Florida: Ft. Myers Beach, Family Vacation Ideas - Sand, Shells, Sun and Fun. Our flight from Toronto went without delays, as did the transfer to our rental car. No hassles, it set the tone for a stress free family vacation. We crossed over the Caloosahatchee River and entered the city of Fort Myers. The kids were as jazzed as I was to enjoy the perfect combination of sun, sea, sand, and shells. I could already feel the cool sand between my toes.
As we drove, Neil looked at a map of the area. He announced that there were hundreds of small islands. As smug adults we knew that because advertisements refer to the area as the Lee Island Coast. He looked on a map but never found Lee Island. We did discover the very best French bakery, Sucree Salee, located across from the Red Coconut RV Park. During our holiday we returned many times. The quiche is as good as any in Toronto.
Our reason for choosing the Gulf side of Florida was simple, the beaches, shells and million dollar sunsets. Shell book in my pocket, I spent plenty of time looking for special shells. Shama, our daughter began looking for a “Cats Paw”. Our son was more interested in finding sharks’ teeth. At sunset each evening he would pull one or two teeth out of his pocket and ask us to imagine, just imagine, the size of the shark that lost the tooth.
Our vacation days were spent enjoying the beach and slowing down. On one of our energetic days we did stop at the Kayak Shack on the East Side of Estero Boulevard to arrange for renting kayaks. During our information gathering, I also learned that it is possible to rent bicycles, canoes, fishing rods & reels, and canoes as well as kayaks.
A secret family spot is Lovers’ Key State Recreation Area, south of the Ft. Myers Beach is a beautiful park and terrific for families because it is well maintained and has enough to do for a family to keep occupied for an entire day. To get to the beach a tram operates between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. taking visitors from the parking area. Rangers and naturalist are available to provide plenty of information about its earliest inhabitants. We learned that along this section of the coast there is evidence that this area was inhabited more than 1000 years ago.
The beach is narrow and two and one-half miles long. Heading south from the concession stand, I saw that picnic tables were nestled into the mangroves. Some of the huge trees must have fallen during a hurricane. Still resting prone they made super climbing places for kids. We found the snorkeling was perfect in the clear water. On the beach we found sand dollars digging into the sand. There seemed to be hundreds of them. The Kid’s wanted to take them home until they realized that they were still alive.
I also learned from a family on the beach that two boat excursions depart from the park each day. The Estero Explorer is a 40-foot pontoon boat. The family oriented trip is geared for novice anglers who would like to learn the basics of the sport of fishing. They provide the license, equipment and bait along with the patience needed for beginner. It sounded like fun as they explained about the bait and the hook and the wiggling fish.
Our family did manage to have one rather daring adventure, at least daring for us. No one in our family had ever been parasailing. This was our chance. We rented a cabana for shade and watched another family parasail. It looked easy. Skeptical and scared as I was, I found courage to show my kids that I could do almost anything. Before I had time to back out, we were on the Ranalli Parasail boat.
How does one parasail and enjoy it? Listen and do what they say. First a person gives a detailed description on what will happen. It varies by location so no two experiences will be the same. In the Fort Myers version, the first person going up walks to the back of the boat and is fitted into a harness. The same goes for the second person if it is going to be a tandem ride. Next, (and this happened very quickly) a large sail shaped like the top half of a balloon is lifted into the air and quickly the people follow it into the air. What a sensation, weightlessness in seconds. The feeling was jubilation along with terror. We sailed along at a low level for a couple of minutes and then more line was let out and we drifted about 500 feet high. The sight from above is incredible and there are no words that I can use to describe the feeling.
Because when I am not on holiday I am in the classroom, every family vacation even one which includes a beach, also includes a museum or two. Our first stop was the Edison Museum once the winter home of Thomas A. Edison & Henry Ford. The docent guided tour included both houses and the garden took about two hours providing a snapshot in time. I loved the piano and the old record player. The banyan tree in the garden is awesome. It looks like something out of a Rudyard Kipling story. In addition to the house and garden tour there is the Electric Launch River Cruise tour aboard the “Reliance”, Edison’s electric launch. It departs hourly from downtown Ft. Myers. Transportation in a van from the estate is free of charge but there is a charge for the hour-long boat cruise on the Caloosahatchee River.
The downtown area of Ft. Myers Beach seems to revolve around the Times Square. Toward the end of our holiday we decided to browse the shops. We stopped at several t-shirt shops, yes there are many, to find the perfect souvenirs. Lunch took us closer to the water. We ate at The Beach Pierside Grill, where we sat on a deck overlooking the beach and the fishing pier. There was lot’s of activity with people walking to and from the pier along with fishing from it. The kid’s menu had a good selection including fish and chips. Music entertains diners during happy hour making this is a spot to hang out and dance with or without your kids.
In the Area
Lovers’ Key State Recreation Area. 8700 Estero Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach, FL 33931, 1 (941) 463-4588, www.dep.state.fl.us/parks
Estero Explorer Tours. They depart at about 9 AM from the south beach fishing pier and return at noon. The same pontoon boat departs for two one-hour Backbay Ecosystem Tours in the afternoon. Cruise the waters of Estero Bay while learning the basic functions of the basic backbay ecosystem and how it supports the birds, marine mammals and other wildlife. (941) 765-1880, www.tarponbay.com
The Kayak Shack. 8700 Estero Blvd. Located on the East Side of Estero Boulevard. www.tarponbay.com
Edison-Ford Museum. 1 (941) 334-3614 Edison & Ford Estates, 2350 McCregor Blvd., Ft. Myers Florida www.edison-ford-estate.com
Dolphin Adventure Tour Company & Ranalli Parasail. 2000 Estero Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach, (941) 463-3509.
Mound Key. Accessible only by boat, located across from Lovers Key State Rec. Area. Depicts early culture and inhabitants of the town of Ft. Myers Beach. On Saturday’s host an ecological presentation along with naturalists discussing Estero Bay, marine mammals and conservation efforts. Mound House is built on a Calusa Indian shell mound over 1,000 years ago. (941) 332-7992.
Sucree Salee. This is a very fine French bakery open until 2 p.m. get there early for the best selection. They have a superb Key Lime Pie. They make bread in different shapes including an alligator. This is the place to pick up a picnic lunch a different selection of croissants is made daily. Did I mention quiche? 2943 Estero Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach.
The Beach Pierside Grill. 1000 Estero Blvd., Ft. Myers Beach, (941) 765-7800 or http://beachpierside.com
Content provided by the Joshi Family and updated 2011. Images provided by Visit Florida.