Fort Myers Beach is a small island off the mainland coast of Fort Myers. It’s a small strip of land that starts with San Carlos Island and ends in Bonita Springs. There’s one major road that runs up and down the island called Estero Blvd. A few dead-end streets branch off Estero Blvd and end at the ocean or bay.
Fort Myers Beach is a popular Spring Break destination, but other than that it’s still largely unknown and unvisited by beach-goers, so it still has a small-town charm feel to it. There are many restaurants and bars but most close down around midnight. It’s mainly a town of fisherman who wake up early to catch the fish, or retirees who go to sleep early as well. During February, March, and April, it’s almost impossible to find a hotel despite the multitude of small inns, bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels, and skyrises; everything fills up with college kids and teachers. Christmas and New Years is also a busy time for this small stretch of beach.
The center of tourist shopping is known as Times Square. It’s slightly misleading because when you think of New York City’s Times Square, you think bright lights, hustle and bustle, skyscrapers, and millions of tourists. Fort Myers Beach’s Times Square is the same in relative proportion. For a town that closes down around midnight and has less than 7,000 full-time residents, Times Square is the center of all the action. There are about two blocks of tourist souvenir shops, ice cream places, and a handful of bar/restaurants. However, the shops close up at 9 (even on holidays) and the bars and restaurants clear out around midnight, even in Times Square. No worries though, it’s incentive for you to get to bed and get up to get your year-round tan on.
Where to Stay
Don’t check big hotel search engines like hotels.com, expedia.com, or booking.com for a place to stay in Fort Myers Beach or you’re likely to overpay and miss out on a bunch of quaint local hotels at much better prices.
Don’t forget to check Airbnb or VRBO to rent a beachfront or bayfront house, but if you’re only staying for a few nights and don’t need all the extra space, try budget hotels like the Flamingo, which starts at $76 per night. The Best Western is a more upscale choice and the more desirable north end, starting around $219. The Pink Shell is a skyrise hotel and condo complex on the beach in the north end with water views and complimentary access to water sports activities, starting at $229 per night.
Pierview Hotel and Suites, starting at $87, is right on the beach next to one of my favorite restaurants in FMB, the Salty Crab. It doesn’t have the best reputation, but it looks simple from the outside. Lani Kai is a popular Spring Break hotel with a great location and a lot of rooms, but it’s a party hotel. Lani Kai starts around $125. The Lighthouse Inn and Suites is in the heart of Times Square with a pool and Tiki Bar and starts at $106 per night.
You can find cheaper hotels off the island, but then you have to walk, ride, or drive over a large bridge to get into the action. There is also a beachfront campground on the island with RV hookups and tent sites if you prefer to camp. If a budget trip if what you’re looking for, I did write up a post on how to do Fort Myers Beach cheaply that might interest you.
Where to Eat
If you’re looking for a hip, average-priced restaurant with a cool atmosphere, try the South Beach Grille. It’s in the Santini Marina Plaza shopping center so it doesn’t have the touristy prices as the beach front places do, but you’ll get good food at a good price and service with a smile. Make reservations during the busy season, it fills up!
If you want tavern food at low prices where you can eat with your feet in the sand, the Salty Crab is the place for you. Bring the family for a burger or wrap or stop by the bar to catch the game with cheap beers. To me, this is the epitome of what Fort Myers Beach represents. No shoes, no shirt, no problem.
Try the Beached Whale for good music, TVs, and ocean views. Known for its BBQ and grouper, the Beached Whale is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike and will have long waits during the busy season. It’s a little overpriced for the food, but you’re paying for the view and atmosphere.
Matanza’s Harborside is on the bay side of Times Square. Go all the way to the bridge; in fact, go under the bridge. Matanza’s Harborside is just far enough out of Times Square that you won’t get as many tourists or touristy prices. It’s a great place to bring a big family or big group of friends and order a pizza or two.
The Yucatan Beach Stand is right in Times Square and gets very crowded during the holidays. It has a great outside atmosphere and the servers keep you entertained. The place gets busy for games and has live music to keep the party going. Mainly a restaurant, it’s also a good place to grab a beer and watch the game. You’ll pay tourist prices, but it’s still worth checking out.
Yo! Taco is a great roadside stand that might go overlooked if you didn’t know about it. Taco Tuesday will get you chicken or beef tacos for $2. Any other day, the tacos are a little overpriced, but it’s a place you must hit up when in FMB. Especially if you’re in town for Spring Break and staying across the street at Lani Kai! It’s open until 3am.
If you’re looking for a more upscale, romantic date restaurant, head back to the bay for Bayfront Bistro. It’s more expensive but has beautiful water views, nice soothing music, and plenty of seafood options. The Bistro is in the middle of Snook Bight Marina, so the restaurant has lots of Snook fish decorations.
Heavenly Biscuit is your go-to breakfast spot in FMB! It has a cult following and is worth the wait for a table in the small dining room. If you’re in a hurry, get your breakfast to go. Just don’t forget to stop by! If you go once, you’ll go back every day. Don’t forget to try the heavenly biscuits!
Where to Drink
Again, the Salty Crab has good-priced drinks and a good crowd. It’s right on the beach, so walk on up with or without shoes and grab a cold cocktail. It stays open until about midnight but starts clearing out around 9 or 10. The Pierview Inn is right next door, convenient if you’ve had one too many.
The Beached Whale is a little overpriced, but a good, friendly atmosphere for a drink. If you’re not eating, you won’t have to worry about waiting for a table, just head right on up to the bar and grab a boat drink while watching the boats of Ft. Myers go by.
Matanza’s Harborside is another good place to watch the game, but closes up early. It’s mainly a pizza joint with some other simple entrees, and the bar takes up most of the restaurant. It gets a good crowd and the prices are decent, so if you’re looking for a low-key place to sit and have a beer, check out Matanza’s Harborside.
House of Brewz in Times Square has 50 craft beers on tap. Bury Me Brewing is South Florida’s only microbrewery. They have a few food items on the menu, but with a name like House of Brewz, this is a place you go for the brews.
The Tiki Bar at the Lighthouse Inn has a good bar setup to make you feel like you’re on vacation. It’s a hotel bar but gets a good crowd for sports games. It’s right in Times Square so there’s always a crowd. Grab a beachy drink or a beer and make new friends!
Bike rental is the way to travel around FMB! The town hasn’t mastered the art of traffic yet, so traffic backs up for hours on the only road in or out. You can drive, but you’ll be cursing other drivers the whole way. And don’t try to take back roads, they mostly end in the bay. The trolley runs up and down Estero Blvd, but it gets caught in traffic the same as any other vehicle. Traffic isn’t as bad north of Times Square, but it still backs up. If you want to get somewhere fast, rent a bike with a basket and use it to go everywhere! Not only is it easier to park, it’s easier to drive anywhere, be it road or beach.
The Beach Theater was one of the first movie theaters to offer food and drinks to movie-watchers. They offer typical movie foods like popcorn and sodas to bigger meals like hot dogs, burgers, and pasta dishes. You can even order a beer! It usually has the latest movies and it’s a great place to go for a night out that avoids the drinking crowds.
There is a county park on the beach in Fort Myers Beach where you can hang out, play volleyball, grill, sunbathe, and park if you want to go to the beach. However, if you have a state park pass for Florida, go to the far north part of the island to Bowditch State Park or the far south end to Lovers Key State Park for free parking! Bowditch State Park has some nice trails to walk, run, or explore. There’s even an empty area with benches that would make a great place for a wedding.
Fort Myers Beach has a pirate ship that sets sail daily called Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise. It’s an interactive comedy adventure on a 65-foot replica Spanish galleon. There are live cannon blasts, a mutiny against the captain, games, and other fun things. The ship sets sail throughout the day, and you can choose either the family-friendly option or the adults-only option.
The exciting city of Naples is only 40 minutes to the south of Fort Myers Beach, where you can have a fancier dinner than you might find in Fort Myers Beach, go shopping, hit up Mercato’s nightlife, or enjoy some Naples beaches. It’s a very different atmosphere from Fort Myers Beach, but it’s always fun to go to Naples for a day here and there while on vacation in Fort Myers Beach.
If you’re in town for a while and start to get bored, think about hopping on the Key West Express to take a fast boat down to Key West for the day (or overnight). The Key West Express leaves at 8:30 a.m. and arrives in Key West around 11:30 a.m. or noon, depending on winds and waters. It leaves Key West at 6:00 p.m. and gets back into Fort Myers Beach around 9:00 – 9:30 p.m. The price is $125 if you book in advance, or $155 if you book within four days of your departure.
A good time to go to Fort Myers Beach is during Christmas time. The palm trees and beach houses are beautifully decorated in Christmas lights. It’s also the busy time so it will be more expensive, but the towns will be alive! November through New Years is the busy season, then is slows down in January. February picks back up and it’s busy through April for Spring Break. By summer, it gets very hot and tourism declines again. There are plenty of good times to visit Fort Myers Beach depending on what atmosphere you’re looking for!
On the Fort Myers mainland is lots of shopping, miniature golf, bowling, golf courses, and more restaurants and bars. The Tanger Premium Outlets are only a 10 minute drive away. There’s also a Walmart just a few minutes over the bridge for all of your bigger needs. However, there’s not much need to leave FMB, which has a Publix, 7-11, CVS, and shopping centers of its own.
The airport is about a 40-minute drive from FMB. You can take a bus close enough to the island to then transfer to a trolley to get on the island for less than $5. Uber is also available and cheaper than a taxi (a taxi charges $60 from the airport to FMB). Finally, you can rent a car in the airport, which you can usually get for around $23 per day.
Have you been to Fort Myers Beach? What is your favorite watering hole? Let me know in the comments below!
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