Fort Myers

Why The Beaches of Ft. Myers & Sanibel are a Nature-Lover's Paradise

Living in California, we often get the question "Why vacation in Florida? You live by the beach!", and our response is always  "It's just different!" And really, it is. One of the main reasons: Nature. There's no pollution, no high-rises, no congested roads... it's pure, it's unspoiled, and it's absolutely beautiful. Fort Myers and Sanibel is a nature-lover's paradise, not only because it's untouched, but because of the wildlife and a plethora of greenery! (Great use of the word plethora, huh?) 

Let's start with the wildlife, because this trip blew us away with just how much wildlife this area has! Our focus on our first visit to Fort Myers & Sanibel was sea shelling, and we didn't really explore beyond the coastlines (although, we did see some adorable dolphins)... That first trip our main focus was combing the sand for shells - which took the majority of our time. Bobby was (and still is) obsessed with sea shelling!

This time, however, we made it a priority to see more nature. We spent one day kayaking the Estero River, where we saw both alligators and manatees (Neither of which are found in our neck of the woods!). We'll be honest - the gator was quite terrifying, but the manatee was absolutely adorable. If you haven't seen one yet, add that to your bucket list.

Kayaking along the river, you're able to get eerily close to these majestic creatures (maybe a little too close to the gator)! The manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes (crazy!!), so they float along the bottom of the river and you can easily miss them while you kayak. The giant "sea cows" look really playful - basically the opposite of the gators. While kayaking, we also saw colorful birds and lush, green trees. It was a really relaxing way to spend an afternoon, and get a taste of Florida's incredible wildlife. 

If kayaking is your jam, like us, there's a ton of epic spots to kayak all around the Fort Myers/Sanibel area! A few of our favorites are: Tarpon Bay, the Estero River, the Estero Bay, and of course, the ocean.  Many of the areas are National Wildlife Preserves, so the landscapes are beautiful and well taken care of. 

We'd also recommend getting on a boat for at least one afternoon. We hired a motorboat one day, and it was by far the highlight of our trip - starting with the dolphins! Our guide for the day, Captain Ryan, let us in on a little secret - dolphins love to play in the wake of your boat. So naturally, we encouraged him to drive at just the right speed that me might attract some friendly flippers... and it worked almost instantly! We saw more dolphins than we could count that day, and had a blast watching them play in the white water behind our boat. While we missed out on seeing any whales, they're also super common to see in this area!

Renting a boat allowed us to experience some of the surrounding islands and their unique natural beauty. North Captiva has some of the most stunning sandbars you can imagine. You could easily mistake the sandbars and turquoise water for the Bahamas, Tahiti, or Hawaii. It was as close to paradise as you can get, as the beaches on North Captiva were picture-perfect and very uncrowded. At some spots we were all alone! Absolutely dreamy!

Cayo Costa is another island we visited with Captain Brian that left us in awe. With the tidal shifts and moving sand, a giant natural salt water pool had been formed right on the beach. There was a spectacular flock of white Ibis flying around the pool, which luckily we were able to see from the boat and from above (via drone). 

Once back on land, we'd also recommend renting a bike when in the Fort Myers & Sanibel area. We biked around Sanibel and loved the tropical vibes. Cruising on a bike, the salty air in your face, and the beautiful ocean blues and lush green - it's what warm weather vacation is all about. 

While we're at it, there are also a ton of parks to explore on foot. We spent an afternoon in Caloosahatchee Regional Park and were wowed by the trees, wildflowers, and trails. There are stunning paths to meander through, and even some for mountain biking. We enjoyed sitting on the park benches and taking in the views of the water.

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Lastly, we'd be amiss if we didn't talk about the beaches. There is no shortage of them in the area, and we found some new ones that we are particularly fond of. First, Blind Pass. Some say this is one of the best kept secrets in Southwest Florida. The soft sand, the fishing, and the shells (an AMAZING spot to look for seashells), Blind Pass is a great spot to spend an afternoon.

Lover's Key is another epic stretch of sand. It's called Lover's Key because it used to only be accessible by boat, so it is said lovers would head there to find a remote beach. Now accessible by car it is less remote, but still a breathtaking two-mile long beach that is a haven for wildlife - manatees, marsh rabbits, bottlenose dolphins, roseate spoonbills, and bald eagles!

Lastly, North Captiva which we discussed above - please just stop what you're doing, get on a boat, and go there. It'll live up to the hype. 

After our first visit, we would have described Fort Myers & Sanibel as a great place to look for shells, relax on the beach, and eat some good seafood. We would now say all of that is definitely true, but we'd add that there are incredible tropical hideaways and up-close wildlife encounters. Next time we're excited to go whale-watching, hop around some islands we've yet to explore, search for more manatees, and get lost on the labyrinth of trails in Caloosahatchee Regional Park. We may pass on the alligators... but that could just be us. ;)

Thank you to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for sponsoring this post!

Island Hopping in Florida? 5 Things We Learned On Our Return to the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

There are a few destinations that continue to surprise us. Places that we return to year after year that leave us wanting more. The Fort Myers and Sanibel area is one of those "When are we planning our next trip?" kind of locations. The options are endless as far as places to visit, activities to do, and pristine beaches to explore... Every time we leave with new "favorite" spots! This time around, we took some notes about getting around, different island quirks, and some must-do's around Fort Myers and Sanibel. Here's what we learned:

 

1. Island Hopping Explorations

First things first, getting around is EASY. This is one destination that we highly recommend renting a car, as navigating and exploring is very hassle-free. You aren't dealing with bustling traffic or confusing streets - the roads are hardly ever busy and everyone drives at a leisurely pace! Island hopping via car is super convenient, as we hopped over to Sanibel Island multiple times from our hotel to do some shelling. We also spent an afternoon on Lover's Key, where we had a beautiful, long stretch of beach all to ourselves... it is a totally romantic spot for a sunset! 

We'd also recommend that you spend at least one day on a boat for some true island hopping. After chasing dolphins in the mornings, you need to experience cheese burgers and Bloody Mary's on Cabbage Key (more on that here). Next, go sandbar hunting and have your mind blown at how incredibly gorgeous this part of Florida can be. We found an epic sand bar off of North Captiva and spent a couple hours enjoying the remote paradise. We boated by it later and it was basically gone because the tide had come up! Lastly, make your way up to Cayo Costa and Boca Grande, two more islands that you can find stunning stretches of beach on. Honestly, it was a bummer we only had one day to explore, because there are SO MANY hidden gems on these stretches of coastline. 

2. "Island Time" is Real!

Being from Orange County where everyone is always in a hurry, visiting the Fort Myers and Sanibel area is like an instant hug and a nap all in one. Life moves a little slower out there (the speed limits are a little slower than home), and we LOVE it. I mean, why rush when you're on vacation? It's much easier to relax when the people around you are relaxed. 

 

3. On Land or at Sea, There's Fun to be Had Everywhere!

As we mentioned above, we spent 12 hours island hopping by boat one day, and it was absolutely the highlight of the trip. Seeing the Sanibel coastline from the sea is almost like visiting a different destination - there's so many cool spots! There are several restaurants that are accessible only by the water, so lunch and dinner were spent docked at before-mentioned Cabbage Key and Barnacles, another popular spot. There's something SO thrilling about arriving to a restaurant by boat - we'd be lying if we said we didn't feel like celebrities! (Or should we say, "shell-ebrities?!") There are also plenty of beautiful sandy beaches where you can anchor the boat and go exploring... we'll let our pictures do the talking on that one!

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4. The Tropical Vibes are STRONG!

The tropical vibes are STRONG in Fort Myers and Sanibel. We're constantly telling our friends that it truly feels like you've stepped foot on a Caribbean island - without paying for the expensive hopper flight or overpriced hotel!! One element of our latest trip that we loved was all of the fun and quirky restaurants we ate at (catch our full list here), all of which were oozing of tropical flavor. We loved how warm the evenings were, and how we were never out of sight of at least one palm tree. 

 

5. The Shells are Rare and the Sand is Soft

On our last trip to Fort Myers and Sanibel we spent a lot of time "shelling" and learning all about the different types of seashells this area attracts (read more here). This trip, we didn't spend as much time shelling, but we DID spend a few afternoons combing the beaches for some rare varieties... it's so much fun!! Bobby was on the hunt for a Junonia, and while he didn't end up finding one, we saw a ton of cool varieties. Last time we had a shelling expert by our side, and we have decided that will be a must when we return. 

We also wanted to mention the sand. Not every beach, but some stretches of sand, like Fort Myers beach, has sand that feels like flour. So soft and heavenly that it totally elevates the overall vacation vibes. Enjoy!

Have we convinced you to book a trip to Fort Myers and Sanibel yet? We haven't even mentioned the perfect sunsets, the golfing, the fishing, the night life, the stunning resorts... more blogs coming up! One things for sure, there's still a lot that we have yet to see and learn in this dreamy tropical destination. Here's to coming back soon!

Thank you to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for sponsoring this post!

A Young Couple's Weekender Guide to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

If you've been following us for awhile, you know we LOVE hidden gems. Locations that are totally off most peoples' radar, destinations that most couples our age haven't been, places that are actually REALLY awesome, but no one really knows! Well friends, we're about to let you in on a little secret. The Fort Myers and Sanibel area is exactly that. It's the perfect mix of small town vibes and tropical island flavor. You can boat next to jumping dolphins, float in warm, turquoise waters, and sip mai-tai's all the while looking for manatees. Need we say more? Here's our guide for spending a weekend in these quaint, quirky, and picture-perfect seaside towns.

 

"FRIDAY FUNDAY"

Rent Bikes at Billy's

We arrived on Sanibel Island in the afternoon, checked into our hotel, (the Sanibel Marriott) and went straight to Billy's to rent bikes. Nothing sounded better after a long flight than a sunny bike ride along the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach. Sanibel as a whole is super bike-friendly and easy to navigate. Sunny weather, birds chirping, and the sounds of the ocean crashing in the distance... it was heavenly!

 

Late Lunch at The Island Cow

This is one of those Sanibel spots you have to experience. From the colorful ambiance to the extensive menu, it's fun and reasonable and perfectly wacky. Take our advice and order the gater. It tastes just like chicken! Another favorite was their famous mojito - you probably won't be able to order just one!

 

Beach It Up on Sanibel

After the Island Cow, we headed to the nearby beach to sleep off our food coma. Make sure you've packed some beach towels, and find a spot along the coast to rest up and relax. We layed out, played frisbee, swam in the warm water, and ended up catching the sunset! Nothing says vacation like an entire afternoon on the beach!

 

Dinner at the Lazy Flamingo

The Lazy Flamingo is a local favorite, and for good reason. Their food is delicious and the drinks are affordable. It's exactly the kind of place you want to go after a day at the beach. It isn't pretentious at all, and the people we talked to were really nice. We ended up sharing mozzarella sticks (because, VACATION!) and a caesar salad (because, HEALTH!) and it was the perfect combination! Oh, and make sure you order the Key Lime Pie. It's unreal.

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"SATURDAY SHELLEBRATION DAY"

Morning Walk Along the Fort Myers Beach Pier

One of our favorite places to walk and explore is Fort Myers Beach. From the colorful shops to the beachfront restaurants and bars, it's a lively and funky part of town. We love heading there early in the morning so we can stake out a good spot! Take a walk along the pier, down the coast, around the shops. Then head straight down the street until you hit... MoJoe's!

 

Breakfast at MoJoe's Coffee Bar

The colorful building and cool marketing instantly caught our eye, and when we saw the breakfast menu, we were sold! MoJoe's is an order at the counter type of restaurant. No frills, just great food, delicious coffee, and a cozy little outdoor patio. Done and done!

 

Beach Day at Lover's Key

Did you think we would vacation in Fort Myers/Sanibel and NOT spend some time at Lover's Key? Come on, this place was basically named for us!! And it's a beautiful coastline. We spent a few hours collecting seashells (Check out our blog on seashelling from our last trip here - we learned a TON), playing beach games, and working on our tan. Oh, and we snuck some kisses in too... Because helloooo, it's called Lover's Key! 

 

Lunch at Coconut Jack's Waterfront Grille

The tropical vibes are strong at Coconut Jack's, and we couldn't have loved it more. Ask for a table on the patio (right on the water!), order one of their famous tropical drinks, and relax as you watch fish jump in the Fish Trap Bay. Bobby was freaking out because he kept barely missing catching a fish jumping on camera - maybe next time, hehe. Whether you order the burger or the Mahi-Mahi tacos, you can't go wrong. Everything at Coconut Jack's is good!

 

Hike at Caloosahatchee Regional Park

So, as you can tell, you definitely don't go hungry in Fort Myers. It was time we worked off all of those drinks and fried gator we'd been eating, so we drove to the Caloosahatchee Regional Park to hike! There's over 20 miles of hiking, spots to relax along the river, beautiful wildlife, and maybe even a gator (be careful!)

 

Dinner and Shopping at Downtown Fort Myers

There's something really charming about Downtown Fort Myers. We started with a cup of coffee at Green Cup Cafe, then perused the streets and did some window shopping until we were hungry. The town is bustling and lively - we saw young couples, families, and even bachelorette parties! There's something for everyone in Downtown Fort Myers, and the restaurant selection is no exception. There's a variety of cute and colorful restaurants with plenty of outdoor seating, and many with live music. We opted for something original for us - pizza! Capone's is a Fort Myers staple, a pizzeria with incredible coal-fired pizzas. Go! We wish we had another few days to explore more of the food here!

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"SUNDAY BOAT-DAY"

Rent a Boat

Are you ready for the best day you'll have all year? Rent a boat (and/or a driver!) and spend your Sunday on the open seas. Leave early, giving you plenty of time before lunch to spot dolphins and other sea creatures. We drank mimosas, flew along the water with dolphins, and watched as the sun became brighter and the ocean turned the most perfect color of blue. Before we knew it, it was lunch time!

 

Lunch at Cabbage Key

Eat lunch at the historic and quirky Cabbage Key. The food is great (we blogged about it a couple years ago here), there's cash all over the walls inside (literally), and the tiny island is beautiful (this time we hiked up to the top of a little water tower). Make sure you stop there!

 

Find a Sandbar

Before this trip, Alli didn't even know what a sandbar was. Now, it's all she can talk about! Due to weather and changing tides, sandbars in the Fort Myers/Sanibel area come and go, but we were lucky enough to find one in North Captiva (we'll be sharing some EPIC photos from this spot in a few days - stay tuned). It was the perfect spot to anchor our boat and spend a few hours soaking up the sunshine!

 

Dinner at Barnacle's

Finish the day with an early dinner at a fan favorite spot, Barnacle's. Leave your boat at the festive dock, grab a bucket of beers (or their yummy house-made sangria), and relax as you watch the sun slowly set along the water. Enjoy their fresh fish and famous rice and beans, and treat yourself to their homemade ice cream upstairs. Can you think of a better way to end the evening?! We don't think so.

 

"MONDAY SEE YOU SOON-DAY"

Breakfast at Lighthouse Cafe

Coined the "World's Best Breakfast", and being breakfast FANATICS, we couldn't think of a better spot to end our trip! Located in Sanibel, The Lighthouse Cafe is a cozy and quirky little cafe that is filled to the brim with lighthouse trinkets and pictures of lighthouses... and it's absolutely adorable! They have almost as many breakfast items as they do lighthouses (almost), and from what we saw on the tables surrounding us, ALL of it looked amazing! We ordered eggs and bacon, Eggs Benedict, and a plate of their famous pancakes... and needless to say we almost needed to be rolled out of the restaurant! "World's Best Breakfast" might be a lofty statement, but they just might be right - it was really delicious!

 

After the yummy breakfast, we took a short walk on the beach before heading to the airport. While we were sad to leave, we knew instead of a farewell it was more of a "See you soon, Sanibel (& Fort Myers)". We can't wait to return and explore other spots and keep this list going, so if you have anything to add... feel free to comment below! We'd love to hear!

Thank you to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel for sponsoring this post!