There is much to do in this sunny southwest corner of Florida.

When most people think of Florida, the beach is probably the first thing that comes to mind. However, Fort Myers has a lot more to offer. Whether it’s downtown activities, a relaxing island or an amazing restaurant, this small city has plenty of sights to see and things to do.

Sanibel Island, The Seashell Capital of the World

Groups that are coming to the Sunshine State for the actual sunshine must take a journey to Sanibel Island. Because the island runs east to west, shells get caught by the underwater shelf and wash up in clusters along the shore. Although it’s a 50-minute drive from downtown Fort Myers, the white sand between your toes and the abundance of seashells you can collect make it well worth the trip.

Two-thirds of the island is protected land, so expect to see many bird species as well as a spotting of endangered loggerhead sea turtles or even manatees relaxing in shallow waters. The beaches and state parks often offer water rentals that groups can take part in, such as kayaking, paddle boarding, or boating where you may see all types of wildlife.

Besides nature, visitors can browse art galleries, local boutiques and enjoy fresh seafood cuisine.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers

Edison and Ford Winter Estates. credit

Edison and Ford Winter Estates. credit

This must-see attraction is located right next to the Caloosahatchee River which features a historical museum and a 21-acre botanical garden. Group tours are offered by local historians and take you through the historic homes and gardens of the Edison and Ford families. Groups can also enjoy a group cruise along the Caloosahatchee River where visitors can spot native species while listening to a narrated audio tour.

If you get hungry after the tour, dining is available at The Marina at Edison Ford.

Fort Myers Brewing Company, Voted Best Large Brewery in Florida

From the outside, this place doesn’t look like much, but it happens to be the most popular brewery in the area. The open seating plan encourages mingling between strangers in addition to the wide selection of hand-crafted brews. Weekly events are also offered here, from Happy Hour Mondays, Tuesday Trivia Night, Burger Night Wednesday, and the favorite Food Truck Rally every Thursday. There’s something for everyone in your group, just make sure to show up early because it can get crowded.

Fort Myers River District

Although the downtown area isn’t considered a “hidden” gem, it’s still a gem that’s fun to explore with friends. Made up of cobblestone roads and dotted with street art, the River District has plenty to see. From quaint coffee shops like Bennett’s Fresh Roast, to a slice of heaven from Downtown House of Pizza, your taste buds will thank you.

Before you come, check out the event calendar online and look at what’s going on the time you’re there. The Art Fest, Music Walk and the classic car cruise-in are all favorites among locals.

Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium, Fort Myers

Interested in the plants, animals, and environment of southwest Florida? Venture out to the nonprofit environmental organization Calusa Nature Center. Located on 105 acres, this attraction offers a natural history museum with live animals for teaching, three nature trails, a butterfly house, a bird aviary and a planetarium. The planetarium is the only one is southwest Florida and has seats for up to 87 people. The shows are three times daily and provide a guide to the current sky. Check out the nighttime laser light shows that are accompanied by music classics like Pink Floyd. Groups can also rent out the Iona House for special events.

Tin City Waterfront Shops & Dining, Naples

A twist on the regular shopping outlets, this rustic and charming market sells local handmade items and antiques. Groups can stroll through and buy food, wine, seashells, candles, and much more. If you’re interested in adventurous water-based activities Cruise Naples offers fishing excursions, dolphin watches, and sunset cruises.

Afterward, walk down 5th avenue, filled with restaurants and boutiques and head down to the beach which is only a short walk through a local neighborhood.

Whatever journey your group decides to embark on, the Fort Myers area has plenty of opportunities to make long-lasting memories.

by Veronica Breitfeller