County Park (43 km, 26.7 miles), with picnic tables and public shower. Generally, on the islands, food and watersports concessions are scattered, as are public bathrooms.
Beyond the beach:
The great inventor, Thomas A Edison, spent many winters in balmy Fort Myers, and the towering palms he donated to the city still inspire other residents to add more. Edison’s tasteful, 1880s home is now a museum. Next door is the simpler home of his admirer and friend, industrialist Henry Ford, and across the street is Edison’s marvelous research laboratory. Tours are offered daily.
The island of Sanibel boasts the J N Darling National Wildlife Refuge (900 Tarpon Bay Road), 35km (21.5 miles) from Fort Myers. The refuge is home to more than 200 species of birds, plus alligators and otters. You can walk, bicycle, drive, canoe or ride a narrated tram through the 2,500 hectares (6,300 acres). For kayakers and canoeists, the area offers a spectacular coastal experience, The Great Calusa Blueway Paddling Trail. It is about 160km (100 miles) of marked routes on rivers, bays and around the coast-hugging mangrove trees. You can hire your own canoe or buy a guided tour (www.greatcalusablueway.com).
Adjacent to Sanibel is the smaller Captiva Island, which boasts the homes of multimillionaires and the one-of-a-kind, ultra-casual Bubble Room Restaurant (15001 Captiva Drive), 51km (32 miles) from Fort Myers. Decor there includes a mixture of Christmas, Hollywood movie posters and a US circus.
On land, sample a Florida swamp, with the Babcock Wilderness Adventures Ecotour, 8000 State Road 31, Punta Gorda, 39km (24 miles) from Fort Myers. A naturalist narrates the motor trip into the Telegraph Cypress Swamp, with the chance to see alligators, snakes, locally bred ‘cracker’ cattle and native birds. On the water, take Captiva Cruises from McCarthy’s Marina, 11401 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva, 51km (32 miles). Themes for the cruises, which stay within sight of the coast, include dolphin-watching, beach-shelling, sunsets (with live music) or half-day trips to any of four small barrier islands.