Best Outdoor Activities in Fort Myers

Outdoor Fun in the Fort Myers Sun

The Fort Myers area is surrounded by water, wildlife and warmth, making it ideal for outdoor activities. The only question is, where to start?

The beach may feel like an obvious choice and for most visitors, it is, even if only to catch a sunset. However, if you want to spend all day in the sun and surf, there are literally dozens of different beaches to choose from. You’ll find the party people on Fort Myers Beach, the adventurous on Cayo Costa, and nature lovers at Lover’s Key State Park.

Each March, baseball enthusiasts flock here for Spring Training games. The Twins and Red Sox are based in Fort Myers and there are a dozen more teams located within a three hour drive. 

Enjoy the great outdoors with a dose of history at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. The sprawling grounds along the Caloosahatchee River have beautiful gardens, antique cars and an impressively chronical how inventor Thomas Edison and car magnate Henry Ford lived and worked in Southwest Florida.

For active visitors, check out Lakes Regional Park with its walking and biking trails, boat rentals and more. Boating is big all over the Fort Myers area along with fishing and water sports such as parasailing and jet skiing.

Whatever you choose, you'll likely leave wanting more of the great outdoors in Fort Myers. 



Sanibel Island
Billy's Bike Rentals
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch

Certain times of the year, it's faster and easier to travel by bicycle on Sanibel Island than by car, and it's more fun too. Billy's Bike Rentals is loaded with options to take care of everyone in your family, even those who don't know how to ride. Besides individual bikes and bicycles built for two, there are covered surreys so the entire family can share in the peddling. Grab a map and off you go to explore island highlights like the historic lighthouse and the world-renowned Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Be sure to take a break at a beach access for a dip, pack a picnic, or splurge at one of the fantastic local restaurants. But be sure to save space in your basket for shopping bags after visiting the numerous unique boutiques along Periwinkle Way.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: One of the best ways to see Sanibel and Captiva Islands is via bicycles and Segways. Rent them here, grab a map and get going.

Gina's expert tip: If you're staying on the island, "Billy" can deliver your bike.

Read more about Billy's Bike Rentals →

There are so many ways to have fun on the water in Fort Myers and Holiday Water Sports has it all. One of the most popular experiences is flying high above the beach via a parasail. Board the six-passenger winch boat directly from the sand on Fort Myers Beach, flying solo or in tandem with one or two other people. You'll dangle peacefully at the end of an 800-foot line with a free-fall dip into the water. Jet Ski's are at the other end of the spectrum, a gas-powered personal watercraft offering speed and exhilaration. Other rentals include stand up paddle boards or SUPs, aqua cycles with giant flotation wheels and more.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Jet Ski's, Parasailing, paddle boards....a few of the many popular ways to have excitement and fun on the waterways of Fort Myers.

Gina's expert tip: If the weather is not perfect and the day has been slow operators sometimes offer discounts to drum up interest.

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There is so much water in the Fort Myers area but there is only one, true water park. Sun Splash Family Water Park has more than fourteen acres of water slides, pools and activities for the entire family. Kids go crazy for the adrenaline pumping speed slides and the five-and-a-half story free fall drop. If that's too much excitement, grab a float and peacefully bob down the Main Stream River Ride. There's a Tot Spot for the little ones and plenty of chairs for mom and dad to lounge in the sun. Food and concessions are available along with lots of special deals throughout the summer, so be sure to check the events calendar online. The water park typically closes at the end of October through February, then the site is used for carnivals, concerts and special events.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: With all of the water in the area, this is the only full-service water park, with fast slides, lazy rivers and refreshing pools.

Gina's expert tip: No outside food and beverages are allowed in. Concessions are provided and there are plans to sell alcohol in the near future.

Read more about Sun Splash Family Waterpark →

Estero River Outfitters
Photo courtesy of Estero River Outfitters

The Estero River is between Fort Myers and Bonita Springs. A lazy stretch of waterway leading to the Gulf of Mexico, it is lined with mangroves, palm trees and moss-covered oaks. Rent individual or double kayaks, as well as canoes and be sure to pack snacks. There are numerous beautiful sites to pull over for a picnic, the first one being the Koreshan State Historic Site. The Estero Bay is about a 4 1/2 mile paddle and here you'll find more private places to beach your boat. Explore the historic Mound Key, sitting some thirty feet above sea level. Walk through the mangrove forest and sit atop the huge shell mound for an amazing view of the coasts of Bonita Springs and Fort Myers.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Fort Myers has lots of smaller waterways full of scenic vegetation and wildlife. A paddle down the Estero River can be both relaxing and invigorating.

Gina's expert tip: Put camera's and cell phones in ziplock-type bags, you won't want to leave them in the car but also want to keep them safe from a possible emersion.

Read more about Estero River Outfitters →

You don't need to go to a zoo or an aquarium to get an up-close look at manatees. You can see them for free at Lee County Manatee Park! Between the months of November and March, manatees swim into the canal of this 17-acre park to escape the cooler Gulf of Mexico temperatures. Over the years, the mammals have been drawn to the warm-water discharge from a former, nearby power plant. The shallow water makes viewing the creatures in their entirety, perfect. On site there is a visitor center and gift shop and a playground for kids. Rent a kayak or canoe for a reasonable price and you can explore the waters on your own.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: It's one of the best spots in Southwest Florida to see manatees in the wild. They tend to gather here for the warm water.

Gina's expert tip: No dogs allowed in this park

Read more about Lee County Manatee Park →

Lakes Regional Park
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Walking the 2.5 miles of paved and unpaved paths at Lakes Park is free but if you have a few extra dollars there are boat and bike rentals too. Workout stations with waterfront views are perfect for burning a few calories. The small water park is free for kids to cool off and concessions are available. Check out the Miniature Railroad that offers a 15-minute ride past a small scale village. Also, look for exotic vegetation and the occasional alligator in the 158 acres of freshwater quarry lakes; fishing is allowed. On your walk or ride, look for birds like Ibis and Heron, enjoy the fragrance garden, a seasonal community garden and rest in the gazebo or the many covered picnic areas. The park is also hosts a seasonal farmers market on Fridays.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: This park has a little something for everyone; wildlife, bike trails, exercise stations, boating, and a small water park for the kids.

Gina's expert tip: There is a second entrance from Summerlin Road, for foot and bike traffic only

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Photo courtesy of Gina Birch

Shelling is one fo the most popular and most famous pastimes for beachgoers in Southwest Florida. The shape of the barrier islands in combination with the gulf currents make them massive depositories for shells. There are times, on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, when you can scarcely walk without stepping on them. Even on Fort Myers Beach there are often mounds of shells on the shoreline, waiting to be plundered. The best shelling is in the morning, during low tide, or after a storm when you never know what treasures mother nature has beached. So many people come here to shell that locals have nicknamed their stance--head down, backside up--the Sanibel Stoop. Those who are really serious can even stop by the Bailey-Mathews National Shell Museum.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Fort Myers area beaches are known worldwide for premier shelling. Sanibel and Captiva Islands in particular are covered year round making it a collector's dream.

Gina's expert tip: There are restrictions on taking live shells. Those found onshore are typically already dead.

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J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Ding Darling

This pristine wildlife refuge, named after famous "Des Moines Register" cartoonist and conservationist J. N. "Ding" Darling, offers more than 6,000 acres of South Florida's wildest wetlands, pearly-white beaches and mangrove forests. The refuge has an international reputation for its massive migratory bird population, more than 250 species live here. Among the park's many other permanent residents are alligators, river otters, manatees, snakes and sea turtles. Many endangered and threatened species find solace in the refuge as well. While you have wide access, it's important to remember that this is their turf. Visitors can bike or hike more than 7 miles of trails within the park or take advantage of the guided canoe trips and narrated tram tours.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: You never know what type of wildlife you will encounter at this massive refuge on Sanibel Island that offers tours, biking and even boating.

Gina's expert tip: Bring bug spray, binoculars and a camera with a good zoom to capture photos of Florida wildlife

Read more about J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge →

Edison & Ford Winter Estates
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates cover more than 20 acres along the Caloosahatchee River, offering a glimpse into the lives of two of America's greatest inventors: Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The estate museum is 15-thousand square feet of fascinating exhibits from the nations most influential inventor. You'll get to see some of Edison's most famous creations such as the light bulb, telegraph, telephone, phonography, x-ray machine and more. You may also be surprised to discover more than 1000 of Edison's lesser-known patents as well as personal photographs and other items. Henry Ford's original Model T is also there, a gift to Edison from his friend and fellow winter resident. The botanical gardens are full of unique flora and fauna.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Step back in time at the sprawling winter homes and gardens of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, situated on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.

Gina's expert tip: The self-guided audio tour is a good value, allowing you to explore the grounds at your own pace.

Read more about Edison & Ford Winter Estates →

Baseball Spring Training
Photo courtesy of Minnesota Twins

Florida is home to Spring Training for fifteen major league baseball teams and Fort Myers is the only city hosting two. Every February the boys of summer descend on the city to hone their skills and rosters for the regular season (games get into full swing the month of March). It's a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the players who are more relaxed and accessible. The Red Sox train at JetBlue Park, also known as Fenway South. This stadium replaced the quaint City of Palms Park for Spring Training in 2012 and includes seats in the replica, Green Monster. Hammond Stadium, where the Twins play, recently underwent a multi-million renovation project. One of the best features of this park is the bullpen picnic pavilion, where fans can get great photos and autographs of their favorite sluggers.

Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Each spring, major league baseball players descend on the Fort Myers area for training, giving fans an up close and personal sporting experience.

Gina's expert tip: If you're in town before the games begin, you can still catch players practicing on the field and in the batting cages.

Read more about Baseball Spring Training →


Meet Gina Birch

Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for more than 20 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality. She also writes for a number...  More About Gina