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Enjoy fun in the Fort Myers sun with these water-based activities
Fort Myers is a dream destination for beach lovers and those who like to get out and play on the water. In fact, there are so many options to choose from, you may need to make at least a few trips to this southwest Florida town if you hope to experience them all.
Paddling across the water in a kayak is a fabulous way to connect with nature, and Fort Myers offers a number of notable spots for doing just that, including Lovers Key Beach. Concessionaires offer kayak rentals if you don’t have your own, and as the beach is a stop along the Great Calusa Blueway, a 190-mile water trail, it provides excellent access to this route that gently threads through the southwestern portion of the state. One of the finest paddling trails in the U.S., it offers a close-up look at all sorts of fascinating creatures, including playful dolphins and friendly manatees, while hundreds of resident birds can be spotted too. Watch for the beautiful spoonbills that frequently preen in the shallows, and the magnificent osprey that rises from the waters with fish clenched in its talons.
If you’d like to take a tour, kayak tours are available through Adventures Kayaking in Estero Bay, where the thick seagrass beds provide homes for a wealth of critters, including dolphins, manatees and a wealth of birds. Along the way, your guide will point out the highlights while providing an education about the history of the area, the mangroves, Calusa Native American culture, and a variety of wildlife facts.
If you’re up for an incredible thrill, parasailing over Fort Myers Beach offers one of the most unforgettable experiences of a lifetime. Riders soar some 500 feet above the water, enjoying jaw-dropping panoramic views of the beach and the glistening Gulf of Mexico. You’ll even have the chance to take that exhilaration up a notch by engaging in a variety of free fall dips, from a more gentle dip that will allow your toes to touch the water to a heart-pounding free fall that will leave you soaked.
Stand up paddle boarding
Stand up paddle boarding, or SUP, is one of the fastest growing watersports around. Sort of a cross between kayaking and surfing, it’s a really fun way to get out on the water and get some exercise at the same time. It also provides a great opportunity to check out the local wildlife while manoeuvring through the water using nearly effortless strokes. Just keep your head held high so you don’t miss that curious manatee swimming up to say hello.
SUP rentals are available at Ft. Myers beach and allowed in the shallow, calm waters just off shore, which are perfect for learning the basics of the sport. Lovers Key Adventures offers three separate launching areas, like the estuary which gets little to no wind and is excellent for wildlife watching. You can paddle the waters of the Back Bay, which will lead you to New Pass and the Gulf, when the tides are right, and when the ocean waters are calm, you can even embark on a peaceful paddle out to sea. When waters are rough, you’ll have the option to take part in the thrill of surfing the waves. Guided tours are possible too, and include a 30-minute lesson for beginners.
If you’re not in the mood for much in the way of challenging physical activity, you can always get out on the water via a boat. It’s another fun option for exploring some of the region’s most picturesque areas that can’t be reached by car. Charter a boat and go island-hopping, or book one of the many cruises available, from sunset cruises and snorkeling excursions, there is practically an endless list of options to choose from. If you’ve got the skills, you can rent everything from sailboats to pontoon boats and head out on your own. Even if you don’t, Fort Myers is a fantastic place to learn to sail, with a wide variety of lessons available for everyone from beginners to the most advanced.
Fort Myers is a fishing paradise. Everywhere you look near the shoreline, you’ll see people hanging out around a pier, bridge or even right on the beach, hoping for a bite. The pier in downtown Fort Myers Beach is a popular spot, with just some of the fish commonly caught here including mangrove snapper, spotted sea trout, flounder, bluefish, redfish and Spanish mackerel. Lovers Key State Park is another ideal place to fish, with a wide range of opportunities among the hundreds of mangrove islands and beaches. Just about anywhere you go in the park where there’s water, avid fishermen and women say you’re likely to catch quite a bit by using live shrimp for bat, including yellow tail snapper and flounder.
Of course, offshore fishing is a popular pastime too, and there are a multitude of chartering options for deep sea fishing in the Gulf, whether you’re seeking snapper, amberjack, barracuda or grouper. Most include expert fishing guides that will take you out to some of the best spots around, and provide you with all the gear you need for catching those big fish, including poles, reels and bait. Many also offer ice to store your fish and filleting services too.
Booking a charter means that the boat’s licence covers the passengers, so you won’t need to obtain your own recreational saltwater fishing licence unless you plan to head out on your own at some point. In that case, be sure to get one, the cost is reasonable (currently $17 for a 3-day licence and $30 for 7 days) and much cheaper than being fined penalties for going without.
Who doesn’t love dolphins? You don’t want to leave Fort Myers without having seen one of the playful creatures out on the water, and there are an extensive array of options for getting a close-up look. Guided boat tours from Fort Myers Beach will take you out for an unforgettable excursion to observe dolphins in their natural, wild environment. In addition to dolphins, you’re likely to see manatees as well as birds like osprey, pelicans and even spoonbill.
Most trips include an expert like a Certified Master Naturalist or Marine Biologist who will also teach you about the area’s diverse ecosystem and other sea life, such as conchs, sea horses and sea urchins. Some also stop at a remote shelling barrier island where you can look for shells and check out some of the marine life found along the shore.
Beaches and shelling
Of course, the Fort Myers area is renowned for its beautiful beaches and beachcombing opportunities too. After all, you won’t be able to spend all of your time out on the water, right? You can enjoy lounging on the seven-mile stretch of soft white sands at Fort Myers Beach, or head to one of the four barrier islands between Fort Myers and Bonita Beaches that make up Lovers Key, which feature boardwalks that help visitors navigate the two miles of pristine sands.
If you’re into shell collecting, you should know that it’s one of the area’s most popular activities, attracting enthusiasts from across the globe to gather some of their favourites. While shells can be found on just about every beach, Sanibel and Captiva islands tend to offer the most due to their unique geography, with shells covering the sands.
Now that you know just how much Fort Myers has to offer when it comes to fun in the sun, and on the water, you might just want to extend that holiday a little bit longer!