When you think about island-hopping, it’s understandable to get lost in thought. Dreaming of idyllic Caribbean hideaways or of jetting between more remote locales in French Polynesia, Thailand or beyond.
But there’s an island-hopping option much closer to home, specifically the beautiful Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel on the Gulf of Mexico. This stunning area of Florida should be high on your bucket list.
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel are home to 100 islands
Many of the area’s 100 coastal islands are uninhabited mangrove clusters. While others offer shell-strewn beaches, vast nature preserves and what can only be described as “old-Florida style”. That unmistakable charm of parts of the state that eschew overdevelopment in favour of preserving the natural environment. And the best part: It’s easy to explore the many barrier islands of this Southwest Florida destination by land or by boat.
Located 20 miles south of downtown Fort Myers over a three-mile causeway, Sanibel Island boasts pristine white-sand beaches. It’s also got 25 miles of multi-use bike paths and recreation trails.
The island is home to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a 6,400-acre nature reserve with the largest mangroves in the US. Birdwatchers take note: 250 different species of birdlife live here.
Shell seekers adore Sanibel. They come looking to add to their collections, thanks to the abundance of native Floridian shells covering the beaches. Don’t know your painted egg cockles from your fighting conches? Pay a visit to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum.
Other islands to explore
Once you’ve spent some time soaking up the many charms of Sanibel Island, there are plenty of other scenic spots to spend your time.
If you’re island-hopping by land
If you’re island hopping by land, you’ll want to put Captiva Island on your list. The attraction here is the natural beauty of the island. A laid-back pace, great restaurants, sunset views (the best can be found at the Mucky Duck) and beautiful beaches define this island. Or, Estero Island, home of Fort Myers Beach. People recognize it as one of the “world’s safest beaches” thanks to its gently sloping shoreline. This is also a great spot for excellent seafood.
If you’re island-hopping by boat
Island-hopping by boat? Don’t miss Cayo Costa State Park, popular for its snorkeling and fishing opportunities. Named among the world’s best hidden beaches, this one is accessible only by private boat or passenger ferry. In addition, Cabbage Key is a hidden paradise located on a unique 100-acre island. No cars or even paved roads—nature at it’s best.
Whether you’re interested in local wildlife or shell collecting on secluded beaches, there’s an island paradise waiting to be discovered among the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel and beyond.
Even more reasons to explore
- The first Friday of each month, art lovers can stroll downtown Fort Myers River District, home to more than a dozen art galleries.
- Sanibel Island has no buildings taller than the tallest palm tree (3 storeys).
- Cape Coral (near Fort Myers) has more canals than the Italian city of Venice.
- The region is home to 50 miles of white-sand beaches and 590 miles of shoreline.
Want more Florida travel inspiration? Check out the 7 best restaurants in Key West and learn to expect the unexpected in the Florida Panhandle.
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