Home to more than 50 miles of sparkling white-sand beaches, 100 subtropical islands, and over 270 days of sunshine, you’ll find a mighty fine imitation of paradise lost at The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Days are spent frolicking in the waves, exploring verdant state parks and strolling the waterline in search of brilliantly hued shells strewn like jewels across the golden sands. By evening, fiery sunsets and waterfront seafood feasts offer their own substantial rewards.

No matter what sort of beach holiday you have in mind – romantic getaway, adventures in the waves or family fun in the sun – you'll find ample choices in this picturesque corner of the sunshine state.

Sunset on Fort Myers Beach. Photo by KevinDerrick / Getty.

Gateway to Adventure

On the west coast of Florida, Fort Myers lies near some of the most stunning beaches in America. If you’re daydreaming about white sands, gently swaying palms and the deep blue Atlantic lapping just beyond your deck chair, then you’ve found the right place. Fort Myers Beach is a fine introduction to the region’s coastal allure, with its mix of long entrancing shoreline, easy-going resorts and lively open-air restaurants. It sits on seven-mile-long Estero Island, and the shallow waters, boating excursions and outdoor activities make it a big draw for families. At the southern end of Estero Island, you can venture into the wild side at Lovers Key State Park, a pristine barrier island with an untouched two-mile-long beach backed by lush vegetation that’s accessible by boardwalk or tram.

Beach fun for all at Lynn Hall Memorial Park

One of the liveliest places to be is the beach at Lynn Hall Memorial Park. Here you'll find good facilities, clean sands, and a wide mix of locals and out-of-towners mixing on the sands. There's great people watching here, with families, volleyball players, fishermen, swimmers, sunbathers and water sports enthusiasts all enjoying the great American beachscape. You might also spot dolphins playing in the waves off shore. Sun and sand aside, the beach here has abundant appeal. You can head out for kayaking and sailing adventures, then end the day strolling the shops and open-air eateries in nearby Times Square, just back from the shore.

 

Sanibel Island Lighthouse on Sanibel Island. Photo by gnagel / Getty.

Sanibel’s Lighthouse Beach

To reach the more secluded Sanibel Island (population 6800), take the three-mile westward drive from the mainland out on the causeway across San Carlos Bay. Feel the clock spin backwards when you arrive on this idyllic island. With limited development and postcard-worthy beaches, Sanibel makes a great escape when you want to get back to nature.

A requisite stop here is Lighthouse Beach. Located on the eastern tip of the Sanibel, this picturesque pocket of white sand provides fine views of the Fort Myers Beach skyline as well as a sweeping panorama of San Carlos Bay and the Gulf of Mexico beyond. The shore is flat and wide here, with shallow seas making it a fine spot for wading (though don't venture out too far, as the currents can be strong). Its proximity to Fort Myers makes it a popular beach for all ages, and you can often spot windsurfers out among the waves. After taking in the great views, don't miss the 102-foot high Sanibel Lighthouse, a much-photographed landmark built in 1884 that makes a fine backdrop to the sand and surf.

Tarpon Bay Beach

Around five miles due west of Lighthouse Beach in the middle of the island, Tarpon Bay Beach has a wide expanse of sandy white beach, and it's a pretty setting for swimming and soaking up the sun. Families can enjoy the ease of access and tranquil waters, while those seeking to get off the beaten path can walk for miles in either direction over shell-strewn sands.

Shelling on

Bowman’s Beach

Near the northwestern end of Sanibel lies Bowman’s Beach, an Instagram-ready stretch of shoreline that feels remarkably untouched. Here you'll find no resorts, condominiums or private houses, just an empty beach backed by woods (and a woodland trail that parallels the beach). Avid beachgoers stroll the coast here in search of exquisite shells, for which this stretch of shoreline is justly famed. Indeed there are lovely shells of all colors and sizes - which make lovely mementos of the Florida vacation. After perusing the sands, be sure to visit the island's Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, which has a jewel box-like collection of gorgeous seashells, plus exhibits on natural and anthropological history.

Blind Pass Beach

On the edge of Sanibel, Blind Pass Beach ranks among one of Florida's best beaches for romantic escapes. Located at the northern tip of the island, the beach feels like a hidden gem, with very few crowds (limited parking keeps the masses away). This western-facing site offers magical sunsets, though it's also a great place for long, peaceful walks on the sands. You also won't find any large buildings here -- just a few old-fashioned beach cottages, which add to the charm, and a couple of small restaurants facing the waterfront. For a magical get-away-from-it-all experience, this is the place to be.

Captiva Island. Photo by japrz / Getty.

Captiva Island

Across a small bridge from Sanibel, Captiva Island has been turning heads even before pirates sailed these waters back in the early 1800s. Stretching for five miles from north to south, this narrow island has breathtaking beaches, and a fabulous dining scene. A fine introduction to the island is picturesque Turner Beach. This wide, sun-kissed stretch of sand is another legendary spot for watching the sunset. It's also remarkably undeveloped, making it ideal when you want to escape the crowds and bask in the sun, sand and sky. The shelling here is outstanding, though with rough currents, it's not a good place for swimming. As with Blind Pass Beach, parking is limited here, so go early.

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