In Florida, it’s the Keys that are thought of as the islands of the state, but other areas have plenty to offer. Here are the 5 best islands near Fort Myers, Florida.
One of the better-known islands in the area, Sanibel is famous for shelling and its many miles of bike paths. In fact, as Sanibel and Captiva are connected by bridges, interested cyclists can bike from Fort Myers proper all the way across to both of the islands and back if they choose.
The pristine beaches of Sanibel are best in the off-season (May to September) where the beaches are empty save for the locals. For many who visit Fort Myers, Sanibel is the isolated retreat they prefer. To reach the islands, a toll bridge is required for cars at a charge of $6 for entry. For many, this is a deterrent but for those in the know, the toll is your friend. This small barrier keeps visits to the islands to a minimum and leaves the pristine beaches from becoming overrun.
Sanibel is closer to Fort Myers and slightly larger so it often captures the most attention. Captiva Island, Florida, however, is the quieter of the two. Many simply do not drive through Sanibel to make it across the bridge to Captiva and far fewer visit North Captiva, home to one of our favorite resorts.
Captiva is one of the more wild islands in the area, nature lovers should plan on visiting the island when they are in the area. Shell mounds cover the beach with views of dolphins flipping in the water just off one of the most beautiful of all Florida islands.
The island is the epitome of what makes this part of the state so beautiful. It’s a natural wonder, lush with trees throughout. It remains accessible both by boat and by car. It features calm, clear waters where sea life feels comfortable to visit, live, and play. Lastly, it features something for every budget. From small, local, roadside restaurants and campgrounds, to exclusive clubs with golf course and private mansions.
For an even more remote experience, Cayo Costa state park is a 12-mile stretch north of North Captiva, accessible solely by boat, and helicopter.
One of the more popular islands in the Fort Myers area, Pine Island is one of a few barrier islands that offer access by a bridge, in this case from Cape Coral. This long island has a mix of attractions and homes, as well as resorts. Pine Island Sound has some of the best fishing in the state.
“The largest island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, Pine Island offers a small-town atmosphere amid mangroves, three aquatic preserves, and acres of palm, tropical plants and fruit groves.” VisitFlorida.com
Bonus: Cabbage Key
Just off the western edge of Pine Island is Cabbage Key. It certainly doesn’t get as much attention as the island is small and almost exclusively a wooded state park. However, there are some hidden gems. The Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant is the perfect way to view quiet, classic Florida. Bungalow-style cottages, and a cozy, dollar-decorated restaurant give visitors the experience of Florida before the hundreds of daily flights in Fort Myers’ Regional Southwest Florida airport.
Check out the water tower where sea turtles often gather on the other side of the island (a short five-minute walk from the resort.) The island is only accessible via boat.
Fort Myers Beach is actually on Estero Island, though Estero (the town) is located further south from Fort Myers proper. At the northern edge of Estero Island, is Fort Myers beach and to the northern tip of that is Bowman’s Beach. That’s where I’d like to draw your attention for a few reasons.
Fort Myers Beach has the typical beach town experience with brightly covered, sarcastic t-shorts and kitschy restaurants but Bowman’s offers mangroves, wildlife, and privacy despite being just a short drive north of all of the action. The southern tip of Estero Island is also a contrarian approach to Fort Myers Beach as it leads into Lover’s Key State Park.
Lover’s Key is a series of islands and primarily a state park. It’s lush, it’s green, and it’s very quiet. If you’re looking for parasailing, this is not your island. But Lover’s Key offers something the others don’t. Vastly accessible (by land and boat) serenity. When we visit, this is one of our favorite places to spend a day on the Gulf of Mexico, especially with its white-sand beaches, lack of people, and perfect sunsets.
Other Florida Islands
Fort Myers has plenty to offer but there are other award-winning islands throughout the sunshine state. Marco Island is just south of Estero near Naples, Florida – a short drive for visitors to Fort Myers. Gasparilla Island is to the north of Fort Myers about 35-45 minutes and offers beautiful white-sand beaches. Anna Maria Island and Amelia Island are some of the most luxurious in the world.
Key West is absolutely breathtaking and historical. While visitors shouldn’t miss the gorgeous drive on the Overseas highway, they can also take a ferry to the island from Fort Myers.
What do you think? Have you visited Fort Myers islands we didn’t cover?