The Getaway
10 Best Boating Trips From Fort Myers, Sanibel, and Area

The boating experiences in Fort Myers, Sanibel, and Captiva Islands are diverse and alluring and cater to couples, families with young kids, curious solo travelers, and large groups who want to hire a private charter. Travelers get the opportunity to see unique marine life and picturesque landscapes, and to experience activities like shelling that aren't so common elsewhere. The adventurous can try out guided kayak or jet ski tours, while the wellness-focused can hit the waters at sunrise for an amazing morning yoga session.


01 Exploring marine wonders

looking at dolphins from boat

Marine safaris are such a fun activity in Greater Fort Myers. You have an excellent chance of spotting dolphins, manatees, rays, and dozens of bird species up close, and local guides are adept at finding signs of wildlife where others might not. Watching dolphins follow the boat, jump, and play will gladden your heart—our blue planet can be so joyous as long as we look after it. The best time to sight manatees is between late December and early February, and outfits like Manatee and Eco River Tours make the tour pleasant from start to finish.


02 Sunset and romance on the water

Greater Fort Myers

End a full day with a laidback sunset cruise on a roomy catamaran. The ambiance makes for a memorable date night, but you'll enjoy the charming setting even if you're flying solo. Dolphins usually feed during the early morning or the late afternoon, so a sunset boat tour doesn't just provide fiery skies but the opportunity to see these friendly ocean dwellers in action while you sip on your preferred refreshment. You can pack your own food on many tours, but some also offer dining at the dock or on board. J.C. Cruises offers buffet-style dinners and dancing excursions on the Caloosahatchee River.


03 Family adventures at sea

family boat tour

Fort Myers boat tours are fun for all ages, and a nautical adventure can inspire a lifelong passion in little ones. Outings with Adventures in Paradise are suitable for toddlers and budget-friendly, too—children travel at a reduced rate. Children younger than six must wear a lifejacket, and boating companies can arrange enough smaller lifejackets if you call ahead of your tour.


04 Make learning fun on an eco tour

Estero Bay estuary

Glean knowledge from marine biologists, longtime sea captains, and naturalists during informative eco-tours. You'll see the intricate ways nature is connected and why environmental conservation is so essential. Check out Island Time's offerings, including mangroves and the Estero Bay estuary, or go with a company like Lovers Key Adventures so you can paddle through the coastal forest while the guide enlightens you about the area's rich natural heritage.


05 Private charters for personalized experiences

A private charter is the way to go when you're in the mood for a more intimate cruising experience and a tailored itinerary. Tiny Tiki Tours offers a cruise for up to six people at a flat rate, so it's pretty well-priced if you have five buddies to split the fee with. You'll get to sit on a 23-foot Tiki pontoon with open and shaded sections while you traverse the waterways. Private charters and parties are awesome for celebrating special occasions in luxury too.


06 Unveiling the secrets of Sanibel and Captiva

Whether you board the Sanibel Princess Yacht and keep it clean or opt for a hands-on escapade with Adventures in Paradise, you're bound to have a fab time in this part of Southwest Florida. See the Sanibel Island Lighthouse from the water, respectfully interact with the fauna on an uninhabited island while scoop netting, and take in the pristine beaches. Explore the Pine Island Sound with Captiva Cruises.


07 Fishing expeditions and shelling adventures

fishing charter

It doesn't matter if you're new to fishing or you know the ins and outs already—this region promises a fantastic warm water haul for all experience levels. Fishing boat tours provide rods, bait, and licenses, and you can look forward to catching snook, trout, red fish, and sheepshead. Check out Salty Sam's Marina for year-round fishing. But you won't just find fish in these parts. The beaches here are famous for shelling, and with Sand Dollar Shelling, you can hop on a boat to a remote bit of the Ten Thousand Islands for the best shot at finding rare seashells like the Junonia.


08 Navigating the Gulf Waters

bonetta / Getty Images

Take the Key West Express from Fort Myers Beach to the Florida Keys at the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Key West is the southernmost point of the U.S. and a favorite with the pirates of yore and Ernest Hemingway. Incredible scenery is par for the course, and the 3-plus-hour journey on open waters is not the snoozefest you might expect.


09 Historical insights and coastal tales

Caloosahatchee River

A boat tour on the Caloosahatchee River can whisk you past the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, downtown Fort Myers, and bird rookeries. Certified guides will regale you with tales of ancient and modern history and ecology. Ocean boat tours might cover buccaneers, Spanish conquistadors, and other fascinating local topics.


10 How to choose your perfect tour

If you're traveling in a large group after a wedding, for example, discounts are possible so communicate with the companies that pique your interest. Where you go and what you do will depend in part on how much you're willing to splash out and the time you have to spare—tours can be as short as an hour or as long as four hours. Some experiences, like the Key West Express, will be wheelchair-friendly, and others might not be as accessible. Book in advance to avoid disappointment


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