For generations, Fort Myers Beach, Florida, has been a popular destination for retirees, but after a long, extra cold winter we were desperate for a beach with a non-stop direct flight and a quick drive from the airport. Less than four hours after takeoff from Ronald Reagan National Airport, we were stretched out on beach chairs basking in the Florida sun.
We've enjoyed many beautiful beaches in Florida, but Fort Myers Beach has some of the softest, largest, white sand beaches anywhere. Even in high season, few of the beaches feel crowded and there's plenty of room to ride a bike, jog, walk or shell along the shoreline. Paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling and other watersports are easy to enjoy on the gentle Gulf surf.
At the end of the gulf front barrier island was our home for the week. The Pink Shell Resort looks like it was designed especially for families. Gulf-front rooms are large, have well-equipped kitchens or kitchenettes, and spacious screened balconies. The staff hosts a silly sunset ceremony around the pool, complete with complimentary (non-alcoholic) "shooters" for all – some with a refreshing dollop of sherbet. The main pool has colorful waterfalls and flower themed misters for the little ones. Day camps with arts & crafts activities, cornhole games, ping pong, a video arcade and beach volleyball and tetherball keep kids and adults busy all week. A full service, on-site spa offers facials, massages and other services to soothe the soul after an active day in the sun.
A 10-minute walk down the beach leads to a pier and shopping area with Kilwins, a popular ice cream and candy shop, gift and souvenir shops and a "main street" with restaurants and a few bars with live music. The area is still undergoing transition and renovation, with a few tired homes clustered among newer buildings and colorfully painted beach cottages rejuvenated for new generations to enjoy.
It was easy to grab lunch at the hotel's poolside restaurant with their delicious fresh salads and burgers, but we ventured out in the evenings for seafood. A 30-minute drive took us to Sanibel Island and the rustic charm of Trader's Café, with a selection of fresh seafood and pasta. Another night took us just over the bridge to Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille where we enjoyed a casual dinner with a beautiful view of the harbor. We spent our last night at the more upscale Fresh Catch Bistro with a selection of unique appetizers, fine wines and fish from local waters as we watched the sunset over the gulf.
An easy drive to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, we took an excursion to Cabbage Key where locals claim Jimmy Buffet wrote the song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise." Accessible only by water taxi or private boat, it's a beautiful remote island with an historic restaurant that serves delicious grilled burgers and tropical drinks. Patrons have covered the walls with more than $60,000 of signed, one-dollar bills.
Fort Myers is still a popular retirement area, but it's not your grandmother's resort town. With a wealth of activities in and around the area, visitors and residents of all ages engage in all the area has to offer.
More about the Fort Myers Beach Area:
Where to Stay
Pink Shell Resort
Best Western Plus Beach Resort
Gull Wing Condo Resort