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Surrounded by both salt and freshwater, Fort Myers is an outdoor lover’s dream with a collection of natural preserves, state parks and beautiful white-sand beaches. Boasting plenty of picturesque natural landscapes to fill your time, you can spend your days indulging in the area’s endless array of water activities, exploring historic landmarks and spotting local wildlife before retreating to a beautiful beachfront hotel. A great destination for outdoor adventures, here are the best things to do in Fort Myers.
One of the top white-sand beaches in Florida, Fort Myers Beach is a slice of paradise where you can soak up the sunshine and go beachcombing for colorful seashell treasures away from the hoards of tourists. Head to Lynn Hall Memorial Park for a full day of activities with the entire family and stop by the Fort Myers Beach Pier to observe local fishermen or try your hand at catching your dinner. Lounge under an umbrella, spot dolphins in the water, or kick your vacation up a notch with a WaveRunner tour in Estero Bay.
For a trip back in time, visit the historic Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. A beloved attraction in Southwest Florida, history buffs will be particularly enthusiastic about the exhibits here, even those not usually interested in exploring historic landmarks can appreciate the attraction’s significance. A designated Florida Historic Landmark and one of the most visited historic home sites in America, you can take a tour of the 20 acres and learn more about Florida’s history. Explore the historic buildings, gardens and museum to see inventions, special exhibits and artifacts that date back to 1929.
The kids will delight with a day of exploring IMAG History & Science Center, as its hands-on exhibits provide hours of engagement and fun. It’s a perfect place for budding scientists and engineers to discover their skills, where topics like anatomy, weather and aquatic life are showcased through interactive displays. There are plenty of activities for the little ones to explore, from a dinosaur dig demo to a hands-on aquarium with live animal encounters and a small 3D movie theater.
A 1,600-acre park made up of four barrier islands, Lovers Key State Park is a great place to go to enjoy Florida’s natural landscapes. You can spend a day enjoying the simple pleasures here, from swimming and shelling to kayaking, paddle boarding and sunbathing along its quiet coastlines. You can spot an array of wildlife while exploring this area, including gopher tortoises, bald eagles, bottlenose dolphins and it’s also one of the best spots in Florida to see manatees.
Birdwatching enthusiasts should put J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge at the top of their itinerary, as it boasts 6,300 acres of natural landscapes located along the southern migratory path. Originally developed as an opportunity to conserve the mangrove forest on the island, you can often spot a variety of birds, from herons and cuckoos to ospreys, while the hiking and biking trails and open-air tram along Wildlife Drive offers a peek at other wildlife.
Cayo Costa looks much like it did 500 years ago when the European settlers arrived, as this tropical slice of paradise offers nine miles of untouched coastline. Piled with colorful seashells, this barrier island retains its natural wilderness landscapes and sense of remoteness with a white sandy beach and acres of pine forests, oak palm hammocks, mangrove swamps and nature trails. Set up a picnic, try your hand at fishing or spot local wildlife such as dolphins, osprey and manatees.
*Due to Hurricane Ian, the park is currently closed.
Playing at the beach is fun, but soaking up the sunshine with your four-legged best friend is even better. Dog Beach Park in Fort Myers allows you to do just that, as this county-owned beach allows pups to dig their paws in the sand, play catch, throw a frisbee, or frolic in the waters. Give your doggie an off-the-leash experience at this picturesque coastal tideland, where the size of the beach varies on the water level and tide.
Perfect for when you’re looking for some retail therapy, head to the historic Fort Myers River District. A set of charming palm-lined streets line the downtown hub, where you’ll find an eclectic collection of shops, galleries, restaurants and a chocolate shop. Explore the mix of retailers and one-of-a-kind boutiques and antique stores that sit along First Street and the nearby cobblestone avenues.
A wonderful place to take the entire family, Lakes Park boasts 279 acres and plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors. There are two splash pads for hot summer days, while hiking, biking canoeing and kayaking excursions are also available. Kids will love the rock climbing wall, playground and Miniature Railroad and Train Village, or you can hop on a paddleboat rental and cruise the area.
Many visitors to Fort Myers put a day trip to Sanibel Island on their to-do list, as this “Shelling Capital of the World” is a beloved beach destination in Florida. Its small-town charm permeates through its laid-back attractions, where you can spend an entire afternoon doing the “Sanibel Stoop”, which is the pose locals make when scouring the beach for colorful seashell treasures. It’s lack of chain stores and traffic lights offer an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, where you can browse through quaint boutique shops and art galleries.
From November to March, visitors wanting to see Florida’s famous gentle giants can head to Manatee Park. A protected sanctuary for manatees, its warm waters offer the animals respite from the cold northern waters, where you can see the animals up close in a non-captive natural environment. Take a guided walk of the area, sign up for educational activities with the kids, or climb the observation tower to soak up views of the surrounding area.