A short drive south of Tampa and on the edge of the Everglades, Fort Myers has a gorgeous, long sandy beach, a thriving artistic community, historical attractions, and great places to eat.
From the chance to meet Major League Baseball stars during their spring training to the opportunity to check out local artists during the ArtFest Fort Myers, it's the kind of place that always has something going on.
History lovers can spend a day at the Edison and Ford winter estates. You can charter fishing boats from Fort Myers Beach, rent kayaks, snorkel, or just roll out a towel and forget about your cares. Whether you want a beach vacation or a cultural adventure, Fort Myers is the place to go.
In 1885, the inventor Thomas Edison built his summer residence in Fort Myers, soon to be followed by the industrialist Henry Ford. Both homes can be visited by vacationers, and they are absolutely fascinating - full of inventions and items used by the two, as well as their extensive art collections.
Fort Myers is a famous stopover point for hundreds of butterfly species, and you can meet all of them at the Butterfly Estates. Visit on Friday to witness the release of new residents. If you have the time, you can also easily reach the Everglades, which are an hour's drive to the south.
The sunny location and cheap rents have helped spur an artistic boom in bohemian Fort Myers. Follow the Art Walk to see the city's major galleries or visit in February to enjoy ArtFest, which turns the waterfront into a hive of face painting, portraiture, and crafts stalls.
A few miles from the city center, you'll cross to Estero Island, where the Fort Myers Beach hosts banana boat rides, parasailing, fishing charters, and dive shops, as well as land-based fun like casinos and golf courses.
Every March, Fort Myers becomes a place of pilgrimage for baseball fans as JetBlue Park hosts the Boston Red Sox and Hammond Stadium hosts the Minnesota Twins. There's no better chance to meet your sporting heroes and see them being put through their paces before the season begins.
Art lovers will enjoy February breaks in For Myers thanks to ArtFest, while baseball fans should visit in March to coincide with spring training. But for everyday vacationers the best time to visit is probably between late March and late May, before the big summer crowds get there. Winter breaks are also a good idea, as temperatures rarely dip below 70 degrees in southwest Florida.
Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is the closest airport to Fort Myers (about 17 miles away) and has excellent connections to the rest of the country. Shuttle buses are available to major hotels, but LeeTran bus number 50 is the cheapest route into town for other visitors (single fares cost $1.50). Expect a taxi from the airport to cost around $30.
There isn't a station in Fort Myers any longer, but Amtrak do provide a Thruway service from Tampa, the final stop on the Silver Star service from New York City. The bus takes 3 hours 30 minutes to reach Fort Myers, so it's a slow way to reach the city.
For many people, driving to Fort Myers is the most convenient option. All you need to do is to hook up with I-75 and you'll be directed straight to Fort Myers. Those coming from Orlando should take I-4 and then switch to I-75 at Tampa.
Fort Myers is on the national Greyhound bus network, so long distance buses are definitely a cut-price option. The Greyhound stop is located at 2250 Widman Way, almost at the center of the city, which is handy for most of the best hotels.
In the city, check out the Indigo or the Legacy Harbor Hotel, both of which are next to the river Caloosahatchee. If you are heading to the beach, try the Edison Beach House or the Outrigger Beach Resort. Both are comfortable but small enough to offer a personalized service for visitors (and very close to the beach).
Downtown Fort Myers - Fort Myers is a bustling tourist city, with theaters, galleries, and shopping malls galore. It's also home to the Ford and Edison estates, as well as great bars like the City Tavern and the Fort Myers ArtFest.
Fort Myers Beach - 15 miles south of the city, this area has its own beachfront vibe. It's a great place to sunbathe, try fishing, strap on a snorkel, or relax with cocktails at bars like the Gulfshore Grill.
Southeast Fort Myers - baseball is the main attraction in southeast Fort Myers, which is where you'll find Fenway South (or JetBlue Park), the spring home of the Red Sox. It's also packed with golf courses like Olde Hickory and is right next to the city's airport, so it's very handy for visitors.
LeeTran is the municipal public transportation provider and their buses are a handy, affordable way to get around. Single fares are $1.50, all-day passes are $4 and multi-day passes can be purchased online as well. Cycle hire is another alternative, particularly in Fort Myers Beach.
Taxis in the Fort Myers area have a fixed rates schedule of $3.60 for the first mile, then $2 for every subsequent mile, but you can save money by riding with Uber. Their base rate is $1, then $0.95 per mile, and offer a useful way to hop between the beach and the city.
Fort Myers is the perfect place to rent a car. Not only can you get to the beach whenever you want, you can transport golf clubs, head to Tampa, or even Miami if the feeling strikes you. Rental companies in town include Budget, Enterprise, and Avis and you can find vehicles for $25 per day or less, so it's a cost-effective option. Remember that crossing the Sanibel Causeway comes with a $6 toll, so if you want to visit Sanibel, take a little extra change with you.
The best place in town to shop for branded apparel and other items is almost certainly Edison Mall, which features major chains like Sears, American Eagle Outfitters, and J.C. Penney. First Street is the place to head for downtown shopping, where you'll find jewelry boutiques like Enjewel and apparel stores like Charme. If you are in the market for art, don't miss the art vendors on First Street on the first Friday of every month.
Supermarkets in Fort Myers include Publix and Sweetbay, while Target also has a large store in the city. Food prices tend to be fairly cheap. Expect to pay about $3.50 for a gallon of milk and $1.60 for a pound of apples.
As you might expect from a tourist destination on the west coast of Florida, seafood is dominant in Fort Myers and there are some fantastic places to eat. From the Blue Pointe Oyster Bar to Three Fishermen and Pinchers, if you love fish, shrimp, or crab, you'll be in heaven. For others, the seasonal fare at Farmers Market Restaurant is ideal, while Capone's is a superb coal-fired pizza restaurant near the riverfront. Expect to pay between $17 and $25 for mains at high-end seafood places and $10 for a pizza.