The Fort Myers area is bursting with things to see and do, offering up unmatched natural beauty, sporting events, historical sites and cultural opportunities. No matter what your interests, you will find options that satisfy all of your vacation desires.
Sun and sea lovers get giddy over the gorgeous shell-filled beaches of Sanibel Island; boating and fishing excursions are also plentiful. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates excites history buffs and those with inquiring minds. Meanwhile, sports fans will find multiple opportunities to soak up the excitement of Spring Training with both the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins gearing up in Fort Myers’ stadiums for the regular baseball season.
Almost any visitor to Fort Myers will enjoy spotting manatees at the Lee County Manatee Park. Hard to believe that sailors really used to confuse these guys for mermaids! There are few places that offer the opportunity to canoe or kayak alongside these magical giants. J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is home to more than 200 species of birds that can be spotted alongside alligators, sea turtles, river otters and more.
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There’s no better way to explore Southwest Florida than by water. The coast is vast and diverse, from Cabbage Key and Useppa to Boca Grande and Cayo Costa. The waters are beautiful, full of history and Captiva Cruises has a menu of excursions to suit almost any taste. Cruises depart mostly from Jensen’s Marina on Captiva Island. Enjoy educational tours guided by experts on wildlife, sharks, history and much more. There are wildlife-spotting tours, seashell-hunting tours, dolphin and sunset cruises and day long trips to unspoiled barrier islands. The staff is welcoming and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to both the land and sea of the area. It’s an activity that the entire family can embrace and enjoy.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Water is one of the finest features of the Fort Myers area and Captiva Cruises offers an array of trips for fun, exploration and adventure.
Gina’s expert tip: Always offering new adventures, check the website for the newest specialty cruises.
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! Especially active 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 Best Attractions & Activities because: A free park and one of the best ways to see manatees, giant sea cows, up close and in their natural habitat.
Gina’s expert tip: While many area parks allow dogs, this is not one of them.
This award-winning theater puts on world-class productions. Located in the heart of beautiful downtown Fort Myers, “The Rep” (as locals call it) offers patrons a wide variety of productions, from dramatic to comedic. Shows traditionally occur in the historic Arcade Theatre, built in 1908. It was originally a Vaudeville house, and celebrated figures the likes of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone watched films in this very building. However, the theater has moved many productions to an outdoor stage following the pandemic. Check the website for performance venue updates. Recognized nationally as “One of America’s Top Repertory Companies,” this group truly sets the bar for community theaters.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: For professional performances in a beautiful, historic venue, theater lovers give a standing ovation to the Florida Repertory Theater!
Gina’s expert tip: The Rep (as locals call it) offers discounted preview shows for each production. Check their website for date and times.
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 Best Attractions & Activities because: The only true waterpark in Southwest Florida, Sun Splash offers exhilarating slides as wells as peaceful places to float and lounge while tanning.
Gina’s expert tip: The park closes late fall, through the winter season.
Whether you prefer fishing, people-watching, photography, strolling, or relaxing in the sun, the Fort Myers Beach pier is a great destination day or night. Extending far into the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent to the bustling Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach, the pier is a central hub of activity. Gaze down at beachgoers or up at parasailers, watch dolphins play, listen to live music, check out what the anglers are catching and watch the sunset. There’s a small bait, snack and gift shop halfway down the pier. On the weekends enjoy a sunset celebration at the foot of the pier with bands, artists and other interesting performers. There is plenty of sand around the pier to spread out your blanket and set up camp for the day.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The fishing pier is fun day and night, with great views of the beach and sunset, covered seating and space for casting a line.
Gina’s expert tip: There’s a parking lot adjacent to the pier, but if it’s full, the parking lot behind Winds surf shop is a pay per day spot.
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 threaten 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 Best Attractions & Activities because: The refuge is a top birding spot, popular with wildlife photographers, featuring more than 6000 acres to explore by boat, bike or foot.
Gina’s expert tip: Bring bug spray, binoculars and a camera with a good zoom.
One of the many things that sets Barbara B Mann apart from every other entertainment venue in the area is it’s proscenium stage. The largest of its kind in Southwest Florida, the stage is able to host epic Broadway tours that can’t unload their extensive sets just anywhere; think Phantom of the Opera and Lion King. The auditorium is comfortable, seating just shy of 1900 and has gained a reputation not only locally but also in the entertainment industry for quality and professionalism. Besides national Broadway tours, the performing arts hall books well known musicians, bands, comedians and a host of entertainers. Located on the campus of Florida Southwestern University, arrive early for a walk through the neighboring Bob Rauschenberg Gallery.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: With its large stage and seating capacity, Barbara B Mann is a frequent tour stop for some of the biggest Broadway shows and entertainers.
Gina’s expert tip: Ticket lotteries are often available at the box office, before shows. It’s a good way to get affordable, last minute tickets to sold out events.
Florida is home to Spring Training for fifteen major league baseball teams and Fort Myers is the only city to host two. Every February the boys of summer descend on the area to hone their skills and rosters for the regular season. It’s a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with the players who are more relaxed and accessible. The Boston Red Sox train at JetBlue Park, also known as Fenway South. It holds 11,000 fans, including seats in the replica, Green Monster. The recently remodeled CenturyLink Sports Complex, is where the Minnesota Twins play. 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 Best Attractions & Activities because: A thrilling opportunity to see dozens of professional baseball players up close and personal, as they prepare for the regular season.
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.
Sanibel Island is filled with magnificent beaches that are great for a lot more than just relaxing. The barrier island is renowned for its shell-filled shores and is often cited as one of the best places for shelling in the world. It is illegal to take live shells, so if you see a creature is still inhabiting something you find, put it back in the water and let nature take its course. Speaking of the water, it is clear, refreshing and lovely. One of the poplar spots to send the day is Bowman’s Beach where amenities include plentiful parking, bathrooms, lots of shade and more. Blind Pass Beach, between Sanibel and Captive is the only spot where you might get some surf. Lighthouse Beach has a picnic area and fishing pier.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The shape of Sanibel Island and the currents of the Gulf of Mexico make the beautiful beaches here top-notch for finding one-of-a kind shells.
Gina’s expert tip: Be sure to get your “stoop” on (local term for shell hunting) in the early morning to beat the heat and crowds for the best shells.
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates are some of Fort Myers’ most popular attractions. Covering more than 20 acres, this historic complex on the Caloosahatchee River offers an intriguing glimpse into the lives of two of America’s greatest inventors, Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. Tour the impressive botanical gardens and nine historic buildings, including Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory and the Estates Museum, which is filled with inventions, artifacts and special exhibit galleries. Catch an up close look at Edison and Ford motoring through the Everglades or learn about some of the lesser-known of Edison’s more than 1,000 patents. Some of his first light bulbs still burn in the lab. It’s a fascinating place.
Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: The lush estates house the actual lab of America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison as well as original Model T’s from his friend Henry Ford.
Gina’s expert tip: The self-guided audio tour is a good value, allowing you to explore the estates at your own pace.