Southwest Florida is a crown jewel along the glorious US Gulf Coast. When you want fresh seafood, super wide sugar sand beaches, water funness, and some of the world’s best shelling opportunities, Fort Myers Beach (Estero Island) and nearby Sanibel Island and Captiva Island should be forefront on your mind.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel hosted McCool Travel and my message is carefully crafted for my awesome audience so that you can make informed decisions in order to Travel Happy on future trips.
Fun Things to Do in Fort Myers Beach
Liquid Road Trip: Kayaking in Southwest Florida
Join a guided kayak adventure from the Mound House and paddle a portion of the 190 mile Great Calusa Blueway. Before or after your Fort Myers Beach kayak adventure, learn about the 2,000 year old history of the Calusa Indians, life for the early Southwest Florida settlers, and the Estero Island natural habitat and environment.
We took another guided kayak tour from Sunny Island Adventures at the north end of South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. It was fun exploring a tiny bit of the open waters of Pine Island Sound (intracoastal waterway) and the protected bay past the South Seas resort marina. McCool Travel tip: Look for the resident manatees in the South Seas Resort marina.
Estero Bay Express
The Dolphin and Sunset Cruise from Estero Bay Express is a cool, happy, and fun Fort Myers Beach activity. Well, being on the water in Southwest Florida is always fun. The Estero Bay Express crew makes their cruises fun with constant puns while in the pursuit of dolphins. Once we found dolphins, the captain immediately had them following in the boat’s wake and jumping seemingly on cue for all the budding Instagram professional photographers.
Fort Myers Beach Events
On National Shelling Day 2018, I and over 1,000 new friends help set a new world record for largest human seashell. Here I am posing with the official judge from Guinness World Records. She said it was her favorite office setting ever.
Whenever you visit Fort Myers Beach, there will likely be some amazing events.
Ding Darling Refuge
The Ding Darling Refuge on Sanibel Island contains over 6,000 acres of USA’s largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem. Over 230 bird species live in or visit the Ding Darling Refuge, including bald eagles and roseate spoonbills (pictured below). The wildlife drive is open every day (including holidays) except Friday.
National Shell Museum
The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island is the only USA museum focused exclusively on shells and everything related to shells. Visit to see shells, see sea shells, and maybe see super sweet Sally secretly selling sea shells.
Where to Stay in Fort Myers Beach Area
South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island
After arriving at the convenient Fort Myers airport, catch a shuttle or jump in your rental car and head to Captiva Island. South Seas Island Resort occupies 330 glorious acres with 3.5 miles of beach and most of their shoreline is secluded.
Here is the luscious view I had from my South Seas Island Resort room.
Exploring the South Seas Resort grounds early one morning, I basked in this wonderful view from a poolside tiki bar, looking toward North Captiva Island. It is also a fun place when the bartender and people show up!
For now, I leave you with this magnificent #USGulfCoast sunset. One of the best sunsets I have witnessed. McCool Travel tip: this Captiva Island sunset was followed by a South Seas Resort butler serving champagne and a S’mores kit (an activity you should definitely do at South Seas Resort). See the McCool Travel review of South Seas Island Resort.
Places to Stay in Fort Myers Beach
Gorgeous tropical colors, a vibrant tiki bar, and a sweet location are some reasons you will want to stay at the Lighthouse Resort Inn (aka Lighthouse Island Resort) in Fort Myers Beach. Find out why their motto is “where the fun never ends.”
The Lighthouse has several different room configurations. We stayed in a kitchenette room, which is convenient for saving money on dining costs. Click here for best rates at The Lighthouse Resort in Ft Myers.
For more Fort Myers Beach hotels, condos, B&Bs, campgrounds, etc., see the comprehensive list of lodging on the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel website.
Also consider as a Fort Myers FL lodging option a vacation rental, which could be a condo, apartment, or house. Maybe even a boat.
Places to Eat in Fort Myers Beach
Fresh seafood rules the Southwest Florida and US Gulf Coast dining scene. My favorite is Florida grouper and I rarely pass on it. But if you see hogfish (aka filet mignon of the sea), consider ordering it. Shrimp, stone crab, redfish, pompano, monkfish, and many other seafoods will be local and fresh. Ask the market, stand, or restaurant how fresh the items are and where they are from. McCool Travel tip: be careful with local oysters because of the warm water. Best oysters are from cold water areas.
Dixie Fish Company
Fun, old school waterfront seafood restaurant with lively bar. Pretty sure I ordered blackened grouper and key lime pie both times I ate here.
Fresh seafood is always on hand at Fish-Tale, a waterfront restaurant in the Fish-Tale Marina area. Fish-Tale is located near the southern end of Estero Island and about a mile from the Big Carlos Pass bridge to Lover’s Key State Park. Their salads are creative and yummy. Finish off your dining experience with a slice of one of the best key lime pies along the Florida Gulf Coast.
Smoking Oyster Brewery
A short walk from the Lighthouse Resort is this cool and fun place. Much more than a brewery, Smoking Oyster—they call themselves S.O.B. and the classiest dive bar on Fort Myers Beach—has a full bar and yummy food.
This place was so good, we went two mornings in a row. Delectable biscuits—some might say heavenly—with your choice of toppings. We opted for the basic egg and bacon but you can choose a whole salmon filet if you wish! Heavenly Biscuit also satisfies your sweet tooth cravings. McCool Travel tip: Heavenly Biscuit does not accept credit cards but is a CASH ONLY place I would gladly return to.
Heavenly Biscuit: Facebook
Places to Eat in Cape Coral
Big Blue Brewing
What a great place! Big Blue Brewing in Cape Coral was voted best pub in Florida so I am not alone in that thought. Big Blue usually has about a dozen of their own beer creations on tap and also about a dozen guest taps (from Florida and other states. Wicked Dolphin Rum (see below) is their sister business, owned by the same family. Please adopt me!
Come to Big Blue Brewing for the beer but stay for the food. They have a full kitchen and just look at that Cuban sammich I had. Ay dios mio! They use “green” straws and I love any place that reduces plastic use (save the turtles!).
Half of USA’s sugarcane is produced in South Florida. Wicked Dolphin set up shop in 2012 about 35 miles from the Florida sugar fields with the intent to create Florida’s rum. On the way to winning several major international and domestic awards, Wicked Dolphin continues to produce small batch, premium rum, using 100% Florida sugarcane and local ingredients.
In addition to being master artisans, the Wicked Dolphin family is also quite clever. The gift shop is full of their rum offerings in all flavors and sizes, including TSA-friendly 100 ml (~3 ounce) bottles.
Places to Eat in Sanibel Island
Totally Baked Bakery and Cafe
For scrumptious sweets, incredible breakfast and lunch sandwiches, stop in Totally Baked on Sanibel Island.
Totally Baked on Sanibel: Facebook
Pinocchio’s Ice Cream
Since I love ice cream, especially in beach towns, I asked several people for suggestions. The name Pinocchio kept popping up as the only place I must go to. So I did. I was greeted with a line out the door (a great omen) and signs saying “Ice Cream Laboratory.” I love that. The small adjacent deli is called Geppetto’s and has baked goods and other food items.
Places to Eat in Captiva Island
There are three Doc Ford’s locations in the Fort Myers area. Doc Ford was a local character and make sure you learn his story before your next visit. At Doc Ford’s, make sure you order some tasty fresh seafood and a drink made with one of their 10,000 rums (please do not fact check me on that number).
Cabbage Key: Cheeseburger in Paradise
Long ago, a free-wheeling, fun-loving, not yet world-famous music celebrity, visited Cabbage Key and was inspired to write a song called Cheeseburger in Paradise. Cabbage Key attracts visitors from around the globe, because of Jimmy Buffett but also because it is a cool, fun, and happy place to visit.
Cabbage Key is accessible by a Captiva Cruises from South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. In fact, Cabbage Key is only accessible by boat—there are no roads, no vehicles, and no landing strip. OK, I guess you could swim, snorkel, flyboard, or even parachute to Cabbage Key if you wish.
Bring a single dollar bill or several to tape to the wooden walls of the restaurant. Every month, several thousand dollars are donated to charity, just from the bills that fall from the walls.
You will of course have a cheeseburger at the Cabbage Key restaurant but definitely order a slice of key lime pie. The original key lime pie recipe, from Fern Butters of Key West in the 1930s, is used here on Cabbage Key.