Holidays to Fort Myers and Sanibel

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The beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida are made up of over 100 barrier islands each offering visitors a different experience, but drawn together by unspoilt nature, white-sand beaches, turquoise waters and activities for all ages.

When you first step foot on these spacious, unspoilt sands, it’s hard to believe you’re only a couple of hours away from bustling cities like Miami and Orlando. And with so much untouched  beauty surrounding you, the wildlife sightings are just as exotic, from its manatee-filled waters to its alligator-inhabited wetlands. But it’s not just about the beach here. If you’re not sunning yourself on the sand, you could be touring the former homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, or visiting a museum entirely devoted to seashells.

Things to do

Fort Myers & Sanibel is made for island hopping. There are so many stunning shorelines to choose from! After its 18th century lighthouse, Sanibel’s beaches are probably most famous for shelling, with over 250 seashells to hunt down between its coastline and neighbouring Captiva Island. If shelling isn’t your thing, hiking, canoeing and guided fishing tours are just some of the activities you can test out at Lovers Key State Park. 

The seven-mile-long shoreline along Fort Myers Beach gets most of the attention (for good reason), but it’s the pedestrianised Times Square that sees all the action. Lined with restaurants, bars, ice cream counters and surf shops, this oceanside playground has something for all ages. It’s also host to a public party each weekend to celebrate the sunset. If you’d prefer to stay away from the hustle and bustle, nothing beats days at Bonita Beach Park.

Aside from the beaches, Sanibel is also home to The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. With over 7,600 acres of trails to explore, you could easily spend all day just spotting the many bird and reptile species living among the mangroves. For even more animal encounters, the Great Calusa Blueway’s wildlife-packed waters are a must for keen kayakers.

As for history, the island’s choice of museums are up there with its wildlife sightings. The biggest historical highlight is over in Fort Myers, along the Caloosahatchee River. Known as Edison and Ford Winter Estates, people come from all over the world to see Edison’s laboratory and gardens, where many of his experiments took place. 

As one of the best shelling destinations in North America, it should come as no surprise that Sanibel is home to a building full of them! And if you thought you weren’t interested when you arrived, you will be by the time you’ve visited Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.

12 - 33℃

Fort Myers & Sanibel experiences warm temperatures all year. Enjoy hot, humid summers with the occasional shower. Winters here are mild and usually rain free.

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Approximately 12 - 13 hours

You’ll fly to Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), which is 10 miles southeast of Fort Myers. You can drive to Fort Myers beach in 30 minutes from here and Sanibel in around 45 minutes.

Fort Myers and Sanibel is best for...

Shell collectors: Often dubbed the seashell capital, Sanibel is home to the world’s best shelling beaches. The activity has become so popular, the action of bending over to inspect seashells has been nicknamed the ‘Sanibel Stoop’ by locals. There’s an incredible variety too with conch, cockle, scallops all found on its shores. 

Water-based activities: Surrounded by the beautiful Gulf, you won’t be short of wet activities in Fort Myers & Sanibel. Look out for dolphins from your own chartered boat, or use it for a spot of fishing. Prefer someone else to do the driving? Then you can always book a guided tour. Adrenaline-fueled fun is on the cards too, from parasailing to jet skiing and windsurfing.

Beach lovers: With over 50 miles of beach between them, Fort Myers & Sanibel are the ultimate island escape. This white-sand paradise surrounded by the heated Gulf, has some of the best beach scenery Florida has to offer.

Fast facts for Fort Myers and Sanibel

Language: The official language of Fort Myers & Sanibel is English, which is spoken by over 70% of the population. However, you’ll also find residents speaking Spanish, and a small percentage French.

Currency: The currency used in Fort Myers & Sanibel is the US Dollar ($).

Local time: Fort Myers & Sanibel is 5 hours behind GMT/UK time.

Fly to: Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), also known as Fort Myers Airport, which serves the greater Southwest Florida area. From here you can reach Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Bonita Springs and Naples.

Flight time from UK: The flight time to Fort Myers & Sanibel is around 12 to 13 hours.

Tourist information: Further tourist information can be found at Fort Myers and Sanibel official tourism website.

Getting around Fort Myers and Sanibel

By bike: Bikes are popular in Fort Myers & Sanibel, mainly because they’re cheap. Plus, with pleasant weather throughout the year it’s a great way to make the most of the sunshine, while staying active.

By shuttle: There are a number of shuttle services on these islands, which you can catch seven days a week. Rides on the colourful Sanibel Trolley Tour will go down a treat with kids, not to mention it covers many of the island’s key attractions.

By water taxi: The waterways are by far the best way to see these islands! Often busier than its roads, you can take advantage of daily pick ups without worrying about where to park. Just sit back, relax and enjoy those glittering Gulf views.

Events in Fort Myers and Sanibel

Edison Festival of Light: This three-week-long spectacle takes place each year to celebrate the legacy of its most famous winter resident, Thomas Edison. Now the longest running event in Southwest Florida, join in on the fun from late January until early February. Take part in the 5k run, marvel at the science experiments and make sure you catch the main event, the Grand Parade of Light - the largest of its kind in the US.

ArtFest Fort Myers: During the first weekend in February, locals and tourists gather to celebrate all things art. Head for the waterfront to admire the beautiful artwork, grab some food, or get involved with the crafts activities.

Sanibel Shell Festival: What started out as a small shell-filled show has turned into one of the island’s biggest festivals with nearly 4,000 visitors each year. Complete with shell displays, crafts and food stalls, it’s a must-visit if you’re heading here at the beginning of March.

 

Safety and security in Fort Myers and Sanibel

For up-to-date advice on travelling to Fort Myers and Sanibel, please visit the FCDO website.

Fort Myers and Sanibel weather

Temperature: Average temperatures range from 18 - 29 (°C)

You’ll have no problem catching a tan with Fort Myers & Sanibel’s near-perfect weather. Expect temperatures to rise from the middle of March and reach their hottest by August, which is also when you’ll experience the warmest Gulf waters. Days won’t cool down again until October (and by cool down we mean lows of  21°C). Winter here can still reach a pleasant 25°C but nights will start to feel chilly in January, the coldest month.

Although relatively unharmed by storms, it’s also a good idea to be aware of Florida’s hurricane season (1st June to 30th November). This area sees its fair share of rain too, mainly during the summer with 16 days in August alone. Don’t worry, though. There’s plenty of sunshine to be soaked up in between the heavy but brief showers. 

Best hotels in Fort Myers and Sanibel