Find your island for unforgettable family vacations on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

LEE COUNTY, FL -- Families are likely to run out of time before running out of things to do at The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida. Traditionally, the most popular attractions throughout the area have been its miles of unspoiled beaches, award - winning state parks and wildlife preserves. In addition to experiencing wildlife, shells and birds along the shores of Sanibel, Captiva, Cayo Costa and other barrier islands, there is much to experience by land and water. And almost everything on Th e Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is family - friendly. From learning about Calusa Indian culture on Pine Island to attending sailing school or a spring training baseball game, sharing time together is what vacation is all about.

What families will not find: crowded theme parks with endless lines and admissions fees that break the budget. Not here.

What they will find: 50 miles of sandy beaches covered in seashells, blue skies, warm Gulf waters, islands to explore, waterways to paddle, sandcastles to build and wildlife to view in natural habitats. Educational experiences that are fun include the area's natural and historical attractions, which make for memorable bonding experiences for the entire family.

A few not-to-be-missed family experiences that a re unique to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel include:

Start a (really great) shell collection

Wandering beautiful beaches in search of sea treasures is a favorite pastime here. Before they know it, visitors are doing the “Sanibel Stoop” in search of the area’s most popular shells. Families may take a shelling cruise or charter with a captain who knows where to find the best shells. Another treasure is the Bailey-Matthews Shell National Museum on Sanibel Island. With ties to the Smithsonian Institution, this museum is a must for shell enthusiasts. Shells from southwest Florida are displayed along with huge and rare specimens from all over the world. The museum also has a prized collection of Sailors’ Valentines. Kids (and their parents) enjoy the po pular undersea - inspired interactive children’s section. Visit

CROW Education Center, Sanibel Island

Located at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW), the Education Center is a 4,800-square-foot facility that shows how injured animals are admitted, diagnosed, cared for and released. CROW is a teaching hospital and visitor education center dedicated to saving wildlife through state-of-the-art veterinary care, research, education and conservation medicine. Under the hospital director and full-time veterinarians, CROW’s staff provides the highest quality medical care to all of their patients. CROW veterinarians and staff treat more than 200 animal species with 3,500 patients each year. Visitors enjoy a self - guided tour about the life-cycle of patients from the time they are admitted until their ultimate re-release into the wild. Critter cams link visitors to the wildlife and a Wonders of Wildlife show is presented at 11 a.m. daily. Visit or call 239-472-3644.

Island hopping

Explore this tropical paradise by water! Treat the family to a tour of some of the area’s islands. Captiva Cruises ( on Captiva Island takes visitors for lunch and exploring on Useppa and Cabbage Key. The Tropic Star ( on Pine Island has trips to remote Cayo Costa. The island is mainly a state park with wide, unspoiled white-sand beaches, rustic cabins and tent campsites, along with outstanding bird and other wildlife to watch. Water taxis are available for island tours and boats are available to rent for those who want a nautical adventure.

Learn about marine habitats

The Sanibel Sea School on Sanibel Island is dedicated to teaching children and adults about marine ecosystems using the setting of the barrier island habitats of Sanibel and Captiva as an opportunity to touch, feel and understand. Through their experience, students gain an intimate perspective of the ocean, its inhabitants and the tightly woven fabric of our global environment. The program includes all the elements of a marine ecosystem: animals, people, plants, land, ocean and weather. Contact the school for information and schedules for adult and children's programs. Visit or call 239-472-8585.

Paddlers’ paradise

The Great Calusa Blueway, with nearly 190 miles of clearly marked waterways and trails, provides a chance to explore the area' s back bays and estuaries. Here, visitors experience wildlife viewing at its best. Guided tours are available or paddlers may explore on their own as they go through aquatic preserves, wildlife refuges, creeks, bayous, rivers and mangrove forests. Many of the trails follow the course charted some 2,000 years ago by the area's earliest residents, the Calusa Indians. Recognized as among the best U.S. kayaking destinations by both Paddler and Canoe & Kayak magazines, the waterway provides outings that last a few hours to week-long adventures. To enhance the paddling experience, the trail utilizes Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates. Key points are marked along the trail to aid in navigation and detailed maps are available. Paddlers may stay in accommodations along the way or camp at the Koreshan State Historic site, Cayo Costa State Park or Caloosahatchee Regional Park. Bring your own craft or rent from local outfitters. For information, detailed maps and GPS coordinates, visit

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

One of the most popular paddling trails is located at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. The more than 6,400-acre refuge was listed among the nation’s Top 10 bird watching spots by Dick Hutto, host of the PBS series BirdWatch. Besides exotic birds, other wildlife species such as manatees, alligators, gopher tortoises and river otters may be seen throughout the refuge. Visitors can explore the refuge on foot or bicycle, by car or tram tour, paddleboard or boat tour. For families, the new Wildlife Education Boardwalk features replicated animal tracks and scat samples and a two-story observation deck. Wildlife Drive is closed Fridays (to give the wildlife a rest!), but Indigo Trail, which leads to the wildlife boardwalk, and Tarpon Bay Recreation Area are open. Visit www.fw or call 239-472-1100.

Take time for turtles

For visitors lucky enough to be in the area from May to October, there is an opportunity to witness 300-pound nesting loggerhead sea turtles lay about 100 eggs each. The two-inch long hatchlings will make the dangerous journey from their protected underground nests to the Gulf of Mexico. For information on viewing these fascinating and endangered creatures, visit

Take a tour back in time

Take a step back in time at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Tour the 20-acre riverfront estate, complete with laboratory, experimental gardens, rare antique automobiles and other memorabilia from the genius inventor. A delightful blend of scientific fact and personal anecdotes will fascinate children and adults alike. Next door, Henry Ford’s winter estate features antique vehicles on display. Visit or call 239-334-7419.

The ultimate sandcastle

The intricate sculptures at the 30th Annual American Sandsculpting Championship Festival Nov. 18-27, 2016, take “playing in the sand” to a whole new level. Sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, this popular event attracts more than 40,000 visitors each year. The public is invited to view this open-air gallery of sand creations that bear little resemblance to those you created as a kid! Watch sculptors from around the world use more than 1,000 tons of sand to turn Fort Myers Beach into a temporary art gallery. Participate in special events all week as competitors battle it out for the number one spot. Visit for schedule or call 239-454-7500.

Family sailing

Offshore Sailing School has taught more than 130,000 adults and their families to sail or hone their sailing skills since Olympian and America’s Cup sailor, Steve Colgate, founded it in 1964. The school packages its courses with accommodations at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island and the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach. Flexible programs for families allow kids to sail free with their parents with lots of time for enjoying the beach and area attractions. For information, call 888-454-7015 or 239-454-1700 or visit

More reasons for families to visit The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel:

Sanibel Island

Captiva Island

Fort Myers Beach

Fort Myers

Cape Coral

North Fort Myers

Bonita Springs

For kids only!

Many area resorts have creative children’s programs that give mom and dad some time off. Programs provide daytime and evening activities led by qualified counselors.

Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village, Cape Coral

Casa Ybel Resort, Sanibel Island

South Seas Island Resort, Captiva Island

Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, Fort Myers Beach

The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, Bonita Springs

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in southwest Florida includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres. Family and children images available upon request.

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