Sand Sculpture

fort myers & sanibel accolades

We’re proud of our community, and not without good reason. The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel are consistently named among top vacation destinations in the United States, thanks to the beautiful locale and the welcoming residents. Here are the awards and accolades to prove it.

Traveling Mom: 11 best places to travel in the Eastern U.S. in 2018 

Captiva, Fl. - (Jan. 1, 2018)

Just off the Gulf coast of Florida, you’ll find two beautiful islands surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. These islands are a great option if you want to avoid busy theme parks and spring break crowds. While Sanibel and Captiva Islands may have a more relaxed atmosphere, there is far more to do than sunbathing and sipping umbrella drinks. These islands provide excellent activity choices for families looking for a bit of adventure while on vacation. On these islands, you’ll want to ditch the car, to walk, bike, parasail, and much more! 

Trip Advisor: 30 top USA cities to visit in 2018 

Cape Coral, Fl. - (Jan. 2, 2018)

Looking for a picture-perfect Florida city vacation? Try this laid-back boating community known as "The Cape," with miles of canals to explore and stunning sunrises to be seen over the Caloosahatchee River. There’s also the Sun Splash Family Water Park, golfing, tennis, and easy access to pretty Sanibel Island and the surrounding Gulf beaches.

Architectural Digest: The 9 most stunning islands off U.S. shores 

Gasparilla Island, Fl. - (Jan. 2, 2018)

The Florida Keys may be more famous, but that just means this barrier island off the Gulf Coast remains a secret hideaway for insiders. It’s been a low-key luxury vacation spot since J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts started visiting in the pre-Prohibition days. Check into the Gasparilla Inn for a taste of that Jazz Age life.

Coastal Living: 20 best places to live on the coast in 2018 

Captiva, Fl. - (Jan. 2018)

If you are a nature fanatic, you may never want to leave this five-mile isle known for its quirky neighborhood feel. With just one main road running corkscrew-like along its length, Captiva’s wild wetland gifts reveal themselves from the deck of a paddleboard, the cockpit of a kayak, or the seat of a canoe. And while the island is home to an opulent collection of homes along its “Gold Coast” at the southern end, the official Captiva uniform is absolutely shorts and flip-flops. 

The best places to travel to in the U.S. in February

Fort Myers, Fl. - (Jan. 14, 2018)

It’s peak bird-watching season in south Florida, and the sightings are best along a secluded coastline near Fort Myers. Known for its relaxed way of life, Sanibel — sixty percent of which is protected for wildlife — offers a wealth of stunning natural scenery (not to mention pristine turquoise beaches). Birdwatchers should head to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge to spot rare Purple Gallinules or Roseate Spoonbills. Up for more wildlife? February is also the peak time for seeing manatees, hundreds of whom show up to enjoy the Gulf’s warm waters.

9 best family beach vacation destinations for families 

Sanibel & Captiva - (Jan. 20, 2018)

There are so many beaches that feel private and secluded on Sanibel and Captiva Islands, located right outside of Fort Myers. My favorite spot to take the kids is near the Sanibel Lighthouse where the waves are calm and the shells are plentiful. Rent bikes for a day to explore the entire island, making sure to stop at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Center. Our family’s favorite beach to watch the sunset is at the Mucky Duck in Captiva. The Sanibel SeaSchool is an interactive way to get the kids involved in marine ecosystems while having fun.  
Where to stay: The South Seas Island Resort will be the luxurious island escape of your dreams. This expansive resort has everything you need on property for the entire family to have an excellent beach vacation. 

25 Best pet-Friendly Vacations in America 

Fort Myers & Sanibel - (Jan. 23, 2018)

We love Fort Myers for its great shopping, fishing, and beaches. Bring Fido to Barkingham Dog Park or Woof-a-Hatchee Dog Park, both fenced and off-leash parks with watering stations and separate areas for big and small dogs. Two of the more fascinating attractions in the area are the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Though not dog-friendly, we’d be remiss to leave them unmentioned. These neighboring properties were the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and you can still explore the laboratory, homes, and gardens. With a pet-friendly rental, it’ll be no problem to leave your dog at the house while you experience these and other great Fort Myers attractions. Just be sure to bring them a treat when you return!

MSN: The Best Chocolate Shop in Every State for 2018

Fort Myers - (Feb. 13, 2018)

There are a lot of reasons to visit Florida, but Norman Love Confections in Fort Myers is right up there with Disney World and the beach. The chocolates here are pure art, with expert marbling and brilliant colors in each and every bonbon, and the taste is similarly world-class.

Norman Love Confections

VIVA Lifestyles & Travel: The World’s Best Hotels in Every U.S. State, Mapped

Boca Grande (Feb. 25, 2018)

Now I love a hotel stay as much as the next person, but time after time I've checked in with high hopes and left feeling — well — a little underwhelmed. This may have something to do with me leaving travel plans to the last minute, but having spoken to several hotel bookers, I know it's a common story.

Florida - The Gasparilla Inn & Club

 

Travel Channel: Best Pet-Friendly Beaches

Dog Beach - (Feb. 2018)

Can dogs get sunburned? Are doggie sunglasses a yuppie perversion or genuinely helpful? Are all pooches natural swimmers? These are the kinds of questions that keep beach-loving dog owners up at night. (In case you were wondering, the answers are: definitely, genuinely helpful, and not necessarily.) Check with your vet or a website such as DogFriendly.com for more info on keeping your pet safe on the shore and in the water.

Dog Beach, Fort Myers Beach, Florida

At Dog Beach, a county park specially designated for dogs and their owners, dogs can roam leash-free from dawn to dusk. There's even a Kayak With Canine program so you and your furry pal can paddle off into the sunset together. There are no restroom facilities for humans, and no running water for either species, so come prepared.

Travel Channel: 10 Terrific U.S. Beach Festivals to Check Out

Captiva, Sanibel, Downtown Ft. Myers - (Feb. 2018)

For those who think the beach is boring, plan your coastal getaway around a sand castle contest, multi-day concert, kite-flying extravaganza or even a mullet tossing competition (yes, you read that right).

Come hear the next hottest act at Island Hopper Songwriter Fest in September. Various venues and beaches in Fort Myers and Captiva Island showcase up-and-coming performers and those just taking a break from touring with national acts. Think Jimmy Buffett in Nashville with Florida sand and perfect sunsets

Island Hopper Songwriter Music Fest

Odyssey: 7 Best Breakfast Spots in Southwest Florida

Fort Myers - (March 21, 2018)

The best breakfast spots in Southwest Florida. I try to write what I'm passionate about and this week I am getting down to the basics and writing about what makes my heart happy — food. More specifically, breakfast!

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is arguably the best meal of the day as well. Next time you wake up hungry (I'll be honest, I wake up hungry every day) skip the normal IHOP chain and try one of my favorite breakfast spots in SWFL. Your stomach will thank you later.

Amy’s Over Easy, Bennett’s Fresh Roast, Bonita Brunch, Marti’s Family Dining, McGregor Café, Munch Box, Sunflower Café

BEST: The 50 Most Beautiful Beaches for a Sunny Getaway

Sanibel - (March 30)

Sometimes you just need a sunny beach and a frosty drink ASAP. We totally get it. What's that feeling we're envisioning with beautiful waterfront views and the sand between our toes? That's right: It's called RELAXATION. Here are some of the best beaches to book a vacation to right now.

Sanibel Island is a low-key spot on Florida's west coast that's known for its beautiful shells. People come from all over to do the "Sanibel stoop," which is what island dwellers call combing the beaches for one-of-a-kind nautical finds. 

Sanibel Island, Sundial Beach Resort and Spa, West Wind Inn

Smart Travel: 10 Best Fort Myers Beach Resorts
Fort Myers, Lovers Key, Sanibel and Captiva (April 2, 2018)

The West Coast of Florida is famous for its sugar-spun, shell-filled beaches. Fort Myers Beach, on Estero Island, offers just this sort of iconic beaches with a variety of luxury resorts. Fort Myers Beach resorts deliver beach vacations that don’t skimp on amenities.

Best Western Plus Beach Resort, Cornerstone Beach Resort, DiamondHead Beach Resort and Spa, Gullwing Beach Resort, Lovers Key Resort, The Neptune Resort, The Outrigger Beach Resort, Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, Pointe Estero Beach Resort, Wyndham Garden Fort Myers Beach

Smart Travel: 10 Best Restaurants in Florida

(April 2, 2018)

Beloved classics and dazzling upstarts share space on the list of best restaurants in Fort Myers. This being Southwest Florida, local seafood is the star across most menus, but you’ll find tremendous variety in preparations, influences, and ingredients.

Azure Restaurant, Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grille, Cibo, Cru, Harold’s Restaurant, Izzy’s Fish & Oyster, McGregor Café, Roadhouse Café, The Standard, Twisted Vine Bistro

Coastal Living: 10 Most Romantic Places in Florida

Fort Myers Beach and Lovers Key (May 1, 2018)

No round-up of romantic places in Florida would be complete without Lovers Key State Park. Rumor has it that back in the early 1900s, only adventure-seeking couples made the effort to get out to the collection of isles including Lover’s Key and three other barrier islands off the coast of Bonita Springs: Black Island, Inner, and Long Key. At the turn of the century, the islands were only accessible by boat, but today they are connected by a series of causeways and reachable by car. The best time to visit is during the winter when the seasonal concert series, Songwriters at Sunset, takes place at the beachfront gazebo. Local artists share their original songs and the stories behind them while the sun sinks into the Gulf of Mexico. Bring your own beach chairs and soak up this magical moment on Florida’s southwest coast.

Lover Key State Park

25 Best Dog – Friendly Beaches in the USA

Sanibel (May 1, 2018)

Only 25 miles away from Fort Myers, Sanibel Island is a beautiful barrier island dotted with lighthouses and luxurious resorts. The island has a number of beaches to offer, but the most popular with pet owners is Algiers Beach in Gulfside City Park. Dogs must be kept on an 8-foot leash, but there is plenty of space for pets and their owners to move around and get some exercise. An hourly fee is charged for parking, and beach amenities include a shady picnic area, boardwalks that provide easy access to the sand, and public barbecue grills. 

Gulfside City Park and Sanibel

Family Travel Magazine: The Best US Islands for Families

Sanibel (April 10, 2018)

Sanibel Island off the coast of Florida is perfect for a family travel paradise. Located close to Cape Coral and Fort Myers Sanibel offers you pristine white beaches, millions of shells, dolphins, fishing and more. Whether you head to Sanibel for a day or a week there is so much to do. Our favorite things to do are: early morning shelling, fishing off the Sanibel Pier, enjoying the white sand beaches around the island and we always have a meal at the Island Cow. If you are looking for somewhere in the U.S. to visit that feels like the Caribbean, Sanibel is our favorite destination.

Island Cow and Sanibel Island

Conde Nast Traveler: 15 Best Beaches in Florida

Bowman’s Beach (April 4, 2018)

Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island: Easily accessible off the main Sanibel-Captiva Road yet remarkably undeveloped, this family-friend beach lacks the crowds of neighboring beaches but promises all the pastel-hued sunsets and excellent shelling Sanibel Island is known for.

Bowman’s Beach

Coastal Living: The Best Little Beach Towns to Visit in Spring

Sanibel (April 4, 2018)

Out of the many sunny delights on Sanibel Island, west of Fort Myers on the Gulf of Mexico, one pastime stands out as the most pursued: shelling. It’s a preoccupation that’s somehow serious and ethereal all at once, and the reward of finding the biggest and best haul is most likely to happen in the early spring season at low tide. There are 250 types of shells to be found here, including Conch, Lightning Whelk, Cockle, Tulip, and Coquina. It’s also a pastime with a hefty history: the annual Sanibel Shell Show competition began nearly 80 years ago, held the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each March, and it’s still one of the top shell shows in the country.

Sanibel Island

Select: 10 Wonderfully Weird Restaurants in America

Cabbage Key (April 3, 2018)

Cabbage Key restaurant: This place has been serving up a taste of Old Florida for 60 years. What makes it special? It’s on an island accessible only by boat. The open-air restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year, offering the kind of fare you’d expect: Gulf shrimp, stone crab, mahi mahi and steaks. Its standout feature? Thousands of one-dollar bills signed by past customers, taped to every available surface.

Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant

MSN Travel & Leisure: The Best Campsite in Everyday State

Cayo Costa State Park, (April 2, 2018)

Florida — Cayo Costa State Park

This barrier island is a true escape, a car-less outpost accessible only by boat with more than nine miles of pristine beach. Spend your days kayaking along the coast, biking inland trails, or scanning for manatees and dolphins, then wave the day tripper’s goodbye and crash in one of 30 primitive campsites where the rhythm of the surf will lull you to sleep.

Cayo Costa State Park

Coastal Living: 10 Happiest and Healthiest Places to Live on the Beach- Ranked!

Cape Coral and Fort Myers (April 2, 2018)

  1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida

Cruising along down the Gulf coast, this quiet and blissful community is rife with sugar-white sand beaches, unspoiled wildlife refuges, and people who report being totally satisfied with basically every aspect of their life.

Cape Coral and Fort Myers

I Love Dogs: 10 Best Dog-friendly Beach in the U.S.

(May 21, 2018)

The dog days of summer take on a whole new meaning when you have a pup that loves the beach as much as you do. There are holes to dig and waves to chase, and whether your pup prefers to sunbathe on the sand or swim in the salty water, a beach trip is fun for everyone involved. The issue is, not every beach allows your favorite four-legged beach buddy. You’ll have to find a dog-friendly beach where your pup is free to kick up sand without getting into trouble. You’ll have to do your research to find the dog beach nearest you, but we’ve done some of the work for you. Here’s a list of the country’s top dog-friendly beaches to check out this summer.

The emerald waters of southern Florida can be your dog’s unrestricted playground at Lovers Key Dog Beach. Located south of Fort Myers, Lovers Key State Park is on a barrier island that in the past was only accessible via boat. Thanks to a new bridge, the remote slice of paradise is now only a short drive away. The dog beach on Lovers Key is a hidden gem that, while susceptible to the tide, allows dogs to explore nature untethered. A generous donor installed doggie rinse stations for your convenience, and parking is always free. It can be tricky to find, so the city suggests visiting the dog beach website for directions instead of relying on your GPS.

Lovers Key Dog Beach

Expedia: Top-Rated Vacation Destinations In North America

(May 10, 2018)

Welcome to our second-annual list of the 50 top-rated destinations! These beloved best vacation spots were chosen by verified Expedia reviewers throughout 2017 and rose to the top of over 4,600 reviewed cities. New places grace the list this year, but tried-and-true winners make their returns, too. Each of these cities received at least 600 reviews and are listed in order of highest-reviewed out of 5—the top ranging from 4.55 to 4.02 stars.

Not to be too outdone by its southerly state-mate, Sanibel clinches the No. 15 spot in its first appearance. Visitors fall in love with the place for many reasons. Go shelling on the beach, fill up on fresh seafood at joints like the super-fun Bubble Room, and spend peaceful time at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Bubble Room, J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

FodorsTravel: The 10 Best Sandcastle Competitions in America 

(June 19, 2018)

A 10-day event in its 32nd year, the American Sandsculpting Championship Festival is the largest competition of its kind—not only in the state of Florida, but in the entire country. With World Class Master, Advanced Amateur, and Amateur divisions, nearly every level of sculptor can get in on the action. Quick speed sculpting competitions, demonstrations from the pros, and live music round out the festivities. Since it’s practically summer all year round in sunny southwest Florida, the 2018 competition will be held from November 16-25.

Fort Myers Beach

Cheapism: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States

Fort Myers Beach (June 19, 2018)

Florida is a shore-fishing state — and Fort Myers Beach has spots that rival any other. Residents can cast for free, and visitors can score a three-day license for $17. That will give you access to Fort Myers Beach Pier, Punta Rassa, the South End Bridge, Lovers Key State Park, or any of the best Fort Myers Beach spots. Also known for great freshwater fishing, Florida has numerous lakes filled with lunker bass, like massive Lake Okeechobee, where shiners, plastic worms, and rattling crankbaits are highly effective.

Fort Myers Beach

MSN: The 100 best restaurants in America if you want to eat outside

Bonita springs (June 21, 2018)

Nothing says summertime like eating outdoors.

In honor of the first day of summer on Thursday, OpenTable has released its annual list of the 100 best restaurants in America for al fresco dining in 2018.

Culled from millions of OpenTable reviews, the list includes restaurants in 22 states, each with its own stunning views or cozy surroundings. California and Florida are home to more than half of the restaurants on the list - no surprise there - but there are plenty of representatives on the list for those who don't live near the coast, too.

DeRomo's Gourmet Market & Restaurant 

Today’s Parent: 12 best cities to visit in the USA for families

(June 26, 2018)

Just a 45-minute drive from Fort Meyers airport, crossing the bridge to Sanibel Island is like teleporting to the Caribbean—without the lengthy flight! World-class beaches teeming with shells of every description, breathtaking sunsets, and the expansive J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge means there’s always something to wow your little ones away from their screens. Put the kids in the Sanibel Sea School (half or full day) for a best-in-class kids camp where your naturalist-in-training will learn how to find sand dollars buried under the sea floor, net-fish in the shallows and maybe even discover a baby octopus.

J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, Sanibel Sea School

Select: 10 Wonderfully Weird Restaurants in America

(July 2, 2018)

This place has been serving up a taste of Old Florida for 60 years. What makes it special? It’s on an island accessible only by boat. The open-air restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner 365 days a year, offering the kind of fare you’d expect: Gulf shrimp, stone crab, mahi mahi and steaks. Its standout feature? Thousands of one-dollar bills signed by past customers, taped to every available surface.

Cabbage Key Inn & Restaurant        

VacationIdea: 25 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Florida

(July 2018)

Located in Fort Myers, between the Lovers Key State Park entrance and the New Pass Bridge, is Dog Beach Park, one of the most beautiful dog beaches in Florida and completely free of charge. Dogs are allowed to run off-leash in the sand and splash in the water while their humans are relaxing in the sand. There is a doggy shower for rinsing sand off, but there are no other facilities and the bathroom is portable. No alcohol or glass containers are permitted on the beach. The owners are responsible for cleaning after their pets. If you want to fish from the shore while your dog is having fun, you need to apply for license. Address: 8800 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931

Dog Beach

Travel + Leisure: The Top 10 Resort Hotels in Florida (Excluding Miami Beach)

(July 10, 2018)

From the sugar-soft sands of the Emerald Coast to the breezy beaches of the Keys, Florida’s 8,426 miles of shoreline make the state a perennial favorite among vacationers. This year, T+L readers expressed their appreciation for the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico — seven of the Top 10 resort hotels in Florida are on the state’s tranquil western coast.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Hotels were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

Gasparilla Inn & Club

VacationIdea: 25 Best Airports in the United States

(July 2018)

Located in South Fort Meyers in Lee County, Florida, Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) primarily serves Florida’s Gulf Coast including Fort Meyers, Sanibel, Marco Island, Greater Naples, Cape Coral, Charlotte Harbor, the Everglades, and Gulf Islands. Area attractions are a quick drive from the airport. This sleek, modern, state-of-the-art facility received a grand upgrade in 2005. Fifteen airlines fly in and out of RSW with nonstop service to major gateways, and international service to Germany and Canada. There are 36 restaurants, markets, and shops throughout the main terminal and three concourses. Airport services include currency exchange, business center, and visitor information services. Address: 11000 Terminal Access Road, Fort Myers, FL, Phone: 239-590-4800

Southwest Florida International Airport

VacationIdea: 25 Best Florida Resorts

(July 2018)

South Seas Island Resort is located on the grounds of a former key lime plantation and is surrounded by a 330-acre wildlife preserve, immersing visitors in the natural beauty of Captiva Island and providing convenient access to nearby Fort Myers. 471 guest rooms and suites are available at the resort’s Harbourside Hotel, while private condos, villas, and rental cottages are offered at Land’s End Village. Three lagoon pools feature private cabanas, two water slides, and miles of sugar sand beachfront, and a luxury spa offers a full treatment menu. Group water sports programs are available, including kayaking and boating tours, and a Sanibel Sea School immerses young visitors in nature-related activities. Onsite restaurants include the Harbourside Bar and Grill, the casual-fare Scoops and Slices, and the gourmet Captiva Provision Company deli. Commuter access to resort areas is provided by a trolley system and golf cart rentals. Address: 5400 Plantation Rd, Captiva, FL 33924, Phone: 239-472-5111

South Seas Island Resort

TripAdvisor: 15 Best Small Beach Town Getaways in America

25 miles south of Fort Myers lies Sanibel Island, a small beach town perfect for families, nature lovers, and beach bums. Spend an afternoon combing the white sandy beaches for seaglass and shells, or travel downtown for an afternoon shopping and dining at one of the island’s manyrestaurants. No surprise, the seafood is beyond delicious! Boat tours around the island can take you deep sea fishing or dolphin spotting. Look out for vibrant pink flamingos and other native birds at the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, where you can also kayak, fish, and enjoy a picnic lunch. Sanibel Island offers beachfront rental properties galore, so you’ll never have to stray too far from the shore.

J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island

The Best Islands in America

Floating Near: Fort Myers, Florida

Famous For: Serious seashells by the seashore

Fun Times Ahead: 82nd Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show (March 7-9, 2019)

Foraging for shells on a long, shell-strewn beach. It’s a mindless activity reserved for kids, right?

Not on the conch- and cockle-carpeted shores of Sanibel Island.

The island’s boomerang-shaped, east-west orientation (most are north-south and miss the biggest shell payloads) makes Sanibel more than just another sedate Florida Gulf community with sweet sunsets, smooth bike paths and spoonbill-stuffed wildlife refuges.

A world-class shell magnet, the sands of Sanibel are strewn with amazingly intact whelks, junonias, coquinas and murexes—and folks of all ages hunched over looking for them. Doing the well-known “Sanibel Stoop.”

From the beach, it’s a quick commute to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and myriad craft shops to admire just how many ingenious little figurines can be made from nothing but shells.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, Sanibel Island