The Getaway
Spending 7 Days in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, or Sanibel

Naples' glamor might not be what you have in mind for your next week-long vacation. We hear you, loud and clear. If you're looking for an easy-going nature-focused trip for solo adventures or family fun, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Estero, and Sanibel are where it's at. We've curated a 7-day itinerary to make planning a trip to this region that little bit easier. It covers nature, history, shopping, and beach relaxation, and you can swap out our suggestions for some of your own finds.

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01 Day 1: Arrival and exploration in Estero

With so many stores to explore, you'll reach your daily step count while scoring some solid deals on your favorite brands, including high-end labels—now that's what we call multitasking. Fountains with turtles, koi fish, and ducks offer a wish-filled diversion. Serious shoppers can spend the better part of a day here, but if you'd prefer to go somewhere in nature, we recommend Koreshan State Park. You can paddle through the waterways, hike bamboo-lined paths, cycle, and tour the historic religious settlement—bonus points for spotting an endangered gopher tortoise. On Sundays, you'll find a farmers' market, too.

02 Day 2: Cape Coral's coastal delights

Check out Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve for kayaking, fishing, and a picnic among the mangrove swamps. The elevated and shaded boardwalk stretches for two miles. You'll also find a veterans' memorial here, complete with a statue of the iconic flag-raising in Iwo Jima, Japan. If you enjoy the preferred drink of pirates, you might want to end the day with a tour of the award-winning Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery.

03 Day 3: Fort Myers' historical riches

Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Walkway to Thomas Edisons home. SR Productions / Shutterstock.com

The fact that Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, two luminaries, lived next door to each other during winters in Fort Myers is a point of pride for the city. There must be something special about this part of Florida if two great Americans chose to reside here for a part of the year. You can peer into their holiday homes and learn more about each man's significant contributions to society at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. When you've had your fill of modern history, eat at a Ford's Garage branch to continue the automobile theme and head for Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, a local wetland and wildlife corridor. Carry binoculars to see the animals. Round out the evening at bustling Fort Myers River District.

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04 Day 4: Beach day at Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island, Florida, USA Bowman's beach with damaged hurricane dead tree trunk in green seaweed by colorful turquoise water on sunny day by ocean Gulf of Mexico water

Sanibel Island's beaches are laidback and ideal for swimming and shelling. Bowman's Beach offers straightforward parking, high-rise-free views, and amenities, including showers, barbecues, and a playground. Before Hurricane Ian hit the region, the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge was a photographer's paradise. While the natural disaster's impact is clear and will take time to overcome, there's still a lot to do in this peaceful nature preserve, from hiking and fishing to seeing bobcats, manatees, marsh rabbits, and a wide variety of birds.

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05 Day 5: Outdoor adventures in Estero

The water at Lovers Key wouldn't be out of place on a honeymoon brochure, and you'll want to spend the whole day in it or looking at it while sunbathing. Hop on the tram to get to the beach. Keen on a workout? Kayak two and a half miles of estuary at Lovers Key State Park. You stand a chance of seeing alligators, bottlenose dolphins, roseate spoonbills, ospreys, and other fauna. Rent paddleboards, bikes, and umbrellas.

06 Day 6: Vibrant evenings in Fort Myers Beach

At Times Square, you can see the sunset, grab a bite, people-watch, and listen to live music. After Hurricane Ian flattened this local hotspot, it's been trying to get back on its feet. Food trucks, farmers' markets, and art have restored some of the community atmosphere, and it's a matter of time before it becomes party-central again. Visit Cowboy Up Saloon for entertainment and yummy food.

07 Day 7: Captiva Island's serenity

Aerial view of the road bridge between Captiva Island and Sanibel Island in Lee County, Florida, United States

There's no better way to end a week in this part of the Sunshine State than on Captiva Island. Your time on this little slice of tropical paradise can be as tranquil or action-packed as you'd like. Loll about on the white sands, search for a collection of colorful seashells, and smile at the sprays of bougainvilleas. Or rev things up a notch and take a boat tour around the barrier islands, or go diving to see the treasures underwater.

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08 Estero's hidden historical gems

Now, let's take a look at some swaps for your itinerary. History buffs will love the Mound House, a piece of ancient history that will make you contemplate the sands of time. The Calusa people used shells daily and built mounds from their worn shell tools. The museum explains the archaeological findings and paints a fascinating picture of Native American life 2000 years ago. You may also want to explore the Estero Island Schoolhouse, the Maritime Museum, and the Cultural Center for a more modern historical context. A self-guided history walk provides further info about the island.

09 Cape Coral's waterfront escapades

Around 400 miles of connected waterways mean that much of the fun in Cape Coral will feel a lot like the chorus of Tyla's 2023 hit, "Water." You will sweat, get hot, and probably also get wet when you rent a jet ski or take the family to Sunsplash Water Park for the slides and lazy river. This waterfront wonderland teems with life, so you may want to go crabbing or birding.

10 Fort Myers' cultural tapestry

Fort Myers, USA - April 29, 2018: Florida Gulf of Mexico city street with retro vintage neon sign for Arcade theater building with shops stores Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Downtown Fort Myers' historic district has the largest concentration of still-standing historic structures in Southwest Florida. We've touched on the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, but there's lots more to discover from restored buildings and interesting architecture to public art. If you'd like a guide, True Tours is a good option for themed walks, but these days, you can do self-guided tours with the help of the internet and apps like Fieldtrip.

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11 Sanibel's wildlife wonders

Some of the land in Southwest Florida is protected to preserve the wildlife's natural habitat. Captain Bob's eco-tours can give you more insight into the local ecology aboard an airboat. CROW is another attraction worth putting on your agenda. It's a clinic for animal rehabilitation staffed by passionate volunteers. Then there's the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the only one in the nation dedicated to seashells.

12 Estero's natural retreats

What else can you do in this village between Naples and Fort Myers? You could go camping, but if that's a hard pass, how about daytime activities at dog-friendly Estero Bay State Park? If your natural habitat is in a mall, Coconut Point will enthrall.

13 Fort Myers Beach's leisure activities

Indulge in "me time" in Fort Myers Beach. Release tension at Healing Harbor Massage, a local favorite for professional rubdowns in a simple, relaxing setting. Join a public yoga session or book a private session with Fort Myers Beach Yoga. And if your idea of chilling out involves visiting a train museum, the Railroad Museum of South Florida is a winner.

14 Discovering Captiva's charm

Captiva Island is a popular getaway destination for a reason. Slow the pace down and savor coastal life. Or get the adrenaline pumping with fun water-based activities. Parasailing with YOLO Watersports will give you a fantastic perspective of the island, or try your hand (and foot) at flyboarding.

15 Dining delights across the destinations

Here are our recommendations for eat-out spots in these towns. In Fort Myers, The Veranda, Mason's Famous Lobster Rolls, and 3 Pepper Burrito Company will satisfy cravings for fine dining, seafood, and Mexican grub. In Estero, Rodizia Grill Brazilian Steakhouse will give carnivores something to rave about. Cape Coral's Cafe YOU will turn any vegan's frown upside down. And on Sanibel Island, Bleu Rendezvous French Bistro is your go-to date night location.

16 Accommodation options for comfortable stays

When it comes to accommodation, there's everything from luxury hotels to cozy budget stays. In Fort Myers, Home2 Suites by Hilton Fort Myers Colonial Blvd is just four miles from Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Hyatt Residence Club Bonita Springs, Coconut Plantation is a premium pick for Estero. It's five miles from the Koreshan State Historic Site. Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Cape Coral is a more affordable option, that's also close to Edison & Ford Winter Estates and four miles from Sun Splash Family Waterpark. And in Sanibel, Captiva Island Inn is a B&B with brightly painted cottages. It's eight miles from J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

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