The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel showcase Florida’s quieter side. Sitting pretty on Florida’s Gulf Coast, this region is home to more than 100 islands, which lily pad their way through the Gulf of Mexico. It’s possible to hang out the do-not-disturb sign here and station yourself on a sun lounger for the duration of a trip. However, the region has plenty to tempt even the most die-hard sunbathers away from their beds.
How does winning a free trip for two to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel sound? Pretty good right? Then click here to enter the competition. And then take a look at these 16 reasons why the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel should be on your bucket list…
1. This video
2. The mangrove forests
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are blanketed with nature reserves. The J.N Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge is one of them. Spreading out for 6,000 acres, it’s home to the largest mangrove ecosystem in the US and is the hangout for 245 different species of bird.
3. The turtle babies
Between May and October, Sanibel Island turns into a maternity wing for turtles. Hundreds of the shelled creatures come to the island’s beaches to give birth at this time of year. Visitors can watch from the sidelines as new-borns scuttle into the sea for the first time.
4. The manatees
The clue’s in the name with Lee County Manatee Park. Visitors here can wander the scenic pathways and spy on the non-captive sea cows from viewing platforms.
5. Key West adventures
You can hop on a catamaran day trip or transfer to Key West from Fort Myers Beach. The twice daily service glides through the Gulf waters to the beautiful and entertaining island of Key West. Faster than driving and cheaper than flying, it’s the best way to travel to Key West.
6. Kayaking with dolphins
Lovers Key State Park is a regular haunt for both dolphins and manatees. It’s not unusual for kayakers on guided adventure trips to suddenly find themselves chaperoned by one of the flippered creatures.
7. The biking
Sanibel Island boasts 25 miles of bike paths, which let you venture through gorgeous preserved wetlands. Many hotels and resorts on the island offer complimentary bike rental, and after a day of adventure and exploration you can park your bikes and enjoy the sunset on the beach.
8. Signing dollar bills at Cabbage Key
At Cabbage Key restaurant, it has become a tradition for diners to sign dollar bills at the end of their meal and stick them to the restaurant walls. It’s thought the eatery’s unusual wallpaper adds up to $700,000.
9. Brushing up on the lives of inventors
Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford spent their winters in Fort Myers and the Edison and Ford Winter Estates attraction pays homage to this. The site features a museum and 21 acres of botanical gardens. Various tours give visitors the opportunity to swot up on the inventions and ideas that made both men famous.
10. Watching the sand sculpting
Every November the American Sand Sculpting Championship takes place on Fort Myers Beach. Professionals create everything from Disney-like castles to mermaids out of the sands. Visitors can have a go themselves by joining a master class.
11. The Calusa Nature Centre and Planetarium
The Calusa Nature Centre and Planetarium features the only planetarium in south-west Florida. It’s also home to a roll call of animals, including alligators, bald eagles, rattlesnakes and owls. Plus there’s a butterfly aviary and natural history museum.
Every summer Cape Coral city celebrates its mango harvest with the MangoMania festival. Stalls spring up selling everything from mango juice and jam to mango butter. Plus, there are carnival rides and entertainment, including the ceremony in which a “Mango Queen” is crowned.
13. Shell safaris
The 50 miles of beaches on Sanibel and Captiva Islands are jewelled with 400 different species of shell. Visitors can’t remove them from the beaches, but shell safaris are common on the islands’ sands – so much so that the phrase “Sanibel Stoop” has been coined to describe the appearance of those combing the beaches for specimens.
14. The craft beers
Fort Myers is a hub for craft beer. There are several breweries in the area, all offering tours and tastings. There are more than a few left-field varieties of the drink – look out for beers made from oatmeal and coffee beans.
15. The year-round Christmas
The Bubble Room is a bonkers eatery on Captiva Island. It’s decorated with all sorts of curiosities and has an elf room, where Christmas decorations and elves are on display all year round.
16. The shopping
Miromar Outlets mall name drops more than 140 different store brands. Credit cards can be put through their paces at clothing, interior, beauty and jewellery stores. A good place to drop after the shop is Ford’s Garage, a retro burger and beer joint inspired by a 1920s service station.