Abutting the glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Myers is a beach lover’s dream destination. The approachable city offers inviting stretches of sand in addition to its many bars, restaurants, and cultural stops. You could feasibly spend most of your holiday here decked out in just a swimming costume and flip-flops.
For those who are seeking a particularly memorable beach experience, though – one that’s characterised by its tranquillity and incredible views – look no further than Captiva and Sanibel Islands.
Two of the many coastal islands that can be found in the area surrounding Fort Myers, Captiva and Sanibel are close enough to the mainland to be easily reached but far enough to offer quiet and unspoiled surroundings. The barrier islands are renowned for their shelling beaches (seashells wash up in great numbers due to the islands’ Gulf-side location) as well as their beautiful sunsets – you’ll want to stay long enough to drink in the twilight view.
Sanibel Island, which measures a mere 17 square miles and is accessible from Fort Myers via the Sanibel Causeway, makes for the ideal day trip. One of the first stops Sanibel visitors should make is the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Part of the world’s largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem, the park is a lush delight that’s accessible by foot, bike, paddleboat, and more. Be sure to look out for the over 200 species of migratory birds who call the refuge home, including egrets, spoonbills, ibises, and more – just watch out for the gators!
Other popular sights and activities on Sanibel Island include the Point Ybel Lighthouse, which dates to 1884 and was the first lighthouse on Florida’s Gulf coast, and the exclusive Sanctuary Golf Club. Seashell lovers can also expect to adopt the “Sanibel stoop” as they comb the island’s beaches, and they should be sure to schedule in a stop at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum for compelling exhibitions on the area’s marine life.
Nearby Captiva Island, found just north of Sanibel, is even smaller. That doesn’t stop the island from being a coastal gem, though, and highlights like the Captiva Kayak Company and Captiva Cruises let visitors frolic in the waves and indluge in some dolphin spotting.
Captiva has also long been a favourite of creative types. Pop artist Robert Rauschenberg had an estate here, which now operates as a foundation and residency that supports artists. It isn’t hard to see why the picturesque island – including Turner Beach and Captiva Beach – would be a source of inspiration.
Whether your passion is fishing, kayaking, beachcombing, or simply soaking up the sun: don’t miss Captiva and Sanibel Islands on your next Fort Myers holiday.
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Have you been to Fort Myers? Did you visit Captiva and Sanibel? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
Written by Claire Bullen
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About the author: ClaireBullenClaire Bullen
Claire is a born globetrotter: before relocating to London, she spent time in New York, Paris, Philadelphia, Chicago, and San Francisco. When she's not in pursuit of the next exciting meal, she can be found haunting indie bookstores and sketching outdoors. Follow Claire @ClaireMBullen