Open Jaw

Lesson No. 1:
Building Sandcastles & Shelling On An Uncrowded Beach

The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel are a firm favourite for family fun

Meandering on a beach sprinkled with white, peach and pink-tinted shells. Catching a glimpse of a manatee -- one of the gentlest creatures of the sea. Island hopping through more than 100 barrier islands.

If that's a client's idea of a good time, look no further than sending them off on a vacation to the Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel.

"You can get there easily. It's like a tropical vacation, yet you are still close to home," says Jeanette Faria, Account Manager with the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. "It's a different side of Florida. It offers you relaxation and so many different things to do and that it really feels like a vacation."

This Lee County destination – made up of eight communities including Pine Island, Sanibel and Captiva Islands and Cape Coral -- sits on Florida's west-coast shore of the Gulf of Mexico and is truly unlike any other part of the state. There are idyllic beaches, great shopping, authentic wildlife encounters, boat-fresh seafood and, above all, an endless list of water activities and adventures.

And the perk is that it comes without the crowds and hurly burly of Florida's "traditional" vacation destinations. Sanibel and Captiva even have local legislation prohibiting buildings higher than the tallest palm tree.

In this lesser-known west coast haven, it's the natural landscape and activities that take centre stage, and water is such a natural, fundamental part of the region that even the most dedicated of landlubbers will want to dip their toes.

Whether in, out or on top of the water, Fort Myers and Sanibel have something for every traveller to enjoy.

"The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are great for families because the Gulf of Mexico is warmer and calmer than the Atlantic Ocean, so it's great for young children or those anxious around water. And there are lots of things for the kids to do. It's also great for adventurous people, couples and weekend getaways," says Faria.

"It's not as commercialized, but you're also not confined. Because we have so many islands,  you can go out, visit Sanibel for the day, go kayaking or sit on the beach and do nothing. It's very much about being relaxed, rejuvenating and connecting with the natural surroundings."

Fort Myers is the urban anchor of the region. This is where you'll find high-rise hotel properties, a vibrant arts scene, active sporting communities and a down-to-earth Floridian vibe.  

The city is set along Fort Myers Beach -- the longest stretch of powdered sugar sand in the region -- but ironically, it's not the soft-sand beaches that the destination is loved for.

Known as the best shelling destination in the United States (and arguably even the world) Fort Myers has a 7-mile stretch of immaculate white sand, while neighbouring Sanibel and Captiva offer up a bit more crackle and crunch to their shell-encrusted beaches.

Adults will enjoy – and kids will especially love -- scouring the coastline for that special seashell to commemorate their Florida family vacation. Before long, kids and adults alike will develop the tell-tale "Sanibel Stoop" as they keel over to examine every precious piece of calcium.

Visitors should always be on the lookout for wildlife sightings, from 1,200-pound manatees to Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, along with an array of birds and fish species. It's not uncommon to see dolphins riding the wake of a boat or gentle sea cows swimming lazily right by the shore.

The J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is one of the finest natural parks in Florida, and a fantastic place for face-to-face encounters with wildlife. Your clients can take their adventure further with activities like a wildlife drive, tram tour, kayaking, fishing opportunities, and even a free scavenger hunt style game and wildlife spotting app for those that prefer self-guided touring.

The destination, bordered by the Caloosahatchee River and the Gulf of Mexico, is a boater's paradise.

There are 20 public access marinas and many opportunities to join a fishing expedition or rent boats, kayaks and paddleboards.

For boating enthusiasts – or just those who enjoy people-watching -- The South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island will host the Hobie 16 World Championship from 1-16NOV, the first time in 35 years that a North American city is hosting the event. Close to 500 athletes from 23 different countries will compete in the sailing event.

Off the water, the year-round perfect weather and picturesque surroundings make golfing a solid hit. Designed by some big names in the game, the courses in Fort Myers deliver more golf per capita than just about anywhere else in the country. 

For generations, Canadian snowbirds have flocked to Florida to escape the Great White North's sometimes harsh, always too-long winters.

It's no mystery what makes cities like Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami a favourite among Canadians, what with their easy proximity, sugary beaches and sunny skies.

But The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel on the Sunshine State's west coast deliver a great vacation on all counts…and they’re just three hours away from central Canada.


Debbie Poisson
October 17, 2019 at 12:05

Love Ft Myers


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