What’s new from The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel

In addition to great, year-round weather, shell-drenched beaches and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida continues to provide new experiences for visitors to Florida’s unspoiled island destination. For the latest vacation-planning information, please visit www.FortMyersSanibel.com.

LEE COUNTY, FL– In addition to great, year-round weather, shell-drenched beaches and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida continues to provide new experiences for visitors to Florida’s unspoiled island destination. For the latest vacation-planning information, please visit www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.


Maren Morris headlines 10-day Island Hopper Songwriter Fest: save the date

The first major headliner for Island Hopper Songwriter Fest is booked and the news is exciting! Nashville songwriter Maren Morris has soared to the top of the Billboard Country Albums chart with her debut album, HERO.  Morris has joined Keith Urban’s ripCORD tour and when she performs on Fort Myers Beach on Oct. 2, you will hear her belt out her smash hit “My Church.” Sixty songwriters are confirmed thus far for the event. The festival brings back fan favorites Bob DiPiero (“Southern Voice”) recorded by Tim McGraw, Even Stevens (“I Love a Rainy Night”) recorded by Eddie Rabbit and Frank Myers (“I Swear”) recorded by John Michael Montgomery. New artists include Helen Darling (“Bring on the Rain”) recorded by Jo Dee Messina and Tim McGraw.


The free festival will kick off on Captiva Island, Sept. 23-25 and wraps up Sept. 30-Oct. 2 on Fort Myers Beach. Historic downtown Fort Myers will once again feature midweek performances. There will be a limited number of ticketed events for special performances. Make plans now. For the latest news, venues and artists, check www.islandhopperfest.com


Time for turtles

Turtle nesting season is runs through Oct. 31 and there is a strong push to help sea turtles with public awareness programs that let visitors know about Loggerheads, the most common sea turtles in Florida. Growing to more than three feet long and weighing 200-350 pounds, they may travel thousands of miles from feeding grounds to the same nesting beaches where they were born. Hatchlings are about two inches long, emerge at night and are guided by the Gulf horizon to the water. Visitors are asked to make sure their inner and exterior lights are not visible from the beach and that furniture be removed from the beach between the hours of 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. For more information, visit www.turtletime.org.



U.S. News & World Report has named Sanibel Island among the top 10 family beaches in the U.S. The article says the island "is popular with families because its beaches have plenty of beautiful – sometimes unusual – seashells, which little ones love to collect."


Family Vacation Critichas named Captiva Island ofthe 10 Best Beaches for Families in 2016, saying "Captiva Beach isn't for those seeking a go-go-go vacation -- it's for families who truly want to disconnect and unwind at the beach. In fact, the most popular thing to do is walk the beach and collect shells, including conch and sand dollars. The island offers shelling tours, with one hotel (South Seas Island Resort) even featuring a designated shelling concierge!"

Best beach

Lovers Key State Park was named one of 10 Florida "best beaches" by readers of USA Today and 10 Best. www.10best.com/awards/travel/best-florida-beach/



Sanibel Island was ranked among the top 10 dog-friendly vacations in the United States by bringfido.com. The island offers pet friendly hotels, events, restaurants and parks and beaches for dogs to enjoy. www.bringfido.com/destination/


Attractions and recreation

A Smithsonian exhibit is coming tothe J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island Oct. 29-Dec. 9. The first-of-its-kind Water/Ways traveling exhibit in partnership with the Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program is supported by the Smithsonian and Florida Humanities Council. Water/Ways will take a global look at water relative to the environment, culture, and history. In collaboration with other local nature and art organizations, it will also examine the issues and context facing our liquid assets here at home.  For events taking place throughout the exhibit, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org.


Pinewood Trails Park, near the center of Pine Island, is Lee County Parks & Recreation’s newest site. The 30-acre park includes acres of pine flatwoods, gopher tortoises, eagles, red-shouldered hawks and red-bellied woodpeckers. The park features walking and hiking trails, shade structures and free on-site parking. The Pine Loop Trail is paved and ADA-accessible. Leashed dog walking is permitted. For information visit leeparks.org.


The Southwest Florida Performing Arts Center has opened in Bonita Springs with a culinary test kitchen and an Italian-themed celebrity chef restaurant. The venue will offer diversified cultural programming featuring local and national artists. For schedule and details, visit www.swflpac.com.


The Mound House on Fort Myers Beach has unveiled $2 million in renovations.The 1921 period renovations to the island's oldest standing structure atop an ancient Calusa Indian shell mound serve as a backdrop for stories spanning some 2,000 years. Inside the restored two-story home, three new galleries have been added: Ancient People Gallery, Settlers on the Shells Gallery and the Digging Deeper Exploratory Gallery.  The grounds have been landscaped with three gardens and guided kayak tours are available.  Details: www.moundhouse.org


The Historic Koreshan home in Estero has completed the cottage rehab where one of the "Final Four" Koreshans lived. The home of German-born Conrad Schlender, the tiny wood-frame building was likely built around 1900, then moved to the Utopian communal settlement in the 1930s. The $50,000 restoration included leveling the foundation, repairs to siding, windows and doors and installing a new metal roof. A clattering stand of giant bamboo shades the little building on the grounds of the Koreshan State Historic Site, which offers visitors a glimpse of the lives the idealistic pioneers carved out of the subtropical scrub around the turn of the 20th century. Led by the charismatic Cyrus Teed, who renamed himself Cyrus (Hebrew for shepherd), the group planned to create the New Jerusalem.The Koreshan State Historic Site is located at Corkscrew Road and U.S. 41 in Estero. For details: Call 239-992-0311 or visit floridastateparks.org/koreshan


The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island hosts a weekly beach walk with a marine naturalist beginning at the Island Inn each Tuesday at 10 a.m. Cost is $10 per person and includes half-price admission to the museum. Reservations are required.  The museum offers printed self-guided maps in German. www.shellmuseum.org.  

Sundial Beach Resort on Sanibel Island completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that includes refreshing of accommodations, new fitness center, HydroGrid tennis courts, a campus of the Sanibel Sea School, a Kay Casperson Lifestyle Spa and Boutique and a satellite operation of Sanibel's Bailey's Marketplace.  Recently opened: Shima Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar.  The restaurant features a Japanese-style menu that includes sushi rolls prepared by a third- generation sushi chef. Visit www.sundialresort.com.

The historic Gasparilla Inn on Boca Grande added five new estate homes, offering accommodations for friends or multigenerational travelers.  Preserving the same old Florida charm the 101-year-old inn is known for, the homes include three- and four-bedroom options, featuring a kitchen, dining and living areas with an open layout and amenities.  A member of Historic Hotels of America and listed on The National Register of Historic Places, the resort offers 142 accommodations in a pristine environment in the heart of Boca Grande, located on Gasparilla Island. Visit the-gasparilla-inn.com.


Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach has employed naturalist Vince McGrath to offer resort guests morning wildlife walking and kayaking expeditions to explore the eco-zones of the local marine environment. Guests are able to observe numerous flora and fauna, from what’s under the sea to the shoreline, tide pools and upland habitats of the dunes. McGrath also is available to guests to answer questions about creatures they find during their own beach exploration. Visit www.pinkshell.com.


Casa Ybel Resort on Sanibel Island has been ranked by Travel + Leisure Family magazine as one of North America's Top 20 Family Resorts. www.casaybelresort.com.


At the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa in Bonita Springs, construction is underway on a $7.1 million triple waterslide and lazy river pool complex.  Anticipated opening of the new pool complex to resort guests is late 2016.

The complex will include a three-story Everglades lookout tower topped by a tin-roofed fishing shack. Beneath the tower, a 575-foot-long meandering lazy river pool with water hazards will drench guests along the way. Additional pool coves accommodating nearly 300 swimmers will complete the more than 249,000-gallon waterscape. Surrounding the Everglades tower and the lazy river a forest of Southwest Florida native plants will include live oak, Sabal palm, and Saw palmetto. A lushly landscaped pool deck will accommodate a large number of guests, event space and two food trucks to serve a changing selection of local cuisine. The one-acre expansion to Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort’s pool amenity will increase the total pool area to three acres in size. www.coconutpoint.hyatt.com.


Food and Dining

Fort Myers Brewing Company was named "Best Brewery in Florida" at a competition of 87 Florida breweries.

The Cape Coral Brewing Company has opened in Cape Coral. For details and tour times, visit www.capecoralbrewing.com.


Arts and Walks

Art Walk in the River District, Downtown Fort Myers, takes place the first Friday of each month, 6-10 p.m. and the following Saturday from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. www.fortmyersartwalk.com.



Upcoming special events and festivals

31th Annual Oktoberfest, Cape Coral
Oct. 21-23, 28-30, 2016

German-American Club


Hosted by the German-American Club, this huge celebration includes German culture, food, music and dancing. Highlights include authentic live entertainment with large musical groups

from Germany, along with enough German food and beer to make anyone do the "Chicken

Dance."  There is also a carnival area for kids. Call or check website for schedule and ticket information.


27th Annual J.N. "Ding" Darling Days, Sanibel Island
Oct. 16-22, 2016

The event honors National Wildlife Refuge Week and celebrates the 140th birthday of the refuge’s namesake. Family Fun Day kicks off the weeklong birding and ecofestival with free activities, including narrated refuge tram tours, live wildlife presentations, kids nature crafts, a touch tank, a butterfly house, and archery lessons.


Family Fun Day kicks off the week with free activities on Oct. 16 with free refuge tours, live wildlife presentations, archery clinics, a touch tank and butterfly house, and kids’ nature crafts.


On Oct. 21, the refuge invites the public for free birthday cake and showing of the “America’s Darling” documentary film starting at 11 a.m.


Conservation Art Day winds up the celebration on Oct. 22, with visits from Federal Duck Stamp and Junior Duck Stamp winners and nature art workshops.


Free and discounted birding, biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, sea life boating tours, and interpretive presentations will fill the week between the two events.


11th Annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Fest

Oct. 7-9, 2016


Ahoy Mateys! Mark your calendar and head to Fort Myers Beach for some swash-buckling fun at this jam-packed weekend pirate fest. This family event includes a scavenger hunt, pub quest, sea battles, Blackbeard kid's show and much more. If it's a pirate’s life for you, check back for details and start planning your pirate costume!


34th Annual Taste of the Town, Fort Myers

Nov 6, 2016


JetBlue Park

Join the Junior League of Fort Myers for a great day of food, music and kids entertainment at the 34th Annual Taste of the Town.  All proceeds from this event go to support the projects of the Junior League.


Cape Coral CoCoNut Festival, Cape Coral
Nov. 10-13, 2016

Sun Splash Family Water Park
The Cape Coral CoCoNut Festival celebrates Cape Coral's reputation for coconuts, multi-cultural food, boating, fishing and wildlife. The festival will feature a national musical act, gymnastic entertainment, carnival rides, water-ski shows, tropical food, contests, coconut crafts and fireworks.


11th Annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference
Nov. 3-6, 2016



BIG Arts and the Sanibel Island Public Library

This intimate writers’ conference draws acclaimed authors and songwriters, award-winning poets and screenplay writers. The talented group holds small workshops for all levels of aspiring writers who want to follow in their creative footsteps. Participants also enjoy nightly readings and concerts, which are open to the public. The conference welcomes any writer who wants to create new work or refine a project in progress. 


Keynote speaker: Sue Monk Kidd. Her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees, spent more than 2½ years on The New York Times best-seller list and was adapted into an award-winning movie. Now considered a modern classic, it has received numerous awards. Her second novel, The Mermaid Chair, was a #1 New York Times best-seller and adapted into a television movie. Her critically acclaimed third novel, The Invention of Wings, was a #1 New York Times best-seller, a selection of Oprah’s Book Club, and winner of the Florida Book Award. She is also the author of several memoirs, including the best-seller, Traveling with Pomegranates, co-authored with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, and her groundbreaking book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter.

For details and reservations, visit website or contact Tom DeMarchi at tdemarch@fgcu.edu, 239-590-7421.


30th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship, Fort Myers Beach 
Nov. 18-27, 2016

Come and join the fun on Fort Myers Beach for the 30th Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship and Beach Festival. Sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, this fun-filled event will include world-class master sand sculptors, a state championship contest, an amateur contest, sand sculpting demonstrations and lessons, and much more. With more than 1,000 tons of sand, master sand sculptors are returning to Fort Myers Beach forming the largest sand sculpting event in the state, plying their craft and showcasing their artistry in what USA Today and CNN Travel have named a “must-see” and one of the 10 best sand sculpting competitions in the world.

41st Annual Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers
End of November 2016 - Jan. 3, 2017 (Event is closed Dec. 24 & 25)
Edison Ford Holiday Nights reflect the many contributions of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families to the local community.  It was chosen by the editors of USA Today as one of the 10Best Historic Homes for the Holidays, which also included The White House, Mount Vernon, Monticello and the Biltmore in North Carolina. To view the article visit: www.10best.com/interests/trip-pics/historic-homes-for-the-holidays/.

In addition, The American Bus Association (ABA) announced that it has designated the event as one of the Top 100 Events in North America for 2016. Edison Ford Holiday Nights has also been featured in Destinations magazine noting that Edison Ford Holiday Nights offers excellent entertainment value to both tour groups and individual travelers from around the world.
A not-to-be-missed holiday tradition, the historic buildings and acres of gardens are decorated with lights and traditional decorations. The holiday estates offer a behind the scenes tour, Children's Holiday Tree Trail, Santa visits on select nights, refreshments and shopping in the Holiday Cottage Shoppe, Museum Store and Garden Shoppe.  For admission and details: www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/events/annual-events/holiday-nights/


Captiva Holiday Village, Captiva Island

Nov. 25-Dec. 23, 2016

Five fun-filled holiday weekends beginning with a tree-lighting and fireworks on Nov. 25, this popular Southwest Florida barrier island transforms into a Holiday Village set against the backdrop of the shimmering Gulf of Mexico and breathtaking sunsets. Visitors to Captiva Island during Captiva Holiday Village weekends enjoy a Mullet Band parade, lighted boat parade, South Seas holiday strolls, a Junkanoo Parade, a carol sing at the Chapel by the Sea, sunset arias, a holiday golf cart parade and much more. Check website for schedule.


Don’t miss:  The 32nd Annual Christmas Luminary Trail and Open House, on Dec. 2 on Sanibel Island and Dec. 3 on Captiva Island. This event draws visitors from all over the world as they join local residents to celebrate the season with three miles of luminary candles and events. For more information visit www.sanibel-captiva.org


Cape Coral Festival of the Arts, Cape Coral

Jan. 14-15, 2017



This annual event draws hundreds of artists and more than 100,000 visitors.


ArtFest Fort Myers, downtown historic district

Feb. 4-5, 2017


On the waterfront in downtown Fort Myers, visitors enjoy made-in-USA original art by more than 200 artists. Browse the online gallery to get a feel for the exceptional quality. And meet the artists. Enjoy food, music and fun for the whole family.


Friends of Lovers Key Annual Vow Renewal, Lovers Key State Park

Feb. 14, 2017


Love is always in the air at Lovers Key State Park, but even more so on Valentine's Day.

Couples renew their vows near the gazebo on the beach, while the ocean and gulls provide background music.  The ceremonies at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. include a champagne toast, brunch or lunch, coffee and cake, socializing, photo, as well as door prizes and parting gifts. Reservations are required. The non-refundable donation of $75 per couple adds to the Environmental Education Center Fund. This event has been a sell-out in the past, so reserve a spot early by contacting event chair Judy Greenwood at 708-359-0466 or fjgreenwood@gmail.com.


79th Annual Edison Festival of Light Grand Parade, Fort Myers

Feb. 18, 2017



Parade begins at 7 p.m. at Edison Stadium and continues to the Fort Myers Downtown River District. During February, Fort Myers celebrates the birthday of its most illustrious historical

resident, Thomas A. Edison, in befitting fashion. Edison, who built a home on the banks of the

Caloosahatchee River and spent 46 winters there, invented the light bulb and held more than

1,200 patents. So it’s appropriate that the month of activities culminates with a lighted night parade. Invention competitions, parties, craft shows and a 5K run are all part of the festival. 

Celebrating 79 years, the month of February is filled with special events. 

80th Annual Sanibel Shell Fair & Show, Sanibel Island
March 2017

Sanibel Community House

Sanibel Island, named the best shelling beach in the U.S. and one of the best in the world, hosts shelling enthusiasts who gather each year for the shell fair that draws visitors from around the

globe.  One of the most unique events in the country, it began on a porch with just a few islanders and has evolved into today's fair that includes demonstrations, shell displays, crafts, prizes, food and entertainment. 


7th Annual Fort Myers Film Festival

March 8-12, 2017


The Fort Myers Film Festival is an intelligent independent filmmaker's preferred event to create, unite and showcase the finest artistic cinematic works. Known for its support of local filmmakers, the event is a must-attend for cineastes who love indie film and film festivals. Check out all the details on the website.


59th Annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and Parade

March 11-12, 2017
Activities for the 59th annual Fort Myers Beach shrimp harvest event will include a parade, crowning of the Shrimp Queen, craft vendors, the boiled shrimp concession, and other seafood booths set up both days at Lynn Hall Memorial Park. 


Spring Training 2017

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins. Get up close and see your favorite baseball players. What could be better than

beautiful spring days and great baseball?  The destination makes it easy for fans to take advantage of all that it has to offer along with great accommodation deals for spring training.  For a complete listing of packages, special rates and information on a spring training vacation, visit www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.


Boston Red Sox spring training
JetBlue Park in Fort Myers

For schedule, tickets and package information, visit www.redsox.com.


Minnesota Twins spring training
Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers

For schedule, tickets and package information, visit www.twinsbaseball.com


11th Annual Fort Myers Beach Film Festival

April 26-30, 2017
The Fort Myers Beach Film Festival invites independent film fans, filmmakers and distributors to spend four days to exchange ideas, make new contacts and enjoy some great films for all ages. Area accommodations offer special rates and packages to support this international celebration of independent filmmaking.  


MangoMania Tropical Fruit Festival, Pine Island
July 2017

The mango is the star attraction for two days each summer on Pine Island. Go wild for fruit as you sample locally-grown delicacies at this annual affair, an unusual celebration of all the tropical fruit grown on the island, which includes lychee, carambola, longan, papaya, and  “chocolate pudding fruit.” Fruit, exotic fruit trees, and fruit-related products are available for purchase. This fun, family event celebrates Pine Island's mangoes and other tropical fruits. In addition to mango food and beverages, the event features live music, art and craft vendors, food and recipe contests and activities area for kids and a chance to meet the Mango Queen. 


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. For media assistance, visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/media-central/. Images available upon request.


Francesca Donlan