If a tropical vacation is calling out to you, leave your cares at home, pack up your T-shirts and flip flops, and head to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel on the Gulf of Mexico. Here visitors may explore the barrier islands of this southwest Florida paradise by land or by boat.
In Jimmy Buffett style, you may spend days doing absolutely nothing or engaging in serious exploring of the islands. The Florida of days long past, with unspoiled white sand beaches, exotic wildlife and lush subtropical foliage, can still be found here and it is the perfect oasis where visitors can “get away from it all” and yet still be close to all of the modern amenities. Many of the area’s 100 coastal islands are uninhabited mangrove clusters while others take visitors’ breath away with their beautiful beaches.
Cross the magical Sanibel Causeway and all worries vanish! Sanibel is known worldwide for its shelling and the associated posture referred to as the “Sanibel Stoop.” Some shellers attach flashlights to their heads, in an effort to be first in the daily search for top picks of the more than 400 varieties of shells found on the beaches, particularly after an especially high or low tide. For most visitors, however, shelling is merely a delightful excuse to enjoy hours of sun along some of the best shoreline in North America.
In July 2010, Shermans Travel named Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island as one of the Top 10 secluded beaches in the U.S. Editors commented about the beauty of the linen white sand beaches. The island is well-known as one of the best shelling spots in the country, but you’ll find little competition here. There’s minimal development and few amenities, though Bowman’s does have one perk not found on any other beach on Sanibel: barbecue grills.
The island’s main thoroughfare, Periwinkle Way, is picturesque and lush with foliage. Interesting shops and restaurants dot the road from the Sanibel Lighthouse to Tarpon Bay Road, making it difficult to complete the distance without a half-dozen sight-seeking stops at boutiques and art galleries. What you will not find: Buildings taller “than the tallest palm tree.”
The main attraction on Captiva: none. And that is the attraction! Many people wile away the hours in one outdoor endeavor or another. The natural beauty of the island is the draw. It was here that Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of the famous aviator, wrote her best-selling book, “A Gift from the Sea.” More remote than Sanibel, the island offers a laid back pace, several great restaurants, sunset views and beautiful beaches for wandering.
Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach
Estero Island, home of Fort Myers Beach, has been long recognized as one of the “world’s safest beaches” because of its gently sloping shoreline. The sand is particularly soft and white, like powdered sugar. During the winter, Estero Bay is home to an extensive shrimp and fishing fleet. Visitors find every imaginable water toy, from windsurfer to catamaran and parasail. Numerous marinas operate boating and fishing charters. Local restaurants benefit from the catch, which generally includes red snapper and grouper.
Step back in time on Pine Island to reminisce a period when fishing reigned as the area’s largest industry. Accessible by land via “the fishingest bridge in the USA” at Matlacha [Mat-la-chay], the island is 17 miles long with Pine Island Sound on one side and an aquatic preserve on the other. Home to the Calusa Heritage Trail, the largest Indian shell mound in southwest Florida.
Accessible by boat and car via a causeway, this island offers fishing, shelling and lots of family fun. The island has five beaches with Gulf access.
Travel + Leisure magazine has named Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island as one of its 50 Best Romantic Getaways for 2010. “This idyllic enclave on the Gulf of Mexico is a genuine glimpse of Old Florida with whimsically named streets such as Damnificare, a postcard-worthy lighthouse watching over Gasparilla Island State Park, and long, quiet beaches lapped by gentle waves.”
The island’s charming turn-of-the-century harbor town, Boca Grande, was founded by the wealthy DuPont family in the late 1800s. This sleepy southern town comes with small shops, cozy restaurants, waterside accommodations and beautiful beaches. Former President George H. W. Bush along with family members, enjoys an annual winter visit to Gasparilla Island, staying at the legendary Gasparilla Inn & Club. The Inn dates back to 1911 and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.
Enjoy pristine beaches, island hop, kayak, search for shells, or just relax. Get away to Fort Meyers and Sanibel for a tropical vacation now.