One of Fort Myers' most coveted attractions is courtesy of Mother Nature, a string of barrier islands full of beautiful beaches, each one with a unique personality.
Fort Myers Beach (Estero Island) is one of the most popular places to land, and it as the easiest access, with lots of parking, no tolls and loads of activity. The area around the pier is the hub, with shopping, dining, volleyball, fishing, parties, restrooms and showers.
The base of the Fort Myers Beach Pier is the epicenter of activity on Estero Island — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
A more scenic place to sun is Bowditch Beach, on the northern tip of Estero Island. Enjoy walking trails, water sports and concessions. While the beach gets drastically narrow in spots at high tide, it's beautifully adorned with driftwood and mangroves.
The awarding-winning beaches of Lover’s Key are found at the southern end, four barrier islands with sugary white sand, blue water and lots of activities. Trams and boardwalks help you navigate miles of beaches, biking and hiking trails. Kayaks and other sporting equipment are available, along with concessions and showers in this otherwise isolated stretch of land.
If you really want isolation, then take a water taxi to Cayo Costa. With nine miles of shoreline and fascinating mangrove swamps, you often feel as though you were on a deserted island. The sand, the water and the marine life are all awe-inspiring. You can also camp in tents or primitive cabins; it’s a rustic paradise.
Pull your car right up to the water on the Sanibel Causeway Beach — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
A six-dollar round-trip toll across the scenic Sanibel Island Causeway gets you here. The causeway has become a popular beach for locals who like water sports, picnics and some shade. Pull your car right up to the shoreline so there’s no lugging chairs and coolers through the sand.
This beach may not be the most beautiful in the area, but it's quite fun to watch the parade of kite boards, wind surfers and sail boats that are taking advantage of the breezy location.
Once on Sanibel, there are a number of beach options, such as the lighthouse. Sun yourself around the 120-year-old operational structure, or search for shells in the piles that wash up here. You’ll find nature trails, a small fishing pier, restrooms and some shady parking spaces.
Tarpon Bay is a quiet beach in the middle of the island with calm, clear water ideal for swimming and shelling. There are no concessions near this lovely spot, so pack your own and be prepared for a walk from the paid parking lot.
Bowman’s Beach is another Sanibel gem, a county park that has a rustic feel, lots of shade and facilities for grilling and washing up. It's peacefully stunning.
The beaches on Sanibel Island are perfect for families — Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
The drive to neighboring Captiva Island will have you gawking at beach mansions and tropical scenery, while leading you right to Blind Pass. The rocky point on this beach is good for fishing, and it's one of the few places in the Fort Myers area that gets occasional waves big enough for surfing.
Otherwise, continue to the end of the road and Captiva Beach. Erosion has caused shelves of sand and shells; the water is always sparkling and full of dolphins.
One final word on parking: It’s nearly impossible to find free parking at Fort Myers area beaches. A typical hourly rate at park-and-pay facilities is $2 an hour; thankfully, most have automated machines that take credit cards. Also, look for attended lots, as they often charge a more affordable daily rate.
Still, it's worth the small fee for a day of beachy fun. Fort Myers' local waters are almost always warm and the sunsets spectacular!