Fort Myers

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Overview

In Fort Myers, you can find all the perks of a perfect beach getaway, without breaking the bank. Float on a raft in the warm gulf waters and explore the islands on a bike. Then shop the art galleries, feast on an endless array of local seafood or parasail across the sky for a bird’s-eye view of the southwest Florida coast.

The Fort Myers-Naples area of Florida is a favourite sun-soaked retreat – not only for travellers seeking warm rays, but also for Floridians seeking a relaxed vibe.

Fort Myers is a welcoming, laid-back spot for travellers, with more than 80 km of white sandy beaches and an average gulf temperature of 25 C. Take in Fort Myers' 20 state parks and stay in accommodations ranging from cozy cottages and world-class resorts to family-friendly hotels.

In this southwest corner of the Sunshine State, discover a tropical paradise that attracts families, honeymooners, spring-breakers and snowbirds. Lee and Collier counties are filled with treasures, whether your heart's desire is to lay back in a hammock and watch the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico on Sanibel Island or fill your days with activities. In downtown Fort Myers, tour Thomas Edison’s winter estate on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.  

You might prefer to play a round of golf at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, or just to sip a margarita while watching street performers entertain in Times Square at Fort Myers Beach. If you want to do all of the above and then some, you’ve picked the right place.

Southwest Florida is jam-packed with choices, and it brims with friendly folks who can’t wait to show off all there is to visitors.

Fort Myers is a fantastic destination for:

  • golf
  • romance
  • shopping & dining

Airport served by: RSW

Destination basics

Long-time residents of the Fort Myers area have been known to joke about the climate: “There are only two seasons around here: ‘tourist’ and ‘hot.’” There’s some truth to the saying.

From October through April, rain is rare. Temperatures range from the low- to mid-20s C during the day and low- to mid-teens in the evening. Perfect for Canadian visitors, the humidity is low, the breeze is gentle, and the sun shines all day.

Cold fronts occasionally dip into the southwest corner of the state, usually between December and March, sending temperatures into the single digits. This gives locals a chance to break out their sweaters, but the cool weather lasts no more than two or three days before it warms up again.

In the summer months, when most hotels lower their prices for the “off-season,” expect temperatures to linger in the 30s C. The summer heat is made more tolerable by the almost-daily late-afternoon thunderstorms that cool things off a bit for the evening.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Fort Myers

Whether it’s the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the winding Caloosahatchee River, the untamed everglades or the many creeks, canals and paddling trails – it has always been the water that draws settlers and visitors to the Fort Myers area.

Before Fort Myers Beach became one of top 10 spring break destinations in the United States, this narrow, 11-km-long island was the sleepy, balmy home mostly of shrimp fishermen and their families.

“Shrimpers” still dock near the bridge at Matanzas Pass before they head to the gulf, but these days, the bridge carries vacationing families, honeymooners, spring breakers and local day-trippers. Come to Fort Myers for the swimming, sunning, parasailing and events. Attend the annual offshore power boat races, the International Sand Sculpting Competition and don’t forget to try the fresh, fried, boiled and chilled shrimp when you’re here.

The Everglades National Park stretches through four south Florida counties and is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. Airboat guides stay busy year-round as they ferry guests through the grassy waters for sightings of alligators and rare birds.

The Caloosahatchee River starts its 120-km-long stretch from Lake Okeechobee in Glades County and winds its way down the state to the Gulf of Mexico. Until 1904, it was the only way to get to Fort Myers. “That’s how everybody got here, including Thomas Edison, by boat on the river,” says Matt Johnson, executive director of the Southwest Florida Museum of History. “When the railroad was finally built in the early 1900s, all that changed. But without the Caloosahatchee, there wouldn’t have been a Fort Myers. ”

Today, the Caloosahatchee legacy lives on with historic downtown Fort Myers, also known as the “River District.” (And, yes, there was once a Fort, the southernmost union outpost during the Civil War.) Art and culture are the main attractions in this neighbourhood.

The critically acclaimed Florida Repertory Theatre was built in 1908 and is housed in an old vaudeville venue. It is entering its 14th season, producing nine shows a year on its main stage and bringing more than 70,000 people to the River District annually.

This riverfront city is a popular hub with locals and travellers alike. Within an eight-block radius downtown, you’ll find more than a dozen eclectic art galleries, restaurants and bars, the Fort Myers Yacht Basin and Centennial Park with its weekly Thursday farmer’s market.

As with all American destinations, it is recommended to use U.S. dollars for general expenses and anywhere you have to use cash.

For entertainment and shopping, your credit card will give you the exchange rate at the time of purchase. There are also numerous ATMs inside banks and public spaces where you can withdraw funds at your convenience. Just be aware that transaction fees vary by ATM.

As a desirable vacation destination, Fort Myers and its neighboring cities attract thousands of visitors annually. Much remains as it was hundreds of years ago, serene and unspoiled. Mangrove forests, saltwater wetlands, wildlife refuges, tropical gardens, nature trails, miles of winding canals and waterways, and hundreds of islands, some inhabited, some not, provide a magical retreat from the fast-paced world.

Fort Myers
Located on the southern bank of the Caloosahatchee River and known as the “City of Palms”, Fort Myers is rich in history, Civil War settlement, and Seminole Indian legacies. The wide Caloosahatchee River diagonally divides the city from Cape Coral to the west, and North Fort Myers just across the Edison Bridge.

You'll never be bored here. Cultural attractions like the Imaginarium and the Arcade Theatre mix with beach activities. The annual Edison Festival of Light unites everyone in the city for a citywide celebration. Fort Myers is also the winter home of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins.

Cape Coral
Northwest of Fort Myers, Cape Coral was originally laid out to resemble the Venice of Italy on the Gulf of Mexico. The man-made canal systems were instrumental in its residential and commercial growth and expansion. There are many popular outdoor attractions here, such as the Sun Splash Family Waterpark. With more than 30 parks, there are also numerous boardwalks and trails for visitors to explore. The Cape Coral Historical Society Museum provides an educational respite.

Sanibel Island
Southwest of Fort Myers is the popular island of Sanibel, 12 miles long and 5 miles wide, connected at a narrow point. With a reputation for great fishing, windsurfing, shell collecting, bird watching and other outdoor pursuits, the best way to get around the island is by bicycle. Visit the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and the Sanibel Gallery.

Golf and tennis are available at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club on the eastern end of the island, the Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa. The J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, is a must-see.

Captiva Island
Upper Captiva, at the northern end of Sanibel Island, is about 4.5 miles long and a half mile wide. It is mostly a wildlife sanctuary and the perfect place to go for seclusion and privacy. This barrier island is a great place to view dolphins, birds, and beautiful sunsets.

Fort Myers Beach
Fifteen minutes south of Fort Myers along the Gulf coast is Fort Myers Beach. A popular retreat for vacationers with many quaint restaurants and unique hotels like Pointe Estero Beach Resort, it offers charter fishing, cruises and tours to neighboring islands or all the way to Key West. Entertainment can be found at Indian Creek Plaza.

There's lots to do and see in this growing corner of southwest Florida. Visit wildlife refuges, learn about the past through historic buildings and museums, explore secret inlets and coves by canoe or kayak, fish to your heart's delight, or just relax under a shaded palm and soak in the tropical atmosphere.

Family Fun
For some family fun just across the Caloosahatchee River in Cape Coral to the north of the city, there's plenty of action, rides and activities at the Sun Splash Family Waterpark

Museums
For historic landmarks in the downtown district, visit the Burroughs Home, and the Florida Repertory Theatre, where plays and musical productions are performed to the enjoyment of the community. For more historic information on the development and settlement of the area during the days of cattle drives, the Civil War, and the Seminole Indians, don't miss the Fort Myers Historical Museum and the Imaginarium. In Estero, there is the well known Koreshan State Historic Site, a legacy from a community sect that left its mark on the area and made significant contributions to its settlement.

On Sanibel and Captiva, the only museum devoted solely to sea shells is the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. For an appreciation of the culture and history of the area, the Cape Coral Historical Society Museum offers a fascinating insight into early Florida settlement days.

Nightlife
An evening out on the town can include the Lido Cafe, a popular place for Latin music, dining and dancing. The Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre is where terrific food is served buffet-style with lavish desserts, and live entertainment. 

Shopping
For the avid shopper, there's plenty to discover, from flea markets to upscale shopping centers such as the Edison Mall. On Estero Island, south of Fort Myers, you can spend the day browsing 100 brand name outlet stores at Miromar Outlets. There's more shopping on charming Sanibel Island. 

For the flea market aficionado, Fort Myers offers the Fleamasters Fleamarket, with 900 booths of all manner of treasures, collectibles, and junk you can't live without, but where you'll definitely spend a few hours of fun spending a few dollars and chatting with the locals. 

Sports
In Fort Myers Beach and Estero, there's more spectator sports for the avid fan, such as Florida Sea Dragons Basketball, the Florida Firecats Arena Football, and the Florida Everblades Ice Hockey. Inline skating anyone? The family can spend a few hours at the Fort Myers Skatium and take a break from the warm summer climate.

Nature
In South Fort Myers, learn all about the citrus industry with tours of the Sun Harvest Citrus. There's also plenty to discover about the environment and ecology of the area through the eco-tours offered through Everglades Day Safari. In downtown Fort Myers, the 105-acre Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium has a museum, an aviary, nature trails and picnic areas. With tours and nature shop, you'll find there's a lot to learn and enjoy. For outdoor fun and wildlife discovery, a visit to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a must.

In and around the Fort Myers area, and on the neighboring islands, there are many wonderful restaurants, cafes and eateries that will satisfy any taste, from simple country cooking to sophisticated continental.

Downtown
Downtown near the historic district, Sasse's is well known for delicious Italian fare, or try Farmer's Market Restaurant for yummy casual country cooking. 

Take an unusual ride to dinner, to a unique and popular place 20 miles northwest of the city and accessible only by boat: the Cabbage Key Restaurant. Unless you own a boat, water taxis from Pine Island are another the way to get here. Be sure to try the fresh grouper and key lime pie. There's also an inn here if you want to spend a day or more. Rated high for its great seafood is Prawnbroker Restaurant and Fish Market.

If you're in the mood for both good food and laughter, go to the Laugh In Comedy Cafe.

Sanibel and Captiva
Near wildlife parks and refuges on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva, dining on the Gulf of Mexico is at its best with terrific water views and warm tropical breezes. Anything will taste good in such a beautiful setting. Just the same, you'll find creative dining at the popular Mad Hatter, located right on the Gulf of Mexico. For a casual dinner and some dancing, try Jacaranda.

For a romantic view of San Carlos Bay, along with healthy dining options, the Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa offers the Promenade Cafe. The Bubble Room is another well known dining establishment on this quaint island.

For California-style fare made with natural ingredients, try the Sunshine Cafe. If you hunger for well-seasoned steaks, try Beachview Steakhouse and Seafood. Afterward, enjoy delicious homemade ice cream or a latte at The Bean

South Fort Myers
In the south Fort Myers area, you'll find the Bistro 41 restaurant, popular for its eclectic cuisine. If you're into authentic Mexican food with large, satisfying portions, then head over to Iguana Mia.  

Fort Myers Beach
Along popular Fort Myers Beach and Estero to the south, Fernando's Italian Restaurant of Martha's Vineyard serves authentic Italian fare right on the water. For dining and dancing by the ocean, enjoy your evening at the Lani Kai Beach Resort.

Fort Myers

State: Florida

Country: United States

Fort Myers By The Numbers
Population: 74,013
Elevation: 10 feet / 3 meters
Average Annual Rainfall: 56 inches / 160 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 64°F / 18°C
Average July Temperature: 83°F / 28°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110 volts, 60 Hz; standard two-pin plugs

Time Zone: Eastern Time Zone, GMT-04:00

Country Dialing Code: +1

Area Code: 239

Did You Know?
The palm trees that line McGregor Boulevard were planted by Thomas Edison and his wife, Mina.

More varieties of shells are found in the Fort Myers area than any other part of the United States.

Orientation
Fort Myers is located southwest of Florida's Gulf Coast on the Caloosahatchee River. The city is about 118 miles (190 kilometers) northwest of Miami.

When you fly into Fort Myers, you can see water everywhere. And it’s not just the Gulf of Mexico – rivers, ponds, estuaries, swamps, creeks and canals break up the land. As a result, there’s no shortage of water activities to do here, including sailing, fishing, waterskiing, kayaking and canoeing.

The warm climate is also perfect for people who like to golf. Hundreds of public and private courses are scattered across the area and you can often spot lazy gators in the water hazards or eagles flying low while you play.

The mainland of Fort Myers, with Port Charlotte to the north and Naples to the south, is flat and sandy, with plenty of flora and fauna. You can see palm trees, flowering plants and thriving fruit trees full of citrus, mango, star fruit and more.

Bridges and causeways link the outlying islands, including Sanibel Island, Gasparilla Island, Fort Myers Beach and Marco Island. Other islands such as North Captiva Island or Useppa Island can only be reached by boat or small plane. The barrier islands, especially Sanibel Island and Captiva Island, offer some of the very best shelling in the world.

The Seminole Indian Wars during the 1840s and 1850s brought about the construction of several union forts along the Caloosahatchee River to serve as a base of operation for federal troops. One was Fort Myers, named after Colonel Abraham C. Myers, chief quartermaster in Florida. It fell into disuse until the Civil War when it became an important outpost and was reoccupied.

In 1521, 400 years earlier, Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon introduced cattle into the territory. They roamed the wide-open ranges freely, thriving on wild grasses and the plentiful Palmetto. During the Spanish occupation of Florida, large herds were raised, providing beef, tallow for candles and hides.

When Florida became an American territory in 1821, people from the north began resettling here, many bringing their own cattle and breeding them with the Spanish cows. Raiding Indians and white outlaws were serious problems. Another was loss of stock by wolves, panthers and bears. These early cattle ranchers eventually developed the stronger and bigger Angus and Hereford cows. The Florida cattle industry flourished, as colorful and wild as the Old West, complete with hard-riding cowboys known as “Crackers” because of the popping noise from their whips, cross-country roundups, and tales of gun fights and rustlers.

Sanibel Island saw its first settlers in 1833 as part of a private New York land investment program. Although it didn't last long, the colonists petitioned the United States government for a lighthouse since commerce over water was increasing. In 1884 the beacon of the Sanibel Lighthouse was turned on.

During the Civil War, Florida cattle were an important source of food to the Confederate Army. With a ready market, many ranchers shipped their cows by steamboat up the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers and sold them at Columbus, Georgia, where there was a major trading post. With the destruction of the economy in the Southern states after the war, the first wave of settlers found a new home in Fort Myers where a school, theater, banks, hotels and shops were built.

Also after the war, the US cattle market died but a new one opened in Cuba. The cows were rounded up from the open Florida ranges and herded through the Old Fort Myers area to Punta Rassa, a busy little town with an 800-foot wharf, hotels, cow pens, and a few saloons. The cows were loaded onto clipper ships bound for the Spanish country which paid one gold coin for each cow, about $15 in those days. It was common for cattlemen to carry leather bags filled with gold coins. Tales of buried gold abound today since few trusted banks then.

In the 1830s, a compulsory dipping law for cattle was enforced to eradicate the fever tick. This required ranchers to build fences and control where their cattle roamed. The grazing territories for cattle changed and the open ranges became more restricted. Today, Florida's oldest industry is still a major business. The state ranks third in the nation in cattle production.

Fort Myers was known as “Cowtown” until folks from up north began resettling in the area during the 1960s and 1970s. Its temperate climate, natural amenities, cheap land, and favorable growth potential brought a steady stream of new homesteaders. In 1885, Thomas Alva Edison came to Fort Myers for the healthier and warmer locale and built a 14-acre winter home. His estate included laboratories, vintage automobiles, exotic plants and tropical gardens. His good friend, auto manufacturer Henry Ford, also became a resident next door. Their homes are now city museums open to public tours.

By 1876 the community of Fort Myers was officially created. At the turn of the century, Fort Myers boasted 943 residents. The warm, temperate climate drew families desiring to resettle along with winter visitors escaping the cold, harsh north.

Another building boom began. Elaborately decorated vernacular homes were built. The city's growth was facilitated by the arrival of Henry Flagler's railroad in 1904. The new tourism industry also brought community expansion. The historic Bradford Hotel on First Street was built. Communities such as Edgewood, Woodward Grove, and Dean Park were developed, streets were paved, and the famous palm trees along McGregor Boulevard were planted, giving Fort Myers the moniker “City of Palms”. The Burroughs Home, built in 1901 in the downtown historic district, offers tours.

Housed in the restored Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot, the Fort Myers Historical Museum traces the history of the area from prehistoric times.

In 1894, Cyrus Teed founded a self-sufficient utopian religious community. The Koreshan State Historic Site gives a glimpse into the lifestyle and culture of this sect which left its legacy on the community.

During the last part of the nineteenth century, pineapple plantations sprung up along the river. A severe freeze in 1893 destroyed the industry that moved farther south.

The 1920s was a “Boom Time” for all of Florida, and Fort Myers enjoyed the growth. As in other historic towns in Florida, the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture was popular with both commercial buildings and homes. During this time the Seaboard Railroad competed with Henry Flagler's Coast Line. Three terminals from this period are still in existence in the city.

The Tamiami Trail, linking Fort Myers to Tampa and Miami opened another avenue of travel and commerce.

The 1930s saw the end of the Boom Era with the collapse of the stock market and the nation's economy, along with hurricanes and poor city planning. However, some significant building continued with the construction of the Edison Bridge and the Federal Building in the downtown Fort Myers district.

World War II brought a new wave of growth to Fort Myers along with the rest of Southwest Florida. Since then development has been east and west along the river. The charming, historic downtown district remains.

Lee County, and in particular Cape Coral, are leaders in the nation's growth, residentially and commercially, drawing visitors and new residents at an ever-increasing rate.

Getting around the Fort Myers region is easy. Hop on a LeeTran bus between 7 a.m. and 9:00 pm to get around the city, or catch a taxi to your destination.

To get to and from airport, call MBA Airport Transportation, the taxi provider for Southwest Florida International Airport. These taxis charge based on zones (not meters) and standard rates apply for one to three travellers. Are there more than three travellers in your group? You’ll need to add an extra US$10 for each person.

Arrival

Before you depart for sunny Fort Myers, you’ll pass through U.S. customs in your Canadian city of departure. Once you’ve landed at Southwest Florida International Airport, head over to baggage claim (just follow the signs) and retrieve your luggage.

Need more information about Fort Myers? Stop by the one of the visitor Information booths located in the baggage claim area.

Outside you will find a range of transportation options to get you to your destination, or to the beach if you prefer.

Departure

Smiling WestJetters will greet you at the international departure counters of Southwest Florida International Airport. Simply check in and await your flight. You can also check in and select your seat online using WestJet’s simple Web check-in service in advance.

Fort Myers’ most famous snowbird, Thomas Edison, noted the uniqueness of the area by declaring: “There is only one Fort Myers in the United States, and there are 90 million people who are going to find it out.” His prediction in 1914 was right on target, as the riverfront city, with its white sandy beaches and shell-strewn islands, has become a popular destination for travellers from all over the world.

More than 200,000 people visit Edison’s winter estate on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River each year. You can tour Edison’s home, laboratory and botanical gardens (featuring a massive banyan tree – a gift from Harvey Firestone in the 1920s), and also check out Henry Ford’s place right next door. The men who brought us moving pictures and the Model T continue to draw people to Fort Myers.

If you make your way to the beaches of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island early in the morning, the very first thing you notice are people with buckets and strainers, hunched over as they hunt for shells. This position is jokingly known as the “Sanibel Stoop.”

These barrier islands, just a 20-minute drive from Fort Myers, form an east-west twist on the Gulf of Mexico and act as a Florida shell bucket. Collect shells and find the perfect conches, cockleshells, sand dollars and more. Get there the morning after a summer-season thunderstorm for the best finds.

If you haven’t filled your suitcase with shells, then a trip to The Shell Factory and Nature Park is in order. This one-of-a-kind treasure just north of Fort Myers is a must-see destination. Since the early 1950s, The Shell Factory and Nature Park has boasted a large collection of shells, fossils and corals. Over the years, additions to the park include a homemade fudge store, an arcade, bumper boats and a nature park complete with baby zebras, bobcats and flying raccoons.

While the sunshine, shells and history are constant in Fort Myers, new and exciting things take place all the time here. In the spring of 2011, Prince Albert of Monaco, a bob-sledding Olympian, spent a weekend here to celebrate the new Art of the Olympians museum and gallery.

The waterfront building in the heart of downtown is the only facility of its kind allowed to display the famous Olympic rings. Inside, guests get to see the artwork of a variety of Olympic athletes and artists including Peggy Fleming, Florence Griffith-Joyner, founder and discus champ Al Oerter and many more.

From natural wonders and a proud history to a bright future, the joy in visiting the Fort Myers area is in the discoveries. You’ll find everything from a pristine sand dollar, to a flying squirrel, to the very first movie camera all in this unique corner of paradise.

Before you depart for sunny Fort Myers, you’ll pass through U.S. customs in your Canadian city of departure.

As with all American destinations, it is recommended to use U.S. dollars for general expenses and anywhere you have to use cash.

Getting around the Fort Myers region is easy. Hop on a LeeTran bus between 7 a.m. and 9:00 pm to get around the city, or catch a taxi to your destination.

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*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

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