beautiful yellow tulips

More than just Another Sunny Beach

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel offer exquisite Dining, Arts and Entertainment

There's more than just warm weather and beautiful scenery to attract visitors to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Travel agents seeking a slice of paradise for their clients are finding that the area has a delightful selection of dining, arts and entertainment, and shopping venues to enjoy.

 

Dining

There’s more than just warm weather, beautiful scenery and a host of unique eco- and heritage-based attractions and activities to attract visitors to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida. There’s another slice of paradise – the culinary kind, with a delightful selection of dining options to enjoy.

In fact, Fort Myers has been recognized by Nation's Restaurant News as one of the "50 Cities That Sizzle," along with Miami, New York, San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas. According to the trade publication, Fort Myers has something for everyone, from popular chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's, Chili's, Romano's Macaroni Grill and Beef O'Brady's, to a rapidly-expanding list of home-grown hot spots including The Veranda, Varian's and Bistro 41, to name a few.

Beyond the great variety of four-star cuisine, there is nothing typical about dining at area restaurants. Between the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Bonita Springs to the islands of Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva, there are restaurants to suit any budget or mood. Best of all, even the most elegant restaurants tend to have relaxed dress codes and will accommodate more casual attire. Dinning in paradise is a pleasure when a gorgeous sunset is the backdrop.

Due to the abundance of fresh local fish, shrimp and clams, seafood is the centerpiece of many restaurant menus. The Euro-Asian style of Roy’s in The Promenade in Bonita Springs. Here they have an Aloha hour that has infused cocktails and tropical inspired bites. Menu highlights include grilled miso-crusted butterfish, Mongolian-style short ribs and seared Ono or Opakapaka (harvested from Hawaiian waters).

Diners seeking more traditional seafood in a decidedly more casual setting may prefer The Timbers and its adjoining Sanibel Grill sports bar on Sanibel Island. Popular items include its trademark Crunchy Grouper or Crunchy Shrimp, smoked fish, and an extensive array of beef and fresh seafood selections. There is also a children's menu. Ironically, The Timbers' original location is now occupied by Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille, so named for the main character in proprietor Randy Wayne White's island-themed adventure novels. Although it's a sports bar, the restaurant is also famous for its gourmet finger food, fresh seafood entrees and extensive drink menu. Also on the island, The Jacaranda strikes a rare balance between island casual and fine dining. Original seafood dishes, steak, wine and live entertainment in the lounge all have contributed to its long-standing reputation as one of the area's premier restaurants.

A more traditional seafood offering is located at the Island Cow on Sanibel. The setting for this restaurant is very casual and has a little of everything to eat. Outside is a dining area that most of the time has a live band playing at, indoors looks like an old island cottage. Pets are very welcome at the Island Cow.

Seafood isn’t the only reason for the popularity of many restaurants around The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. At Chip’s Sanibel Steakhouse, USDA prime corn-fed beef is center cut, hand trimmed, and gently aged on premise to ensure the highest levels of quality and tenderness. The steaks, flash-seared at 1700 degrees to lock in the juices and retain maximum flavor, are served with fine wines and a classy panache diners don't soon forget.

Back on the mainland, sophisticated, contemporary Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill serves everything from Maine scallops and imported cold-water oysters to more than a dozen types of fish such as black grouper, salmon and walleye. It is located in the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, which is gaining a reputation as a dining destination. Besides Blue Pointe, fine-dining restaurants include Bistro 41, DaRuMa and Cru, as well as a variety of establishments offering burgers, pizza, pasta, coffee and ice-cream. Another location in the heart of Fort Myers is the No.4 best barbeque restaurant in the US, Reuben’s Smoke House. The highly regarded Fort Myers 11:Eleven Café is known for its all fascinating twists on childhood favorites and the ability for the customers to completely customize their meal.

The Bubble Room is Florida’s most outrageous and unique restaurant. This location is sure to fill up every customer with the large portion sizes and endless desert trays. The outstanding decorations and music are sure to create an amazing memory.

On a slightly smaller scale, similar décor is featured at the ultra-casual Barnacle Phil's on the barrier island of North Captiva. There, everything but the signature black beans and rice is brought to picnic tables in plastic baskets. Ample indoor and outdoor seating as well as dock space make the restaurant especially popular among boaters. To the north on Gasparilla Island is The Pink Elephant. Known for its imaginative regional cuisine this menu has delectable steaks and seafood. The great part about being in southwest Florida is being able to travel by boat and park dockside in order to enjoy a great meal. This restaurant has been around for over 60 years providing amazing service with incredible food.

On the other end of the dining spectrum is The Veranda. The converted home (actually two turn-of-the-century residences) is a downtown Fort Myers landmark. This dining for two venue features a beautifully landscaped, open-air courtyard and a varied menu with Southern accents.

On Fort Myers Beach nestled along the white sandy beach is an outdoor restaurant, Junkanoo. This eatery has many island infused cuisine it’s the perfect setting along the beach. Sit back and relax while enjoying the crashing waves while enjoying a delicious meal. The Boat House Tiki Bar and Grill is one of the best places in Cape Coral to watch sunsets while enjoying the outdoor atmosphere. This whimsical location provides live bands as well as an outdoor, indoor feel. The beauty in dining in Lee County is endless.

Naturally, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is home to some of the world’s most picturesque, waterfront restaurants, including The Mad Hatter at Blind Pass on Sanibel Island; The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island; The Tarpon House Restaurant at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa in Fort Myers; and Pinchers on Fort Myers Beach.

Travel agents looking for a comprehensive list of all restaurants and lounges in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel can contact the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau toll-free at (888) 231-6933 (U.S. and Canada) or visit www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.

 

Arts & Entertainment

From dinner theatre and Broadway productions to museums and festivals of fine arts and crafts, travel agents' clients will find the world of art and entertainment is livelier than ever on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.

Several local organizations and venues offer activities that appeal to residents and visitors alike:

 

Alliance for the Arts

This 10-acre campus houses the 12,000-square-foot William R. Frizzell Cultural Centre with public galleries hosting new exhibitions each month. The 150-seat Claiborne and Ned Foulds Theatre, as well as the Margaret Morrow Frizzell Amphitheatre, present theatrical productions such as dramas, comedies, recitals, concerts and other cultural events. Offering year-round classes and workshops, the Gladys G. Land School of Arts provides instruction for both children and adults. There is a Green Market featuring locally grown and produced items every Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Alliance for the Arts facilities are available for private events. Gallery admission is free, other program costs vary. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. Closed Sunday. Location: 10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33919.

For information about Alliance for the Arts, cultural and community events, call (239) 939-ARTS (2787) or visit www.artinlee.org.

 

Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall

The Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall presents a schedule of national touring Broadway productions, prominent entertainers, dance performances, popular ensembles and classical music concerts year-round. The hall is also used for business conferences, seminars, meetings and wedding receptions, with dining available. Large groups are welcome. Handicapped accessible. Box office hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. In-season hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Parking is free. Location: 13350 Edison Parkway, S.W., Fort Myers, FL 33919. Call the box office at (239) 481-4849 or visit www.bbmannpah.com.

 

Bob Rauschenberg Gallery

This fine art gallery was founded in 1979 on the Lee campus of Florida SouthWestern State College. The gallery’s exhibits present and interpret modern and contemporary artwork in all media. The gallery was renamed the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in 2004, commemorating the nearly 30-year association and friendship the gallery has had with Rauschenberg, the late, famed contemporary artist who lived on Captiva Island. Each year more than 10,000 people visit the gallery, attend lectures, and participate in other activities. The gallery is open (during an exhibit): Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Location: Florida SouthWestern State College, Lee Campus, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33919. For more information, call (239) 489-9313 or visit www.rauschenberggallery.com.

 

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Broadway Palm is Southwest Florida’s premier dinner theatre! The award-winning buffet and Broadway musicals with a live orchestra make it a great destination for anyone looking to enjoy family entertainment at a great price. Evening performances take the stage Tuesday through Sunday and matinee performances vary. Ticket prices range from $21 to $55. Group rates are available for parties of 20 or more. Broadway Palm offers catering services and meeting spaces for parties and special events of 20 to 450 people. Handicapped accessible. Location: 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, FL 33907. Call (239) 278-4422 or visit www.broadwaypalm.com.

 

Center for the Arts of Bonita Springs

The Center for the Arts has been bringing “art for everyone” for more than 50 years. The arts center sits on a 10-acre campus and offers an expanding visual and arts programs for all ages and abilities. Recently it opened a performing arts center that features a 400-seat theatre, a 200-seat film center, culinary center and studios for dance, music, theatre and more. Call (239) 495-8989 or visit www.artcenterbonita.org

 

BIG ARTS

BIG ARTS is a non-profit arts and culture organization that presents musical concerts, art exhibits, an annual art fair, distinguished speakers forum, workshops and classes and other community programs. For more information, contact (239) 395-0900 or visit www.bigarts.org.

 

Florida Repertory Theatre

Originally used as a Vaudeville house, this was where Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison saw his first films, along with his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Florida Repertory Theatre is a fully professional theatre company that The Wall Street Journal called "One of America's Top Repertory Companies." Location 2267 Bay Street, Fort Myers, FL 33901. Call (239)332-4488 or visit www.floridarep.org.

For a complete schedule of current Lee County art and cultural events, festivals, and performances, travel agents will find the "Everything to Do ˜ Calendar of Events" at www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.

 

Shopping

Visitors from around the world can enjoy a veritable feast of shopping opportunities along The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. From one-of-a-kind gifts and souvenirs found in boutiques, art galleries and flea markets to the familiar labels of upscale malls and outlets centers, the Fort Myers/Sanibel area is a shopping haven with something for everyone.

 

Sanibel and Captiva

On Sanibel and Captiva islands, find charming boutiques and village-style centers with meandering walkways, many that observe the flavorful history of the islands.

Spend an afternoon at Sanibel Island Bookshop (known as "a great place to be stranded) and pick up a copy of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "A Gift From the Sea," her best-selling 1955 book, inspired by her many visits to Captiva Island.

Looking for the latest puppy trends? Visit Lucky Dog on Sanibel Island.

Spend a leisurely afternoon at beautiful Periwinkle Place on Sanibel Island. A cluster of intimate shops set in a park-like atmosphere with covered walkways shaded by banyan trees offers original art and fashions that reflect southwest Florida. The lush landscaping and gardens offer soothing solace while shopping for whimsical gifts, art, tropical fashions, jewelry and home décor. Need a break? Check into the day spa or take time out for some ice cream. (www.periwinkleplace.com).

Shop for bargains at the outlets! On the way to Sanibel Island or Fort Myers Beach: Tanger Outlets with 45 brand name stores (www.tangeroutlet.com).

Take a stroll down Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva Island. Check out the General Store for essentials and the latest island news. Then, drop by some of the art galleries and shops as you head toward the beach and Gulf of Mexico. Jungle Drums (www.jungledrumsgallery.com) and the Seaweed Gallery are not to be missed!

 

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers Beach is a popular area that beams with activity and endless creative shops within view of the beach.

Search for nautical antiques, home décor and custom-built Adirondack chairs Salty Dog Gallery and Gifts, Fort Myers Beach. http://www.saltydoggallery.com/

No shoes required! Like its larger New York City counterpart, Times Square on Fort Myers Beach is non-stop with activity. This highly-traveled pedestrian hub and shopping area finds both bare feet and high heels acceptable. It's a casual town where shops and open-air restaurants scatter along a tree-lined walkway. A great place to go for beach treasures: souvenirs, beach casual styles and decor.

 

Fort Myers

Fort Myers is known for its colorful local venues, including a dinner theatre, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Downtown Fort Myers, the city's entertainment district, surrounds shoppers with charming historic architecture, where each corner brings a fresh surprise. Newly renovated shops and buildings feature a professional theatre, contemporary music and jazz clubs, bistros, coffee shops, cigar and martini bars, art galleries, bookshops, clothing and jewelry boutiques, antiques, sidewalk cafes and fine continental cuisine.

In the market for a new boat? Test one out on the adjacent 22-acre lake at the new Bass Pro Shops. Don't forget to enjoy the 12,000-gallon saltwater and 19,000-gallon freshwater aquariums inside. (www.basspro.com).

 

Cape Coral

Cape Coral's roads and side streets are filled with delightful choices for shopping. Furniture and jewelry stores offer original pieces, and specialty boutiques house everything from handmade candles to art galleries.

Razzle Dazzel is the best kept fashion secret in Cape Coral. This small boutique is infused with color and shines up your closet. http://theboutiqueshop.net/

For the creative minds check out Lorne’s Gallery located at Tarpon Point Marina. Enjoy the beauty of the water while shopping for your next painting. http://www.allartimages.com/

 

Pine Island and Matlacha

On Pine Island unique stores and art galleries offer one-of-a-kind gifts.

Visit Koucky Studios on Pine Island. Tour the pottery studio and browse for eclectic art and designer gifts (www.kouckygallery.com).

Park the car and browse the many colorful shops and galleries in the charming old-time Florida community of Matlacha.

Once a thriving fishing village, it is home to many artists, galleries and restaurants (www.pineislandchamber.org).

Wish you were here! Drop by Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens in Matlacha and send a coconut greeting for any occasion via the post office. www.leomalovegrove.com.

 

Estero and Bonita Springs

In Bonita Springs, upscale shopping at The Promenade includes a dining palazzo, outdoor waterfalls, a sprawling amphitheater and domed gazebo, all in a rich Mediterranean orange-coral color scheme.

In Estero: Miromar Outlets with 140 designer and brand name stores (www.miromaroutlets.com).

Delectable fine furnishings come from Agostino’s. Visit him in Bonita Springs and enhance your comfort. http://agostinos.com/

 

Boca Grande

The island of Gasparilla is known for its history and small town feel. Have water front views and be culturally immersed into this serene town.

For all things Lilly, try The Palm on Park on Boca Grande. This Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store has all of the latest resort wear. http://www.lillypulitzer.com/

Island Attitudes of Boca Grande is a great island time shop. Here you can acquire all the beach wear you’ll ever need.

Hughes Gallery is where they pair their paintings with their people. You can go in and they will pick a painting that reflects who you are. http://www.hughesgallery.net/

 

Malls in the area

If you’re in need of a mall for some of your favorite stores, the area has everything from Saks Fifth Avenue to all the major department stores to bookstores and movie theaters (when you need a rest from shopping!).

Point Mall in Estero is the place to shop, dine, play and see a movie. An all open Main Street-style shopping destination with Mediterranean Revival-style architecture is designed to fit gracefully with the flavor of southwest Florida. The 135 stores include Dillard's, Barnes & Noble, West Elm, Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Designer Shoe Warehouse, Golfsmith, Office Max, Old Navy, Party City, PetsMart, Pier One, Ross Dress for Less, Sports Authority, West Coast Surf Shop, Coldwater Creek, Z Gallerie, Old Navy, Sephora and Ulta Cosmetics and a variety of great restaurants. For more information, visit www.simon.com/mall.

Gulf Coast Town Center, Fort Myers is an open-air, regional shopping center includes a Courtyard by Marriott and a Residence Inn by Marriott, along with 120 specialty shops, restaurants and a Regal Cinema 16. Visitors will want to visit the area's largest selection of quality outdoor gear, clothing and accessories from top industry names and at value prices, the Bass Pro Shop. This outdoor store encompasses a 75,000 –square-foot retail center that includes Islamorada Fish Company Restaurant. Also: equipment for hiking, backpacking, wildlife viewing, camping, outdoor cooking and an expansive boat showroom. The outdoor feel is brought indoors through massive log and rock work, large indoor aquariums and water features stocked with native fish species, as well as an extensive collection of museum quality fish and wildlife art. www.basspro.com. For more information about Gulf Coast Town Center, visit www.GulfCoastTownCenter.com.

Edison Mall in Fort Myers is newly renovated and showcases more than 160 specialty shops and eateries. Florida department stores Macy's and Dillard's as well as national favorites JC Penney and Sears are anchors. www.simon.com/mall.

Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers is filled with upscale shops in a Spanish-style plaza. Major retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue, Banana Republic, Ann Taylor and Williams-Sonoma are just the beginning. Purchases in hand, shoppers can stop in restaurants, then top the day off with a movie at Bell Tower's 20-screen multiplex www.belltowershops.com.

Travel agents wanting more information for their clients about all the many dining, arts, entertainment, and shopping choices on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel can visit www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.