Whether you’re just visiting Fort Myers for the weekend or have lived there for years, you may be surprised at just how many things there are to do in this Florida Gulf Coast town. So if you’re in the mood for a beach day, are hoping to hit up some museums, or want to explore the city’s downtown area, we’ve put together the ultimate list of the best things to do in Fort Myers.
Beaches in Fort Myers
Fort Myers has no shortage of incredible beaches, and no matter what atmosphere you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in this coastal town. To begin, if you’d like a natural, untouched setting, hit up Bunche Beach. Its ungroomed coastline, tidal flats, and mangrove forest offer one of the most pristine natural settings that you’ll find in the Fort Myers area. It’s also a great place for kayaking.
Our next beach is Fort Myers Beach. This beach is actually located on Estero Island, some 16 miles southwest of downtown Fort Myers. This is one of the best beaches in the area, with various access points and seven miles of picturesque shoreline.
Another one of the most popular beaches in Fort Myers is Crescent Beach Family Park. This little sliver of coastline is actually part of Fort Myers Beach, and it is a great place to spend a day in the sand with the family. You’ll find picnic tables, beach volleyball courts, and convenient parking. Crescent Beach is the perfect spot for shelling and sand castle making with the kids.
Our final beach in Fort Myers is Newton Beach Park. Just like Crescent Beach Family Park, Newton Beach Park is also a part of Fort Myers Beach. The park offers shaded picnic tables and a pristine stretch of sugar-white sand.
READ MORE: Best Beaches in Florida
Downtown Fort Myers
When we’re talking about downtown Fort Myers, there’s just one name you need to keep in mind: the River District. The Fort Myers River District is the downtown area’s dining and shopping hub. This neighborhood is located along the Caloosahatchee River and is home to many of the town’s historic buildings, as well as a wide offering of restaurants and stores.
This renovated area of town is perfect to explore by foot. It is home to plenty of hotels as well, so if you’re from out of town, it is a very lively place to stay. You’ll find some of the area’s best eateries on First Street, so if you aren’t sure where you want to grab lunch or dinner, take a stroll and discover the town’s numerous local dining options.
Another great River District spot is the Fort Myers Farmers Market. Open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Thursday, the Farmers Market offers a wide variety of produce, prepared food, and artisan goods from local farmers, artists, and creators. Explore the dozens of stalls and sample fresh baked goods, homemade barbecue ribs, and more.
A couple of other great downtown destinations include The Butterfly Estates, where you can get up close with hundreds of beautiful butterflies, and the Fort Myers Regional Library, which is a great place to take the kids on a rainy afternoon.
Finally, the downtown River District is one of the city’s best shopping areas. The Franklin Shops are a lovely collection of shops located in a historic art deco building. You’ll find jewelry, art, clothing, and more at this lovely collection of stores.
Shopping in Fort Myers
Speaking of shopping in Fort Myers, there is no shortage of shops in the downtown area, and you’re sure to find something for everyone. Aside from the Franklin Shops, downtown Fort Myers has a handful of artisan shops. You will find plenty of stores along First Street, such as boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores.
There are a few shops in particular that you should definitely check out while you’re in town. First off, visit Naples Soap Company for high-quality soap and other skincare products. Or check out Spirit of the Earth, where you’ll find a variety of rare rocks and gemstones. Quarts & Clover has a number of unique gifts, like crystals and incense, while Enjewel offers a lovely selection of clothing and jewelry.
If you’re hoping to find some popular brands, head to the Edison Mall. Located less than ten minutes from downtown Fort Myers, Edison Mall is home to stores like Dillard’s, Foot Locker, Kay Jewelers, Macy’s, Zales Jewelers, and more.
And if you love hunting for unique furniture, clothes, and home goods, there are plenty of antique shops you should check out while you’re in town. You can spend hours browsing stores like Magnolia Lane Antiques, Eyeing the Past, Retro Home, and Pickin’ Boots Vintage Market.
Dining in Fort Myers
Dining options abound in Fort Myers, so whatever type of food you’re craving, you’re sure to find it. The list of great downtown Fort Myers restaurants goes on and on, which is part of what makes this town so delightful. You can try lobster rolls, hamburgers, tacos, burritos, pizza, oysters, and more without ever leaving First Street!
Some downtown Fort Myers restaurants that we recommend are Ichiban for Japanese and Chinese cuisine, First Street Restaurant & Bar for British pub fare, The Lodge for barbecue and beer, and Cabos Cantina Taco & Tequila Bar for Mexican food and margaritas.
There are also a number of excellent places downtown for people who are hoping to grab a quick lunch. Head to Green Cup Café for organic salads and wraps, or grab a sandwich at Wise Guys Deli.
If you’re willing to drive a little outside of downtown, you should check out Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar. This waterfront restaurant serves exquisite seafood and offers picturesque views of the water. Be sure to make your dinner reservations around sunset!
And for those who are planning a special celebration, there are plenty of upscale restaurants in the area as well. Try modern Italian fare at CIBO or visit The Veranda for upscale Southern cuisine in a beautiful historic setting.
Finally, we can’t wrap up our Fort Myers dining roundup without mentioning the best places in town to satisfy your sweet tooth! Sample French pastries at Le Macaron or grab an ice cream cone at Scoops on First. And you can’t leave Fort Myers without trying some of the decadent treats of Gulf Coast Fudge Co.
READ MORE: Best Foodie Towns in Florida to Explore
Museums in Fort Myers
Fort Myers is also a great museum town. There are a handful of great museums in Fort Myers, each of which covers a unique subject. To begin, perhaps the most popular museum in Fort Myers is the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Here you’ll find hundreds of Thomas Edison’s famous inventions, as well as some beautiful botanical gardens.
Another great Fort Myers museum that is certainly worth checking out is the IMAG History & Science Center. Located right in downtown Fort Myers, this museum has something for the whole family. Some of IMAG’s exhibits include Science on a Sphere, the “SEA-to-See” touch tank, and the Hands-On Hall. If you’re seeking an educational experience that both kids and adults will enjoy, this is your spot.
Another great natural science museum in Fort Myers is the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium. You’ll be able to see flora and fauna local to the area when exploring the nature center’s 100+ acres. You can also sign up for special presentations at the planetarium.
There are plenty of other interesting museums in and around Fort Myers, like the Southwest Florida Military Museum, the Railroad Museum of South Florida, the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, and the Southwest Florida Museum of History.
Events in Fort Myers
You can attend events in Fort Myers all year long, so you should absolutely try to catch one while you’re in town. Whether you’re into art, food, or music, there is definitely a Fort Myers event that you will enjoy.
To begin, check out Art Walk on the first Friday of every month from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the downtown River District. You can browse downtown galleries, purchase pieces from local artists, and enjoy special activities for the kids. On the third Friday of every month, the River District hosts Music Walk, a celebration of live music of all genres. The event is free to the public, and over a dozen local venues feature talent from around the area.
Foodies can’t mist the Taste of Lee festival. Held every November, Taste of Lee highlights the area’s local restaurants and takes place in Centennial Park. You’ll find over two dozen food trucks, and you can enjoy live music while you sample some delicious local fare.
There are a number of other eclectic festivals in Fort Myers and the surrounding area throughout the year, including the Celtic Festival at the end of January, ArtFest and the Edison Festival of Light in February, the Shell Festival in March, and the Fort Myers Boat Show in November.
Aside from festivals, you can see a temporary art exhibition or a concert at the Sidney & Berne Davis Arts Center, one of the town’s prominent cultural hubs. Finally, if you happen to be in town in March, you can catch a Minnesota Twins or Boston Red Sox spring training game.
Outdoor Activities in Fort Myers
There are countless outdoor activities that you can enjoy in Fort Myers, so whether you like exploring nature, trying adventurous new sports, or getting out on the water, there is certainly something for you. First off, you can check out one of the various parks in Fort Myers. Centennial Park, Riverside Park, Dunbar Park, and Shady Oaks Park are all excellent places to spend a sunny afternoon.
You should also explore larger regional and state parks in the Fort Myers area. Lakes Regional Park is a great place for biking and fishing, and you can spot manatees and dolphins at nearby Lovers Key State Park. Speaking of sea cows, lovers of this gentle giant won’t want to miss Lee County Manatee Park, where you can get up close and personal with these lovable creatures.
If you’re hoping to get out on the water, there are plenty of options for boat rentals in Fort Myers. You can rent a boat or jet ski yourself, or if you’re looking to splurge, charter a yacht for a private cruise. For those who would rather keep it simple, rent a kayak and paddle around Manatee Park, Tropical Point Park, or Lovers Key State Park.
And for those looking for an adrenaline rush, head out parasailing on the Gulf of Mexico. But if you would rather stay on land, you can rent bikes downtown and explore the streets and parks of Fort Myers. As you can see, there is an outdoor activity for everyone in this town.
READ MORE: Best Places to Snorkel in Florida
Historic Attractions in Fort Myers
If you still don’t know what to do in Fort Myers, consider delving into some of the city’s history. As we mentioned above, the city is home to the Southwest Florida Museum of History. Here you can learn about Florida between the 16th and 19th centuries, Florida during the Civil War, and World War II.
If you’d like to go even farther back in time, walk down the Calusa Heritage Trail. Here you’ll find a historic archeological site and learn about Calusa culture. Or check out the Mound House on Fort Myers Beach, a site dedicated to this Native American tribe.
Finally, take in the historic buildings of downtown Fort Myers, like the Old Lee County Courthouse, when strolling around the river district. We recommend taking a walking history tour with True Tours. They give a range of tours, including a River District History Tour, and a Haunted History Tour.
Family Activities in Fort Myers
If you’re visiting with the kids, there are plenty of things to do to keep everyone entertained. First off, head out on a unique adventure aboard a Spanish galleon with Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruises. Their family cruise is sure to be an experience that the kids won’t soon forget. If a pirate cruise isn’t quite your thing, but you still want to get out on the water, consider signing up for a dolphin and wildlife cruise with Captiva Cruises.
But if you’d rather stay on land, you still have plenty of activities to enjoy. For example, head to The Shell Factory & Nature Park. Not only can you browse their giant gift shop, but kids can enjoy the park’s petting zoo, zip line, arcade, bumper boats, and more.
Gator Mike’s Fun Park is another great place to take the kids, especially teenagers. Activities include go-karting, batting cages, axe throwing, paintball, and more. You can even try an aerial ropes course or make your way up a 36-foot climbing wall!
Things to Do Near Fort Myers
If you feel like you already know Fort Myers like the back of your hand, there are plenty of things to do in the cities and islands near Fort Myers, and you don’t have to drive too far out of town to reach wonderful towns and attractions. First off, the beautiful Sanibel Island is just about a half hour’s drive from Fort Myers. If you venture a little further, you’ll reach Captiva Island.
These beautiful islands are known for their beaches, seashells, and sunsets. You’ll find J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, which is a great place to go bird watching and fishing. Or head over to Cayo Costa State Park, a remote getaway that is only accessible by boat. Here you can explore untouched mangrove swamps, oak-palm hammocks, pine forests, and 9 miles of untouched beaches.
READ MORE: 17 of the Best Beach Towns in Florida
If you’re hoping to explore nearby towns down the coast, consider visiting Bonita Springs or Naples. These Gulf Coast beach towns offer the perfect getaway if you’re hoping to get a change of scenery. Or head north and stop in Punta Gorda, Venice Beach, and Siesta Key for some more beautiful beaches.
For those who are willing to venture all the way up to Sarasota (about an hour and fifteen minutes by car), you’ll find endless shopping and dining options, as well as various museums and the Mote Aquarium. Consider checking out the nearby St. Armand’s Circle, which is home to a number of lovely shops, a variety of restaurants, and world-class ice cream and fudge.
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Fort Myers and its surrounding areas. Whatever type of experience you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it here. It looks like it’s time to start planning your Fort Myers adventure!