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Fort Myers Beach
March 29, 2018

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There's something for everyone on Fort Myers Beach, and visitors often become so attached to the small coastal town that they become seasonal or even full-time residents.

The seven-mile island has beachfront all along its western side that features parks (Bowditch Point, Lynn Hall, Crescent Beach Family, Newton), water sports, chair rentals, refreshments, food and a lot of other amenities one can expect from a day at the beach.

The sugar sand is a foot massage with every step and is known for its quality when it comes to sand sculpting, as many master sculptors can attest each November during the American Sand Sculpting Championships held on the south end.

The crescent-shape island is also known for its breath-taking sunsets -a good reason to stick around after a long day of sun bathing and recreating.

Stop by the Pelican Pier along the north end for a glorious view of the sun setting, or stroll through the sand heading north for a peaceful end to a peaceful day.

Once the ever-present sun goes down, the day doesn't end on the Beach. The nightlife is vibrant, with places to dance, sing karaoke, or listen to live bands seven nights (and days) a week in Key West-style establishments that do not charge admission.

Live music reigns from stages across the island, from as far north as the Bay Walk district along the north end of Old San Carlos Boulevard, to as far south as establishments within the Santini Marina Shopping Plaza.

Enjoy a variety of music styles; blues, jazz, classic rock, techno and electronica it's all there.

There are also bistro-style restaurants to enjoy a quieter evening while feasting on fine, delicious entrees.

The island is dotted with eateries offering savory treats for any budget or tastebud. A Gulfside location, be sure to order a plate or two of the island's fresh seafood. Pink Gulf shrimp, grouper, tilapia and stone crab claws are just a few mouth-watering delicacies of the shoreline.

Make a toast to enjoying the good times and island life with a specialty cocktail from the island's talented bartenders. The drinks are cold, the entertainment is hot.

Times Square is the pedestrian walking mall in the heart of Fort Myers Beach's downtown area. It features several shops, boutiques, restaurants and ice cream parlors, making this a must-stop destination for anyone coming by the island. If you're looking for more to do, such as where to rent watersports equipment or need help to find activities on the island, make sure to stop by the Visitor's Information Booth. Walk down nearby Old San Carlos Boulevard for a change of scenery and listen to more live music streaming from the eateries there.

Family fun abounds, as well. Pack everyone up and head over the Matanzas Pass bridge to knock around some golf balls at the putt-putt mini golf hot spots. Jungle Golf and Smugglers Cove each feature tropically themed scenery, flora and fauna, which transports you right into the heart of the jungle or the heart of a working pirate ship!

Once you've determined the putt-putt winner, head across the street to Beach Bowl to roll a few strikes, and maybe a few spares if you're rusty.

Fort Myers Beach, also known as Estero Island, is also known for its very rich history. In fact, on neighboring San Carlos Island, the million-dollar shrimp industry put Fort Myers Beach on the map. Shrimp boats cluster around docks in the historic working waterfront area, designated by the state due to its 50-plus-years in the commercial fishing industry.

Also on San Carlos Island is the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center, at 718 Fishermans Wharf. The Center provides a marine science experience through interactive exhibits, aquariums, touch tank, one of kind collections and unique displays. There are also tours of the fishing industry offered during the winter months. The three-hour walking tour of the working waterfront, San Carlos Island's historic shrimp docks and seafood companies.

Paid parking is most everywhere on Fort Myers Beach.

One can enjoy parasailing, personal watercraft and beach chair rental booths by inquiring at vendor booths from one end of the island to the other, so opportunities to experience Fort Myers Beach from land or air are numerous.

Get a glimpse of "real Florida" at Matanzas Pass Preserve (end of Bay Road, turn at the Fort Myers Beach Library). You can witness more than 40 acres of unspoiled live oak hammock and 4,000 feet of mangrove shoreline.

A boardwalk path is handicap accessible all the way to the Back Bay pavilion that offers great views of wildlife, boating and awesome foliage.

If fairs and festivals interest you, expect something to be going on most every weekend of the year. Major annual events include Taste of the Beach, Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival, Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival, Sand Sculpting championships, the Summerset Regatta, Christmas Boat Parade, and Fireworks celebrations off the pier on the Fourth of July and New Year's Eve.

Things to do

Visit Bowditch Point Regional Park

Bowditch Point Regional Park is 17 acres at the northern tip of Estero Island. It is actually a dual use facility in which approximately seven acres are a developed park for passive recreational use and the remaining 10 acres a restoration/preserve area.

The Gulf front is more active while still providing a relaxed atmosphere for walkers, swimmers and sunbathers. Walking trails, through the restoration/preserve area, carry you through varied environments and offers an excellent opportunity for bird watching while being highlighted by panoramic views of Estero Bay.

The park area also features tables and grills, available on a first come first served basis, in a shaded tropical setting sure to please any picnicker. A concession area offers visitors a place to rest, a variety of food items, gifts and souvenirs. Restroom and changing facilities are available as well.

For more about Bowditch Point Regional Park, including parking information, please visit the Lee County Parks & Recreation website.

Bowditch Point Park is at 50 Estero Blvd, Fort Myers Beach, FL.

Get out on the water

There's no shortage of opportunities to get out into the Gulf, or in Estero Bay for some fishing.

A myriad of local vendors and marinas offer kayak, canoe and stand-up paddle board rentals. Using these methods, adventurers can get back into the winding world of the mangrove tunnels or get a close look at dolphins, manatees and other wildlife. Don't want to risk getting lost? Many vendors, including the Mound House, offer guided eco tours to show you around as a group.

Want to kick back, not spend your time paddling? Many local marinas offer boat rentals or pontoon tours, so you can feel the salt spray on your skin without the work involved on a kayak. Many rentals offer sunset tours, dolphin watches, or fishing charters. Good Time Charters, 4765 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, is a one-stop shop for kayak rentals and fishing charters. Call 239-218-8014 for more information.

If you want to get further away from the bustle of the coast, search for sailing rentals. Companies or individuals, like Dave Richardson of Sundance Sailing, 239-565-5690, will take you out for a day or half day just to enjoy the open blue.

Have a picnic in the park

Nothing makes summer more relaxing -and not to mention fun, than taking in an outdoor picnic. Southwest Florida is brimming with great places to chill out and get some tasty grub.

One such place is Lynn Hall Park, right here on Fort Myers Beach.

Lynn Hall Park has a few shaded pavilions available for those hot days, picnic tables and barbecue grills. Bathrooms and a playground also are on site. Lynn Hall Park is at 950 Estero Blvd.

Just north, Bowditch Point Park at 50 Estero Blvd., offers a picnic hotspot as well as a wilderness trail. This tip-of-the-island park is 17 acres, with approximately seven acres as a developed park for passive recreational use and the remaining 10 acres a restoration/preserve area.

The Gulf front is more active while still providing a relaxed atmosphere for walkers, swimmers and sunbathers. Walking trails, through the restoration/preserve area, carry you through varied environments and offers an excellent opportunity for bird watching while being highlighted by panoramic views of Estero Bay.

Feel like venturing a little further south down the Beach? Lovers Key State Park also is a perfect spot for a picnic.

The park offers additional fun with kayak and bike rentals, which help accent the spectacular scenery at the park. It has more than 8 miles of nature trails to walk or bike, and with lots of wildlife calling the park their home, you're sure to spot a turtle, shorebirds or even a manatee.

Lover's Key State Park is at 8700 Estero Blvd. For more information on Lovers Key State Park, call 436-4588 or visit www.floridastateparks.org.

Don't want to take a hike? Just at the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge, you can get your game on in the sand volleyball courts at Crescent Beach Family Park. Crescent Beach Family Park is at 1100 Estero Blvd.

Escape afternoon showers

In Florida, when it rains, it pours. If you're looking for something to do when the weather stops your beach plans, check out the Fort Myers Beach Theater at 6425 Estero Boulevard. The locally-owned theater offers newly-released movies for all ages. While you're there, you can even have a snack or dinner: the theater offers items like tacos, sandwiches and ice cream. For schedules, menus and showtimes, visit fmbtheater.com or call (239) 765-9000.

Can't sit still? Visitors can buy a day pass to Bay Oaks Recreation Center and shoot some hoops or work out while the clouds rumble. Located at 2731 Oak Street, the rec center costs $4 for an adult day pass, $2 for a child under 12, or $8 for a family.

If the sun comes back out, you can also go to the Bay Oaks pool for $3.50 per adult and $1.50 per child per day.

The rec center is open from 7:30 a.m.to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.to 9 p.m. Saturday. The pool's hours vary by season, visit fortmyersbeachfl.gov for more information.

Dive into history and culture

Estero Island has a long and fascinating history. If you'd like to do something else for an afternoon besides the beach, visit the Mound House. Located at 451 Connecticut Street, the historical site is the location of a 2,000-year-old shell mound of the Calusa Indians, a base for Cuban fishermen to prepare their catches to ship back to Cuba, and home to the oldest home on Fort Myers Beach. The Mound House includes a museum and beautiful grounds. Admission onto the grounds is free; the museum costs $10 for adults, $8 to college students with a school ID, and $5 for children ages 6 to 12 years. Volunteers and staff also offer a variety of activities, such as museum tours, kayak tours and craft classes. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 1 through April 30; and Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 9 a.m. To 4 p.m. from May 1 to Dec. 31. Go to moundhouse.org for more information.

For more history, check out the Estero Island Historical Society, located at 161 Bay Road. The society is located within a 1921 cottage, and houses a wealth of historical photos, books and interesting tidbits about the island. The society also sells homemade sea grape jelly, a family recipe of one of its members. The society is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until noon.

Get lost in nature

After you're finished at the Estero Island Historical Society, you can walk outside onto the trailhead of the Matanzas Pass Preserve at 199 Bay Road. There are no admission costs. The nature preserve is open from dawn until dusk every day and is ADA compatible; many of its pathways are on boardwalks, although some sections are more primitive. Explore nearly 60 acres of oak hammock and mangrove canopies through 1.25 miles of trails. Make sure to take a moment to rest under a pavilion that overlooks Estero Bay at the end of Smith Trail and David Simpson Trail. The preserve is a designated Great Florida Birding Trail, so look out for many of Florida's native birds.

Just across the Big Carlos Pass Bridge is Lovers Key State Park, 8700 Estero Boulevard.

The park is a hot spot for wildlife, which can be seen both on land and on water. In addition to having a beach, you can walk its more than 7 miles of trails or rent kayaks, canoes and paddleboards to float along the mangroves. The park is open from 8 a.m. until sundown; admission is $8 for vehicles, and $4 for motorcycles and $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Hitch a ride on alternative wheels

If you're staying off-island and want to avoid searching for parking on Fort Myers Beach, the easiest solution is to hop aboard LeeTran's Beach Park & Ride trolley.

The park and ride facility is at 11101 Summerlin Square Drive, just a few miles from the beach. Visitors can park their car at this secure facility for free and catch a ride down to the beach for just 75 cents per person. An all-day pass is $2. Drivers cannot give change, so exact change is needed for your ride. You can purchase day passes at Publix, nearby.

The trolley has space for coolers and beach chairs. It will take you to Bowditch Point and back; there are several stops to choose from along the way.

Trolleys begin running at the facility at 7:05 a.m.and end at 8:45 p.m., 7 days a week.

Don't want to rent a car during your stay on the beach? The park and ride facility is also a connector to the Route 50 bus , which is a direct bus from Southwest Florida Regional Airport (RSW) to the park and ride.

LeeTran also introduced a fun new way to ride through Fort Myers Beach's most popular area of the north end of the island: the beach tram. This open air tram is hop-on, hop-off, and free to ride. It travels from Bowditch Point to the Fort Myers Beach Library and back with many stops in between for you to get on or off. It stops at all the trolley stops about every 20 minutes depending on traffic. The tram will go out of service for the summer April 11.

Schedules and bus numbers shift in April; go to leegov.com/leetran for more information or download the free smartphone app, Ride LeeTran.

Phone: 239-765-6794

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