Ever wonder where the people in Florida go on their vacations? Well, some head up north to visit family and some head to the mountains – North Carolina is a favorite. Mostly, however, we head to some other part of Florida. There's always some new place or old favorite place to visit.
That's why my wife and I loaded up the van and headed to Ft. Myers Beach and Sanibel Island. We live only five miles from beautiful Clearwater Beach, but decided we needed to get away to someplace a little less familiar.
Ft. Myers is located on the southwest coast of Florida. It was an easy drive on I-275 through the heart of St. Petersburg, over the famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge and then I-75 to Ft. Myers. The 130-mile trip took only a couple of hours plus a half hour on either end to get on the interstate and to reach the beach once we got there.
Due to uncertainties with work schedules, we couldn't make advance plans. So we had to scramble to make reservations the night before our departure. Thanks to the About search engine and some links on Dawn's Florida for Visitors site, we were able to find, select, and get reservations at the Pink Shell Beach Resort on the north tip of Ft. Myers Beach, about 3/4 mile from the bridge and downtown.
We had a nice hotel-style room with two queen sized beds, a small kitchenette with two-burner stove, microwave, small refrigerator and enough dishes, glasses and silverware for four. We were on the fourth floor (it's a five-story building) and had a screened balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico and Sanibel Island. The Pink Shell is a large facility with many different types of accommodations – they also have beach villas, suites and cottages to fit all budgets and size of family. There are three pools and all of the facilities are right on the beach. There are two restaurants and boats may be rented for fishing or cruising.
We unloaded the van and hopped back in to explore our new area. Our stomachs knew that we had skipped lunch, so that was high on our agenda. A mile south of the downtown area, we found Squiggy's, an old fashion diner concept with some great looking 50s cars out front. The hamburgers were good.
We noted that the Post Office was located behind it and filed that information for future use to mail post cards.
Driving a bit further down the road, we found a couple of RV parks. The Red Coconut RV Resort has parking spaces for RVs on both sides of the road. It's unusual to find an RV concrete slab right on the beach. Directly across from the beachside RVs in the Gulfview shops was a real French Bakery (that's its name too!). I got to make a morning run for croissants every morning that we were there. Delicious. Pick up a baguette too - then stop at a food store for some cheese and you'll have a great midnight snack.
Downtown Ft. Myers Beach is small. About six square blocks of tourist shops and eateries. There is a beachside municipal parking lot just north of the where you can feed the parking meters at a rate of a quarter for every 20 minutes. There also is some private parking areas charging $5 for all day parking.
If you want to leave the car in the hotel parking, there is a bright red trolley bus that runs often and the tariff is only a quarter. You can rent bicycles, mopeds and Harley motorcycles at several places in town. Our favorite was the two-place bubble canopy moped. We didn't rent one, but, oh, it looked like fun. And, the one we saw on the road was easily keeping up with beach traffic.
There is a long fishing pier. Access is free and you do not need the Florida salt water fishing license to fish from it. Street performers can be found in the area after sun down.