Florida is full of beautiful pockets of charming gems and beautiful beaches, and some of the best ones are found in Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. There’s a certain yin and yang vibe going on between these two places that needs to be experienced in person, and as a result, finding things to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel Island is easier than expected.
If this is your first time in either of these cities, then worry not- we’ve put together a guide of all the things to do, see and eat in your time there.
HOW TO GET THERE
As much as we love road trips, if you’re not planning on visiting other parts of the state, then we suggest just flying in and out of Fort Myers airport. It’s an international airport but does have limited flights. Another option would be flying into either Miami or FT and driving down if you’re planning on doing a long road trip.
For instance, the pretty Instagrammable places of St. Peterburg and Clearwater are only a two-hour drive away.
TIP: Regardless, we highly recommend having a car (you can rent one right at the airport), because we didn’t see the best public transport system, and ridesharing can get expensive.
The quiet charm of Sanibel is hard to find anywhere else- the quiet streets, the muted pastels, the culinary scene that surprises and delights are all part of what makes Sanibel as must visit.
While Sanibel does have great beaches, we recommend going there for when you need days to relax, eat great food, and spend time with family and friends. It’s quieter than the rest of the cities in Florida, but that’s exactly what we loved about it.
WHERE TO STAY:
Picking a location for your stay in Fort Myers and Sanibel really depends on what kind of experience you want to have during your time in the area. We highly recommend staying in one of the numerous Inns on Sanibel Island if you’re looking for a low-key vibe.
THINGS TO DO ON SANIBEL ISLAND
EXPLORE THE ISLAND ON BIKES
There’s a reason why every Inn and almost all rental properties have bikes available for guest use. Renting a bike is a great way to explore Sanibel, and see all that it was to offer.
Yes, this is a thing, and yes you should do it since it’s an experience that you can’t have anywhere else in the world. The entire islands of Sanibel and Captiva (they used to be one island) is basically made of shells.
We recommend heading to Bowman’s Beach if you’re looking for a less crowded beach. While not as developed as the other areas, it’s a great place to explore and spend an afternoon or a full day finding some of the most unusual shells.
If you’re not done shelling after this, you can even make a trip to Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.
EAT ALL THE THINGS
We have a time describing how much we were impressed by the food here. From diners to high-end dining- every stop on our food impressed us.
GO FOR A WALK IN J.N. “Ding” DARLING NATIONAL WILDFIRE REFUGE
A great way to connect with nature and get out and stretch your legs. We took our bikes for a ride thru the park and got a great workout in too.
END EACH DAY WITH THE PERFECT SUNSET
There’s no better way to end each day than watch the sunset. There’s a reason it’s a planned activity on most itineraries. We recommended grabbing a drink ( or 2) and your camera and heading to the beach to watch the magic happen.[easy-image-collage id=2489]
EXPLORE PERIWINKLE WAY
This is where you find most of the shops, hotels, and restaurants, and while hours of operation vary by the shop, this area/strip is best explored on a bike so you can stop in any of the many ice-cream shops!
GO SEE THE LIGHTHOUSE
TAKE A SUNSET SAIL WITH CAPTIVA CRUISES
Jump aboard the 40’ sailing catamaran, “Adventure,” to enjoy a perfect way to end the day. A way evening activity for couples, friends, or family.
VISIT CAYO COSTA STATE PARK
You’ll need to take a boat in order to get to Cayo Costa State Park. You’ll find nine miles of beautiful beaches and acres of pine forest.
The boat ride out there is worth bringing your GoPro with you. Also, while on there you have the option to you can spend the day walking the beaches, finding the seashells, snorkeling or just relaxing with a great book. You also have the option to camp overnight, but you will have to make reservations in advance.
WHERE TO EAT ON SANIBEL ISLAND
The food scene on Sanibel and Captiva is an absolute delight and is good enough to impress even your foodie friends. Trust us![easy-image-collage id=2484]
(These restaurants recommendations are spread out all over Sanibel and Captiva Islands and you will need a car if you want to visit all of them! )
Mad Hatter Restaurant: Just because it’s the perfect place for a romantic dinner, doesn’t mean that you can’t go there with your girlfriends- the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is a delight.
Address: – 6467 Sanibel Captiva Rd Sanibel, FL 33957
Gramma Dot’s: A great way to start your time on Sanibel Island- we fell in LOVE with the tuna nachos, and highly recommend them. We promise that you haven’t tasted anything like it.
Address: 634 N Yachtsman Dr, Sanibel, FL 33957
Mucky Duck: The perfect place to grab a drink, a seat on the patio and watch one of the most perfect sunsets in Florida. We also recommend getting their dessert specials.
Address: 11546 Andy Rosse Lane Captiva Island FL 33924
Key Lime Bistro: One of our favorite experiences in Captiva! The food is great, and Key lime pie is worth writing home about (and you must order it!) but the DJ makes the experience! Show up early, bring your dancing shoes, and grab a table outside.
Address: 11509 Andy Rosse Lane, Captiva, FL 33924
If you’re looking for an upbeat city on the west coast to spend time in, then Fort Myers is your jam. Decidedly more vibrant in terms of the selection of activities and nightlife, Fort Myers is the place to go to balance the quietness and still have places to hang out after 10 PM and have a good time.
There’s a comfortable feeling here that we hadn’t felt anywhere else- from the kind store owners who offer to let you park on their lot so you can run to catch the sunset to the beach full of people welcoming you into their party no questions asked- all create a welcoming city to spend time in.
THINGS TO DO IN FORT MYERS
TAKE AN EVERGLADES TOUR
The perfect way to explore the wetlands of the Everglades with a naturalist guide. Learn about wild flora and fauna on Florida’s wildest eco-tour.
We recommend taking this tour.
GET TO KNOW THE HISTORY BEHIND KEROSHAN STATE PARK[easy-image-collage id=2479]
While technically located in Estero, the Keroshan State Park has a fascinating history and worth a visit. The Keroshans- a religious sect, (or cult), left the park to the State under the agreement that the properties and their history would be preserved. If you’re a history buff or enjoy camping, kayaking then chances are that you will find something fun to do.
SPEND TIME HOUSE HUNTING IN ESTERO[easy-image-collage id=2477]
If you’re a sucker for pretty pastels houses, then you’re in luck because Fort Myers and Estero are full of these gems. Take a drive down the street to find some of the cutest homes (including some stunning historical ones ) lined with palm trees that are perfect enough for postcards!
GET IN SOME BEACH TIME:
One of the best things to do in Fort Myers is spending time on the beach. It’s a great way to get some sun, get your feet in the water, and enjoy the perfect white sand beneath your toes. Fort Myers Beach is about 7 miles long and perfect for a swim.[easy-image-collage id=2492]
GET YOUR PARTY ON:
The nightlife scene is a bit more lively in Fort Myers than it is on Sanibel Island. We recommend heading to a pub and grabbing a drink with friends.
CAPTURE THE PERFECT SUNSET:
There’s a reason why chasing sunsets is a hobby- the ones in Fort Myers are some of the best we’ve ever seen, and they are worth installing the sunset app on your phone so you can make it to the beach time and take in the beauty of the light changing and golden haze that welcomes the night.
EDITION FORD WINTER ESTATES: There’s a reason why this is on almost every single “things to do in Fort Myers” list out there- the history behind two of the most influential minds of our times is extremely fascinating. We recommend checking out their lab, and the museum while there as well.
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN FORT MYERS: We fell in love with the charming well-preserved buildings.[easy-image-collage id=2482]
BRUSH UP ON YOUR CRAFT BEER KNOWLEDGE
The craft beer scene in Fort Myers gives most of the other cities in Florida a run for its money. We recommend checking out the following ones to get your fill:
- Fort Myers Brewing Co: 12811 Commerce Lakes Dr Ste 27-28 Fort Myers, FL 33913
- Bury Me Brewing: 4224 S Cleveland Ave Fort Myers, FL 33901
If you’re looking for a place with beautiful beaches, a ridiculously good food scene, a quiet place to ride bikes and get immersed in nature, then right over to Fort Myers and Sanibel Island. We can’t say enough good things about how much we fell in love.
WHAT TO PACK
- Bug spray: We can’t stress this enough.
- Hydrocortisone cream: For those times where your bug spray didn’t do a good enough job.
- Afterbite: See above.
- Sunscreen: Sun safety is very important.
- Umbrella: Depending on the time of the year, it can rain and having one on your is always a smart idea.
- Packing cube: You’ll thank us later.
- Camera: We recommend taking either a GoPro, or a small mirrorless (we love SONY), or if you’re looking for professional-level photos, we would suggest the SONY A7Riii
- Travel Insurance: Really important for both national and international visitors.
- Bathing suit: For all the beach time
- Maxi dress: Easy item to dress up or down.
- Shorts: For all the activities on the island. We recommend a pair of white or black ones to dress up for fancier dinners.
- Tanks: Bring a few
- Maxi skirt: Great thing to throw over your bathing suit or dress up if needed.
- Comfortable sandals: You’ll be walking around a lot. We love Birks.
- Sunglasses: Sun safety.
- Hat: See above. Also, a great item for those Instagram shots.
- Poncho: Because there is a possibility of rain.
- Beach bag: To carry your all your beach stuff.
This guide was created in partnership with the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.[easy-image-collage id=2499]
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Is it true that most of the sanibel island & ft. myers beaches are dog friendly? as long as they are leashed? I want to make sure of this as I’d like to bring my parents & pets for an afternoon stroll & lunch. This is a wonderful post with lots of good pointers for first time visitors. Looking forward to my visit.
Your photography is so beautiful – Sanibel island looks like paradise! Those foodie pics look unreal too, definitely my kinda place!
Thanks! It’s hard not to take pretty pictures when the scenery is this pretty!