My heart has always been drawn to the west coast of Florida. Since my first visit when I was 10, I knew there was something special about the west coast. When our plans fell through to travel to Aruba in January, I knew exactly where we needed to go! We were able to plan a stellar vacation to Southwest Florida in about 5 days!
The group flew into Fort Meyers airport and rented a car to explore the area for a week. We were able to find an Airbnb in Cape Coral last minute with a screened-in pool and hot tub, a dock, a full kitchen, and plenty of sleeping and hang-out space. Cape Coral ended up being an unexpectedly delightful location to spend the week. It was full of conveniences like grocery stores, local coffee places (my fav haha), and restaurants. What is neat about Cape Coral is all the canals! Many houses are located on the canals, so we had a stunning view from the screened-in patio/pool/ hot tub area.
The only downfall to the location was the distance from the beach. We were about a 40 – 60 minute drive to the beach due to traffic. Since the drive was not too bad to the beaches, we spent 4 days relaxing on beaches. We went to the Sanibel Lighthouse Beach, Bowman’s beach on Sanibel, and Fort Myers beach.
The Sanibel Lighthouse beach had convenient and clean bathrooms, was not too crowded, and the water was excellent for swimming. There was a fee to park, but you could pay with a credit card. This is a place where many people park their boats on the shoreline and spend time on the beach; it’s really cool to see!
Bowman’s Beach is further down on Sanibel, and it felt very uninhibited. The more rural vibe to this beach quickly made it one of my favorites. The walk to the beach is a little further than other beaches, but it is a stunning walk. You walk through nature and pass nice bathrooms and changing facilities. There was a fee to park, but you could pay with a credit card. We went to Southwest Florida in the high season, so there were a good amount of people on the beach, but it was not terribly crowded. The water was wonderful for swimming, and the beach had beautiful seashells!
Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding area felt more like a beach town. There was a good amount of traffic coming into Fort Myers, the parking was harder to find, and many places were cash only. The sand on the beach felt like powdered sugar, and the seashells were terrific! Some in our group were able to parasail right from the beach! This beach was pretty crowded; however, the two days we went, we could still find a place to set up our chairs!
We had two other days that we decided not to go to the beach!
One of the days, some of us in the group got pedicures in the morning, and then we went to Naples for the evening! We choose to go to Ocean Prime for their Early Bird dinner special. It was an incredible restaurant with incredible food! They even had excellent gluten-free food options and gluten-free bread!! We spent the evening walking around Naples and popping in and out of the cute local shops.
The other day we chose not to spend at the beach, we decided to go on a wild adventure! There is a ferry that goes from Fort Meyers to Key West, so we decided to plan a day trip down to Key West! The boat ride took about 4 hours one way, and we had about 4-5 hours in Key West to explore. The boat was nice and not too rocky. They had decent bathrooms, food, and even played a movie. We rented bikes to explore Duvall Street and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. There are even golf carts you could rent for a few hours too. If you want to see a lot in a short period of time, I highly recommend renting a bike or golf cart! We had lunch at the famous Sloppy Joe’s, saw the Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, and got Key Lime Pie at The Original Key Lime Pie Bakery. The time in Key West was short but sweet. I think taking the boat was a great idea but in the future, I would love to stay for a night or two to make the long boat ride more worth it!
Overall, our trip was a relaxing yet adventurous getaway! I loved escaping the cooler weather in the Northeast for a week! If you’re looking for a beach getaway, especially in the cooler months in the north, check out Southwest Florida!