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well lived off Ft LAuderdale and family in Cape Coral off FT Myers, know the areas very well. The water is better overall in the Atlantic. Howver for folks in that area they go to Siesta Key beach, and for my taste go up north to Fort DeSoto National Park, one of the best beaches in the USA. right up I75 highway.
hope it helps your decision.
Written Feb 6, 2012
Address: see link
Although Boca Grande is the biggest town located on the island of Gasparilla, it remains a very quiet destination for those looking to spend a relaxing day at the beach. Tourists started coming to this little town when the first hotel was built in 1911; one of the ways used to promote Boca Grande as an exciting new destination at the time was to imply that pirate Jose Gaspar had burried his treasure there - if such was the case, it still hasn't been found! But one thing that can be found is fish: Boca Grande is known as the "Tarpon Fishing Capital of the World", and as such it attracts quite a few visitors and part-time residents. However, compared with other Southwest Florida destinations, Boca Grande has retained much of its quaint small-town atmosphere. Its huge sandy beaches never seem to get too crowded, and there are more golf carts and bicycles than cars on the streets. The small downtown area, which features several gorgeous banyan trees, also offers some nice restaurants and unique little shops.
Updated Jan 8, 2012
When people talk about visiting Fort Myers, they usually have Fort Myers Beach in mind since that's the most popular spot in the area. However, the city's downtown historic district is also interesting to visit if you have a bit of extra time. Fort Myers was first settled towards the end of the 19th century and the city grew very quickly, especially as it began attracting tourists from all over the US. Perhaps the best known of these early visitors were Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, whose winter estates can still be visited today (http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org) - the drive along McGregor Boulevard to get there is worth the quick detour in itself! Another spot that I very much enjoyed visiting was First Street. Located at the heart of the historic district, the city's first commercial street is still lined with beautiful royal palm trees on both sides. There are some 60 historic buildings in the area, and most of them have now been converted into nice little shops and cafes. We were there on a weekday and the cafes' sidewalk tables were full of locals enjoying their lunch break, which made for a really nice atmosphere.
Updated Jan 8, 2012
The city of Punta Gorda was settled in the early 1880s and incorporated in 1900, which makes it one of the oldest cities in the area. As such, it features some of the oldest buildings in Southwest Florida, including some Victorian mansions located along the charming West Retta Esplanade. One of these, the A.C. Freeman House, is now home to the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce and can be visited free of charge on weekdays. Across the street from the Freeman House you'll find Gilchrist Park, which stretches all the way to Fishermen's Village. This city park features a number of amenities such as picnic tables, tennis courts, walking paths and fishing piers, all overlooking Charlotte Harbor. Downtown Punta Gorda is also a great place to go if you're looking for a good restaurant: for such a small city, it offers a surprising selection of fine-dining options as well as more casual eateries.
Written Jan 8, 2012
It seems like no matter where you are in the Port Charlotte area, there's always a park or nature reserve nearby. In our case, the closest one to our house was the Port Charlotte Beach Park, and not a day went by that we didn't spend some time there, whether it was to go fishing on the pier, to read on the beach, watch the sunset, play tennis or go for a swim. With a population of less than 50,000 people, Port Charlotte isn't exactly a huge city, but it was still nice to have the opportunity of getting away from it all simply by walking down the street. Everyone we met at the park was chatty and friendly, which made it easy to see that there was a strong sense of community in the area and that permanent residents enjoy welcoming new comers.
Written Jan 8, 2012
Address: 4500 Harbor Boulevard
The main reason why my in-laws chose to spend the winter in Southwest Florida is because of the area's reputation as one of the best fishing spots in the US. Of course, after spending last winter fishing in Belize, we knew that the experience in Punta Gorda would be slightly less exotic, but we still wanted to give it a try so we decided to charter one of King Fisher Fleet's fishing boat for an afternoon. We met with Captain Mitch at the marina; he had already prepared all the gear and bait we'd need and so after the usual safety instructions we were on our way to fish in Charlotte Harbor. I very much enjoyed our little fishing adventure: we caught quite a few fish - nothing big, but still! - and Captain Mitch turned out to be quite a character! I think I had just as much fun listening to his stories as I did fishing :o) Since I was by far the less experienced of the group, Captain Mitch helped me out quite a bit, which made me think that families with young children would probably be in good hands with him. However, if you have more experience, you might want to consider renting your own boat since fishing in Charlotte Harbor is simple enough.
Updated Jan 8, 2012
Address: 1200 W. Retta Esplanade
Sanibel Island is located between Captiva and Fort Myers; in fact, Sanibel and Captiva used to be the same island until it was separated in two by a hurricane in 1926. Sanibel was first settled in 1833, and it soon became obvious that a lighthouse would be needed. It took a few years, but eventually the early residents witnessed the construction of the Sanibel Lighthouse in 1884, the first structure of the kind to be built north of Key West. The lighthouse itself is not open to the public but its grounds have been turned into a wildlife refuge that people can visit for free, along with the beautiful beach that stretches at the eastern tip of the island. One of the interesting things about Sanibel is that when the causeway was built in 1963 (prior to that, the island could only be reached by ferry), residents took action to make sure the island wouldn't be targeted by greedy developers, and it worked! Buildings cannot be more than two stories high and restaurant chains are not allowed on Sanibel, the only exception being a Dairy Queen that opened before the law came into effect. Also, almost half of the island's land area is now part of the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a mangrove habitat where hundreds of birds species can be observed. Sanibel is also one of Florida's most famous shelling spots, and all of this contributes to making this small island a must-see destination for nature lovers!
Updated Jan 2, 2012
From Fort Myers, you can take the Sanibel Causeway to get to the small islands of Sanibel (see my other tip) and Captiva. Captiva is the smallest of the two, and if you follow the main road you will eventually reach what could be described as the heart of this tiny village. From there, most streets lead to the beach where people gather towards the end of the day to watch the sunset. The area surrounding the Mucky Duck pub is especially popular since you can grab a drink at the bar and bring it down to the beach. Once the sun has come down, you can stick around to have dinner at one of the island's restaurants and find out more about tales of women being held captive on the island by Jose "Gasparilla" Gaspar, a pirate believed to have operated along the coast of Southwest Florida towards the end of the 18th century. It certainly is a good way to wrap up a day in the Fort Myers area!
Written Jan 2, 2012
Fort Myers Beach is located on Estero Island, and this little town is home to one of the nicest public beaches in Southwest Florida. If you turn right on Estero Blvd as you get off the bridge, you'll find a huge parking lot near the beach. It's certainly worth leaving your car behind for a few hours to explore the area. The beach is really nice and clean, and it wasn't too crowded when we were there, but it might be a different story if you happen to be there during a major holiday. Public restrooms are available, and there are some pretty nice waterfront restaurants. There are also plenty of little shops located along Estero Blvd that can keep you busy for a while, especially if you're looking for souvenirs or swimwear. I very much enjoyed the atmosphere in that part of town: it was lively but not too rowdy. Not being as popular as other beach destinations in Florida, Fort Myers Beach remains affordable, which makes it a great spot for young families or students who want to have some fun without having to deal with Fort Lauderdale-type craziness. If you turn left as you get off the bridge, you'll see where most hotels are located, along with a few more restaurants and bars. Traffic can be a bit of a problem in that section of town so unless you're actually staying there, it's not really worth the detour.
Written Jan 2, 2012
Crystal River, Florida is the only place in the world where you can legally swim with manatees. A fun trip is to do a swim one day and go kayaking the next.
Crystal River is about 2 hours from Tampa.
More info at
Written Nov 11, 2011
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