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How to venture (and relax) in and around Fort Myers, Florida

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Along the southwest coast of Florida, you’ll come across a lot more than you likely expected. There are perfect white sand beaches, that’s to be expected, but it’s more than just a seaside destination. All over the islands, beaches, and neighborhoods of Fort Myers, you’ll find world-class nature reserves, over 200 miles of paddling trails, and bucket-list wildlife viewing. Here are some of the adventures you can look for near the greater Fort Myers area.

On the water

Book a wildlife watching cruise with Adventures in paradise on Fort Myers Beach (they also operate from Port Sanibel Marina in Fort Myers), to watch for manatees, dolphins and seabirds. If you’re looking for something more adventurous, like a multi-night island hopping trip or a fishing expedition from the best tarpon fishing spots in the world, you’re in luck – there is a wide variety of captains out there. in the area which offer fishing excursions for all levels. Take a half or full day excursion to fish for tarpon, groupers, trout, rockfish and even sharks. Many charters are also happy to book private trips, so feel free to ask for custom options when booking.

For a special evening, book a quiet sunset getaway with Captiva Cruises. Keep an eye out for dolphins and other wildlife on your sail, you are very likely to spot them. Captiva Cruises also organizes day trips to Cayo Costa State Park and lunch cruises to Cabbage Key, where you can feast on the Cabbage Key Inn. His restaurant is something of a legend, with the walls and ceiling covered in dollar bills signed by former patrons. If you are traveling with children, go to the famous Bulle Room restaurant, a Captiva institution, for lunch or dinner. The Bubble Room is decorated for Christmas all year round and is decorated with antique toys that everyone will enjoy.

On the sand and the shore

Sanibel Island is known as the “Shell Capital of the World” and is well connected to Fort Myers by a bridge. When you are not participating in the “Sanibel Stoop,” which is what locals call the practice of crouching on the beach looking for over 400 known varieties of seashells, go in search of wildlife on foot, by foot. paddle or boat. We recommend starting early one morning for bird watching at low tide on the island JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, home to 245 species of birds, from pelicans to roseate spoonbills to bright pink wings. You might also be lucky enough to spot non-avian inhabitants, such as alligators, otters, bobcats, and manatees. Explorers of Tarpon Bay offers rental of bicycles, kayaks, stand-up paddles and canoes inside the refuge.

Photo: Chris Tilley

In Alva, about 30 minutes northeast of Fort Myers along the Caloosahatchee River, Caloosahatchee Regional Park is a must-have for mountain bikers. There you can roam the habitat of oaks and flat pines for as long as your heart desires. Then, end your day with a visit to one of the many local breweries or distilleries on the Southwest Florida Brew Trail. To start, Fort Myers Brewing Co. offers tours of their digs and a calendar of events packed with racing club meetups, trivia, live performances and puppy-friendly pint nights.

Off the beaten track

Visit – or pitch a tent among the tall oaks –at Koreshan State Park, about 30 minutes south of Fort Myers in Estero. Koreshan was once home to a religious sect that established a colony on the banks of the Estero River in 1893. Now you can visit their gardens and historic buildings and hike through bamboo, oak, and cabbage palm forests. Koreshan State Park is also a launch point for nearly 200 miles Great Blue Road from Calusa, which winds through mangrove islands and shallow waters where dolphins and manatees love to play.

If you’re in the mood to unplug, escape to Cayo Costa State Park, one of the wildest islands in the Fort Myers area. There you can rent a primitive cabin or set up a camp with a tent under the stars. The calm waters are great for swimming and fishing, and you can easily adapt to the island weather here, with few man-made distractions. You can only reach the island by boat, so book a place on a ferry through Star of the Tropics, which departs from Pine Island, accessible by car. Tropic Star also offers a variety of other cruises, including nature tours and sunset cruises and dinners around nearby islands. Make sure to stop at Matlacha on the way to Cayo Costa to eat at one of its seafood restaurants and stroll through the art galleries.

The perfect long weekend

The islands, beaches and neighborhoods of Fort Myers all offer unique experiences. Explore a few over the course of a long weekend or take the time to soak up all they have to offer during a week’s vacation. But also be sure to leave some time to relax – you’ll be able to see more of it on your next trip home (and there will be one next).

About Thomas Thorton

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