By now, you’ve probably heard of the term “staycation”--the idea that you take a vacation in the place that you live rather than travelling somewhere on your vacation. Since we live in southwest Florida, we’re blessed with opportunities for staycations that someone living elsewhere (Wyoming, for example) wouldn’t be able to experience. As I like to say, there’s a reason why everybody vacations in Florida. Think about it for a second: we live where other people vacation. How cool is that?
While you could easily drop a couple thousand dollars on a weekend vacation to Disney World in Orlando, you could have a very nice vacation by just staying in the Fort Myers area and experiencing the things that we take for granted for a lot less and have just as much fun. That's why I've put together this list of the best things to do in Fort Myers on a Staycation.
One of the great things about living in southwest Florida is that we have a great selection of beaches to go to. This seems like an obvious choice given where we live, but rarely do we spend more than a day at a time at the beach. Part of the idea of a staycation is to experience what the tourists experience and that means staying in one of the many beachfront resorts and hotels.
At this point you might be asking, “if we live here why should I stay at a hotel?” For one, this will dramatically reduce the amount of time that you would spend packing your things, preparing your meals and equipment, loading up a vehicle and travelling 30 minutes to an hour going wherever you decide to go. This is not to mention the time it takes travelling back home, unpacking and cleaning your vehicle and house after a long day at the beach. You’ll save a lot of time and be able to have a more complete vacation. Most people will agree that going to the beach is one of the best things to do in Fort Myers on a Staycation.
Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach is the public and touristy, perennial go-to favorite for spring-breakers. While it is a very popular beach, the lesser-known Bowditch Point Park offers a great public beach that’s wide and clean while also not as busy as the traditional Fort Myers public beach.
I’ve personally stayed at a resort hotel on Fort Myers beach--the DiamondHead--for the weekend and enjoyed being able to walk along the beach with easy access to a lot of the restaurants in the area.
- Bowditch Point Park
- Fort Myers Public Beach
- The Neptune Resort
- DiamondHead Beach Resort
- Beach Shell Inn
Sanibel Island is a great place to go if you live in Fort Myers because it feels like a vacation even if you go there for a day. For a more complete experience, I’d recommend staying for a weekend or maybe even a week in one of the many beach hotels and take your time to explore the island. One of the things that my friends and I enjoy doing is renting bikes from Billy’s Rentals (for about $20 a day) and riding our bikes around the island, occasionally stopping at little shops and maybe a restaurant for a bite.
I’ve personally spent time staying at the Casa Ybel Beach Resort and it's one of my favorite places to go when I'm out on Sanibel. They've got a great pool area and one of my favorite activities is to take an afternoon nap on one several hammocks under the palm trees while listening to the waves lap on the shore.
Explore the City
Fort Myers River District
Have you been to downtown Fort Myers recently? The newly-revitalized River District seems to always have something going on and there’s a lot of really good restaurants that are unique, full of character, and delicious. I took my in-laws down here several times over Christmas vacation and they loved it. The River District is exciting a lot of local people for the unique vibes that are happening there and the renewed sense of community that it’s creating. The downtown area continues to grow and change for the better--especially at night--making it one of my favorite things to do in Fort Myers on a Staycation.
Edison & Ford Winter Estates
While most people that live in Fort Myers are familiar with the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, this can be a fun afternoon rediscovering the history of old Fort Myers and some of our city’s earliest inhabitants--and the legacy that they left this city.
This was a past time that my dad and I liked to do when I was in high school. There’s about 50 (no exaggeration!) golf courses that you can go to in the Fort Myers area, but the ones that we liked to go to most often were the Fort Myers Country Club, Eastwood Golf Course, and Heritage Palms.
If you have kids or are looking for a fun date-night idea, mini golf is a good option. A lot of the mini golf courses in our area have alligators on-site (behind a fence) that you can feed with a pole and some string.
Things to do on the Water
Kayak or Paddleboard
This is one of my favorite things to do on a weekend is to go kayaking. It feels to me like hiking in the water; you get a similar sense of adventure and exploration coupled with the exercise of paddling. If you have a kayak, you can go fishing practically anywhere, but if you and your family are just looking to have fun together on the water, then you have options about where you’d like to go. If you’re looking to spend a day kayaking, I’d recommend Estero River Outfitters where you can rent a kayak for the day and go all the way out the the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re looking for a kayaking adventure that’ll be more fun for children, you can kayak with manatees at the Lee County Manatee Park. Nothing quite says "Fort Myers staycation" like getting out on the water!
Fishing & Boating
One of the great things about living in this area is it allows for a great deal of freedom when it comes to the number of places that a boat can take you to. If you have a boat, you can load up your family and friends and visit island beaches that non-boaters simply don’t have access to.
I’ll admit that I’m not a fisherman, but many in my family are and the amount of fishing that you can do in Southwest Florida is just immense. If you don’t have a boat, you can charter a fishing trip for as low as $30 for the day in some places and it can be a very rewarding experience.
Do you like fishing, but you don’t have a boat? Or maybe you don’t want to have the hassle of owning a boat? You can always rent a boat for between $300-$500 per day.
- Marina Mike's Boat Rentals
- Bay Breeze Boat Rentals
- Salty's Marina Boat Rentals
- Holiday Adventure Tours
If you want to learn more about growing your own food and learn more about sustainable and creative ways of farming, then a visit to the ECHO Farm in North Fort Myers will be a fun trip. It’s a unique and different kind of farm where they experiment and demonstrate ways of farming with innovative low-tech gadgets over high-tech farming. They use this research to teach these simple farming techniques to help teach people in third world countries how simple technologies made from local or recycled materials can improve their lives. Some applications include being able to transform sand into water filters, manure into energy, and bicycles into power tools. They recommend that this learning experience is for children at least 4th grade and up.
Caloosahatchee Regional Park
If you’re looking for a great place to go camping in the Fort Myers area, I’d highly recommend staying at the Caloosahatchee Regional Park, especially if you have a boat or if you like to fish. The park offers a good amount of well-sized areas for camping by tent and there’s a mountain bike trail on the north side of the park for biking, running, or hiking. This park also has kayaks for rent with access to the Caloosahatchee River.
Koreshan State Historic Site
Another cool place to camp is the historic Koreshan site. The reason this camp site is historic is because the Koreshan Unity, a communal utopia based on the teachings of Cyrus Teed, settled there in 1894. This little piece of weird Florida offers camping along the Estero river where you can launch boats and rent kayaks. While visiting, you can learn more about the collectivist society that existed in Estero in the early 20th century.