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If locals are talking about ‘island time’ and ‘chilling’ in Southwest Florida, chances are you’re lucky enough to have found The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. With over 100 jewel-like islands, creamy shores, mangrove eco-systems and pretty seaside towns on the Gulf of Mexico, where it’s reminiscent of the Caribbean; but really just its own, sweet self, in every sense. Five minutes here and it’s easy to understand the dreamy look people get in their eyes when names like Sanibel, Captiva, Cape Coral and Fort Myers Beach are mentioned. It’s also fairly obvious, why this laid-back beachy icon is most loved by Ocean Florida: the UK’s leading Florida experts on every state holiday secret, from the best way to ‘do’ Orlando to deep-sea fishing in the furthest flung Keys.
Head down to Fort Myers Beach, for seven miles of coast dotted with colourful holiday homes; American sand sculpting championships; 4th of July fireworks; and Gulf-side seafood restaurants where five minutes’ wait for a table only means longer on the beach, watching the golden sun set.
Fort Myers, known as the ‘City of Palms’ is a phenomenal natural beauty inland too, so grab your hiking boots; saddle-up for riverside and forest trails; take the kids kayaking on the Great Calusa Blueway; or go all out at Babcock Wilderness Adventures in Punta Gorda, they have alligators and boar roaming free here.
White shores, blue seas and big skies aren’t the only hints of Caribbean from the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Many head to the barrier islands along the Gulf of Mexico. These islands create the
perfect water temperature and the shallow waters make it perfect for snorkelling. Each one is a unique character, and playing them all is perfectly possible – even in a single holiday.
Charming Sanibel & Captiva take beachy and barefoot to another level entirely. Choose to stay in a heritage inn or gorgeous waterfront hotel here, and you will wake up every morning to miles of shell-strewn shoreline, flocks of elegant seabirds, shyly bobbing manatee round quaint wooden docks, and air filled with the rich scent of flowers, traced through with salt and sunshine.
But this is a Florida family holiday, so you have to ask: will kids miss Orlando? Well, they really don’t have to. Fort Myers is less than three hours drive from the theme park capital, and works classic Florida fly-drive and twin-centre holidays beautifully. And, if road trips aren’t what you have in mind for your laid-back Gulf Coast break, there’s more than enough on the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel to make up for any lack of Disney in the mix.
So, it seems that Florida’s Gulf Coast really does have a free-spirit hidden away down south. And all those tales about cool seaside towns, fishing islands, big shell beaches and ridiculously good seafood, turn out not to be myths after all. You just have to know where to look and the right people to ask.