Known as the gateway of Southwest Florida, Fort Myers has been a major tourist destination for decades. Way back when, Thomas Edison and his good friend Henry Ford vacationed here in adjoining homes. And way before that, the Native American Calusa tribe called this region home. But history aside, Fort Myers is an ideal place to experience some of the most beautiful Florida beaches, eye-catching natural encounters, and endless family fun.
Explore Sanibel and Captiva Island
By far one of the can’t miss attractions when visiting Fort Myers is heading over to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. It’s only about a 45-minute drive to Sanibel and about an hour to Captiva, but it’s worth the trip. There are also shuttle boats that can get you there much quicker. Both islands are known for their pristine beaches, soft, smooth sand, and incredible seashells. Lodging and fine dining are available. Overall, this makes for a tranquil overnight getaway.
Relax at Newton Park
More than just a beautiful beach, Newton Park was the former beachfront home of Jim and Ellie Newton, who were friends of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Charles Lindbergh. The historic home includes a bocce court, covered thatched hut, and picnic tables. It's a laid-back location for families with young children. The site is owned by the Town of Fort Myers Beach. The Mound House frequently provides free guided beach walks with a master naturalist that depart from the site. There is metered parking onsite, outdoor showers, restrooms, and easy beach access.
The Fort Myers area is known for its amazing shelling because of its position on Florida’s west coast. Warm Gulf waters wash hundreds of shells ashore daily and the city of Fort Myers Beach and Captiva Island are the best places to find these aquatic treasures. The National Shell Museum, located on Sanibel Island, is devoted to shells and the mollusks that make them. The museum also offers guided beach walks where visitors can learn all about shelling, other marine life that washes ashore. The Shell Factory, located in north Fort Myers, are the largest shell retailer in the world. Today, visitors head there for more than just the shells—a fun park, nature center, and bumper boats are available as well.
Tour the Imaginarium Science Center
This hands-on science and aquarium has exhibits for all ages. The Imaginarium has more than 60 interactive exhibits where visitors can explore science, technology, engineering, and math. A brand new virtual reality exhibit lets you explore Fort Myers from 150 years ago. The museum is open every day but Monday and general admission includes all exhibits and the touch tank experience. The Imaginarium is also merged with the Southwest Florida Museum of History.
Take a Dolphin Tour
The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico attract tons of marine life, and dolphins love it here! Aside from going shelling, don’t leave the Fort Myers area without taking a dolphin tour. These majestic and friendly mammals will blow your mind. Although you can rent a boat and head out on your own, there are many dolphin tour operators in the area that take visitors to known dolphin hangouts. Be sure to find a tour like the Southwest Florida Dolphin & Nature Cruise Company, with a certified and knowledgeable guide in order to get the full experience out on the water.
Kayak the Great Calusa Blueway
This 190-mile canoe and kayak route is like a hiking trail on water. The entire Calusa Blueway is marked by mile markers and meanders through three rivers, their tributaries, and around many of the coastal islands in the area. Kayakers down the Blueway can explore lagoons and beaches and all the wide-ranging wildlife they have to offer—manatee and dolphins have been known to play in these areas. Visitors can paddle all or parts of the Blueway, and guided tours are available as well. Launch locations vary depending on trail length and difficulty level; cost runs around $45 to rent a kayak for the day.
Explore Edison and Ford's Winter Escape
History buffs visiting the Fort Myers area will love touring Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s winter escape. The two best friends used to vacation at the adjoining homes in the early twentieth century. Today, both properties are maintained by the city of Fort Myers and open to the public. Walking tours and audio tours of the botanical gardens, Edison’s research lab and the Edison Ford Museum are available. This is the place to get a true taste of old Florida living and what life was like for the early entrepreneurs.
Visit the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium
This 105-acre nature center is home to a museum, three hiking trails, butterfly and bird aviaries, and a planetarium. Families will enjoy bringing young children as the exhibits aren’t overwhelming and provide opportunities for kids to learn all about gators, butterflies, and other native species to the area. Plus, the best part is, it’s super affordable.
Bike Around the Area
One way to experience Fort Myers and the coastal areas around it is by renting bikes. It’s an affordable and relaxing way to see the area, and when there’s a place you want to spend some time in, you just pull off the road and park your bike. Rentals usually start at around $25 a day and will probably be available at your hotel, although it's usually more affordable to rent from a rental shop downtown. A helmet should be included in the price if you request one.
Spend the Day at Sun Splash Waterpark
Southwest Florida’s largest waterpark offers over 14 acres of attractions and fun. A massive lazy river flows around the park, while scream-worthy slides like, Cape Fear, a pitch black 215-foot tube slide, will invigorate your senses. Little ones can spend the day in Pirate’s Cover, an interactive water play zone featuring slides, water gushers, and geyser fountains. Sun Splash Waterpark offers lounge chairs free of charge, three different food venues, and cabana rentals. It’s only 20 minutes outside of Fort Myers and well worth the trip.
Play at Zoomers Amusement Park
A day at Zoomers is sure to please any children you are traveling with. This indoor-outdoor amusement park offers go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, a Tilt-A-Whirl, Cobra roller coaster, and six brand-new Midway rides. An indoor arcade is open as well. Although admission to Zoomers is free, there are Z-cards available to purchase so guests can load it up with any amount they wish. The card is swiped before each ride. Zoomers is open seven days a week, rain or shine.
Spend the Day at Fort Myers Beach
Located on Estero Island, the main barrier island off of mainland Florida, Fort Myers Beach is seven miles of breathtaking coastline. The island used to be separated from the mainland, but today, San Carlos Blvd. connects the two. Restaurants, resorts, and nightlife are abound on Estero Island, and while you’re there be sure to stop by Times Square—a unique shopping and dining area located at the Fort Myers Beach Pier.