For tourists, it is almost impossible to think of Fort Myers without considering the nearby Fort Myers beach. Although they are two separate municipalities, together, they offer a mix of history, small town charm and a beach culture as you won’t find anywhere else in Florida. Together, these two municipalities offer a long list of things to do for people of all ages and diverse interests.
In Fort Myers’ River District, you’ll find intertwined brick streets, boutiques and fantastic restaurants with street food. Nearby are attractions such as the historic Ford-Edison Winter Estate. In Fort Myers Beach, think of surf shops; casual outdoor restaurants; a fishing pier; and a huge stretch of beach where you can choose between an area full of action with volleyball and water sports, or find a quieter section where children can play in shallow water. And nature lovers looking to watch birds or see alligators will find parks and natural areas scattered throughout the cities.
For a complete overview of the most interesting places to visit, see our list of things to do in Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach.
- Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
Fort Myers Beach is a seven mile long stretch of golden sand with shallow, warm waters, backed by houses and a small selection of hotels and restaurants. This is a perfect area for swimming, walking and watching dolphins, which frequent the area and can sometimes be seen as close as a few meters from the coast.
The beach extends from Bowditch Point Park in the north to Lovers Key State Park in the south, but most of the action focuses on the pier and the area known as Times Square.
The area to the south of the pier is the liveliest stretch of sand, where you will find crowds of sun lovers on hot days. You can rent beach chairs, and some places offer food service, creating a modern beach scene. For a quieter scene, look at the area north of the pier. Here, you will find the beach backed by a city park with picnic tables and bathrooms. Check this for better guidance.
The main street through Fort Myers Beach is Estero Blvd, located a short walk from the beach. Parking can be very expensive on busy weekends, but if you go early, you should be able to find a place in one of the many lots or meters of the street throughout the area. Private lots are available but tend to be expensive. A better option is to park your car for free in the Beach Park and Ride parking lot and avoid traffic by taking the ferry to the beach area. A free beach tram runs from Bowditch Park in the north to Times Square.
- Times Square
Times Square on the beach of Fort Myers | Photo Copyright: Michael Law
Located directly behind the pier is the lively Times Square. This area houses a multitude of restaurants with patio seating, ice cream parlors and all kinds of beach shops and souvenirs and surf shops. At night, street performers entertain the crowds. A large section right next to the beach is only for pedestrians, but further back there are streets where traffic is allowed and parking is available.
Times Square is a compact area, which can be easily explored on foot. The scene here is incredibly informal, with many people walking in beachwear. The area is easily identified with colored painted bricks. For a pleasant walk, walk northeast of Times Square on Old San Carlos Blvd to Matanzas Pass. This street is full of a good variety of restaurants and shops.
- Edison Ford Winter Estates
Just north of downtown Fort Myers, in a beautiful neighborhood, are Edison & Ford Winter Estates. These houses are now a National Historic Landmark and function as a museum open to the public for visits. Spread over 21 acres, this waterfront site presents the historic houses of these two fascinating men who were friends.
On a tour, you can see the extensive grounds, laboratories and a modern museum with seven galleries, with old cars and exhibits with electricity. Also noteworthy are the botanical gardens and an incredible Banyan tree, reportedly the largest in North America, dating from 1925, which covers an acre of land and measures 65 feet high.
- Fort Myers River District / Downtown
First street in River District | Photo Copyright: Michael Law
Fort Myers has done an excellent job of preserving its historic center. This area, indicated by the intertwined red road, is full of interesting restaurants, theaters and boutiques. Art Deco buildings dating from the 1920’s act as a backdrop for the area, which comes alive at the end of the afternoon and evening. The courtyards are filled with diners who enjoy some of the good rates offered, and pedestrians stroll along wide sidewalks.
One of the iconic restaurants throughout here is Ford’s Garage , decorated with a service station theme from the 1920s and displaying old Ford vehicles and related items.
- The pier at Fort Myers Beach
The pier on the beach of Fort Myers | Photo Copyright: Michael Law
Originally from 1921, but completely rebuilt, the Fort Myers pier enters 560 feet in the Gulf of Mexico and is one of the main sunset locations in southwest Florida. The pier is also known locally as Pelican Pier, due to the fact that pelicans frequently line up on the pier and closely monitor people who fish.
The pier is free to walk and has a large observation area partially covered at the end, along with a small kiosk that sells drinks, fishing supplies and souvenirs in the middle of the deck. From the pier, dolphins can often be seen swimming parallel to the beach, not far from the coast.
During the day, you will see the lively beach scene to the south, people who parachute in the sky and all kinds of boats that run from side to side on the coast. At night, the pier is about sunsets. Join the crowds to watch the sun plunge below the horizon in the Gulf of Mexico and then eat something on Old San Carlos Blvd.
- JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Pink Spatulas, Fort Myers
Just 45 minutes from downtown Fort Myers, the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge offers a wonderful view of the wildlife and ecosystems that define this area of Florida. The visitor center provides information on wildlife and shelter habitats, and provides information on its founder, Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling.
One of the highlights is a 90-minute outdoor tram ride run by a certified naturalist, with opportunities to spot alligators, wading birds and, if you’re lucky, a wildcat or an otter. You can drive the same route in your own car, and there is a fee to enter. You can also see some of the parks on foot along any of the four hiking trails . Other popular activities include fishing, rowing, canoeing, kayaking and bird watching.
The refuge is located on Sanibel Island, a short drive away from the impressive Sanibel Island road (for a fee) from the mainland.
- Key State Park lovers
Key State Park Lovers | Photo Copyright: Lana Law
Lovers Key State Park has one of the best stretches of beach in the Fort Myers area and can be a pleasant escape from the traffic and madness of Fort Myers Beach on busy days. You reach the beach through a short walk through a couple of bridges, where you have the opportunity to see alligators and other aquatic animals. If you have a lot of beach equipment, a free outdoor shuttle runs regularly from the main parking lot.
Lovers Key is a popular place for canoeing, kayaking and rowing surfing due to its protected inland waterways. This is also a good place to look for shells, since many varieties reach the shores and the crowds are smaller here.
Lovers Key is located on a large bridge at the southern end of Estero Island. The best beaches are on the gulf side. At the southern end of the park there is a dog beach. It is a wonderful place for those with four legs to play in shallow water.
Parking is easy here, with lots of spaces, and the cost is included with your daily admission.
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Alligator in water
The 3,500-acre Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is a wonderful wildlife paradise, including alligators, otters and turtles. It is also one of the best bird watching places in Fort Myers. You will probably see wading birds such as blue herons, ibis, and snowy egrets and, if you’re lucky, pink spatulas.
One of the highlights of a visit is a walk along the 1.4-mile-long boardwalk. This loop trail, complete with interpretive kiosks, takes you beyond a variety of flora, which includes red maple, wood ferns and young cypresses. The reserve is located at the east end of Fort Myers and is a free attraction, although there is a modest parking fee.
- Catch a game during spring training Baseball
Each spring, JetBlue Park and Hammond Stadium come to life with the outbreak of the bat and the shout of the referee when the spring training of Major League Baseball, also known as Florida Grapefruit League, arrives in the city.
The Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins are the two teams that call Fort Myers home. The first game is usually in the third week of February and ends about four weeks later. Games take place almost every day, so securing tickets is never a problem, but the calendar is published every November if you want to plan.
- Regional park of the lakes
Miniature train car in Lakes Regional Park | Photo Copyright: Michael Law
This old gravel quarry has been transformed into a 289-acre park and is a popular family destination and outdoor recreation area. Visiting Lakes Regional Park is also one of the free things to do in Fort Myers.
For children there is a playground and a playground, but one of the highlights of the park is the miniature train. The train, 1/8 the size of a real one, is driven by an engineer and runs on a 1.5 mile circuit that runs through lakes, small recreated villages and tropical forests. The cycle takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, and trains leave every 30 minutes every hour, seven days a week. Near the ticket office there is a 3,200 square foot train museum with interactive exhibits.
Those who are not interested in trains will enjoy the artificial lake. You can rent a boat or launch your own boat (without engines), fish or just enjoy watching the fountains. You can also rent bicycles and there are several trails that cross the park. If you want to be more active, there are several volleyball courts and exercise stations. You can book picnic sites in the park.
Where to stay in Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach
The best place to stay in Fort Myers is the city center in the beautiful River District or, if you are here to enjoy the beach, in Fort Myers Beach. Below are some highly qualified hotels in these areas.
Luxury hotels: near the north end of Estero Island and with a fabulous beachfront location, is Pink Shell Beach Resort. The hotel has a large pool, complete with a waterfall from a stone arch; restaurants; and a spa this is a large hotel, and the rooms on the upper floors have spectacular views from the balconies.
A little closer to the action of Fort Myers Beach, the Edison Beach House has a variety of suites with kitchens and balconies that offer full and partial views of the ocean. This property features an oceanfront pool and offers bicycle rental.
To stay in the heart of downtown Fort Myers, the Indo Fort Myers River District Hotel is a good option. From here, you can walk to restaurants, shops and theaters. This boutique hotel is located on a historic property and features a rooftop pool.
Mid-range hotels: At the top end of the mid-range, the Best Western Plus Beach Resort is ideally located on the waterfront in Fort Myers Beach, just steps from Times Square and the pier. The rooms have large balconies and ocean views, and the oceanfront pool area with lounge chairs is the perfect place to tan.
Also located in the heart of the action is Beach Shell Inn. Here, you will find a mix of rooms and suites, many of which have kitchens. The rooms overlook the small pool and the beach is 100 feet away, along a sandy path.
Further south, in Fort Myers Beach, on an incredible stretch of sand, is the Outrigger Beach Resort. This complex has a Polynesian look and a large pool area. Two restaurants offer meals outdoors, and at night there is often live music. A variety of room styles, from efficiencies to regular apartments and rooms, either facing the ocean or the pool area, and all have balconies.
Budget hotels: Shipwreck Motel is located in the city center and almost in Times Square. This recently renovated hotel has decent rooms at a fair price and a small pool. Free parking is an advantage, and there are also grills for guest use.
The Dolphin Inn Resort is near the southern tip of Estero Island and across Estero Blvd from the beach. The hotel has a large pool and is a few steps from the beach. Boaters will enjoy the fact that they can moor their boat at the hotel’s docks. All rooms are one bedroom apartments with kitchens. The free tram to Times Square stops nearby. Carousel Inn on the Beach is pet friendly and is right at the end of the street. All rooms have kitchen, balcony and ocean view.