How to plan a family vacation in Fort Myers, Florida
Fort Myers, Florida is a great place to take a family vacation. We’ve visited multiple times over the years and we love the area so much that we would consider getting a rental home. The Fort Myers area offers great beaches, shelling, sunsets, and options for all budgets.
Is Fort Myers family friendly?
Yes! Like all cities that one visits, some areas are better than others. For instance, for a family-friendly vacation, I recommend the south end of Fort Myers Beach because of the laid-back vibe and lack of parties. The north end of the island tends to get more of the nightlife crowd because of its proximity to dining and nightclubs.
Sanibel Island is very close to Fort Myers and also offers a place for a quiet, family vacation.
Fort Myers Florida Airport Tips
Fort Myers airport (RSW) is easy to navigate. It’s small enough to handle with kids but large enough to offer United, American, Delta, Southwest, Spirit, and Frontier airlines. Dining and shopping options aren’t great, so you may want to eat before departure or pack some snacks.
Car rentals are available on-site, but you must use the pedestrian crosswalk to leave the airport and enter the car rental office.
We like to check car rental prices with Kayak.
Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers is the city that encompasses the business district, but most vacationers make their way to Fort Myers Beach or one of the surrounding resort areas. Estero Island is home to Fort Myers Beach. The island is 6 miles long.
I often joke that Fort Myers Beach feels like a mix of Bob Marley and Bob Dole. Lol! You’ll find a lot of college spring break types and a lot of retired grandmas and grandpas. They seem to all live in harmony, though, because you’ll also find the middle-aged families.
As mentioned before, we love to stay on the south side of Estero Island. This area is low-key and family-friendly. If you’re looking for more nightlife, I recommend staying close to the beach near the Mantanzas Pass bridge.
One of the best parts of a stay on Fort Myers Beach is the sunsets. They never get old.
From the south side of Estero Island it’s a quick jaunt over to Lover’s Key State Park. Lover’s Key is the perfect place to spend the day relaxing on the beach, looking for wildlife, or hiking. See my list of things to do for more information.
Cape Coral is a residential area just across the Caloosahatchee River from Fort Myers. Families that wish to stay in Cape Coral will mostly find Airbnb-style lodging.
Cape Coral has more canals than Venice! The town is a boater’s and fisherman’s dream.
During our time exploring Cape Coral, our kids enjoyed the Rotary Park. The Park offers an Environmental Center (closed currently due to COVID), a playground, walking trails, and public restrooms. Rotary Park is located at 1340-1372 Rose Garden Rd, Cape Coral.
Sanibel Island is the place to go to relax and unwind as a family. Sanibel has strict zoning laws, so you won’t find high rises here – the island is mostly a mix of condos and single family homes.
Sanibel Island offers great dining and multiple chances to see wildlife, but what she is best known for is the “Sanibel stoop.” Yes, Sanibel Island is a shell collector’s dream.
Click here for a first-timers guide to Sanibel Island – where I share more in-depth information about where to stay and what to expect on your visit.
Most of the lodging options on Sanibel will be rentals through real estate companies, Airbnb, or VRBO. I highly recommend this 2-bedroom condo we enjoyed at Loggerhead Cay.
Things to do in Fort Myers, Florida
There are so many things to keep your family busy while vacationing in SW Florida! Here are some of our favorites:
There are a few places to mini-golf in Fort Myers area, but we prefer Jungle Golf. Jungle Golf is just a 10-minute drive from Fort Myers Beach, and they let kids 12-and-under play free with a paying adult! This is the cheapest putt-putt experience that we’ve found in the Ft. Myers area, and why we have played there multiple times.
You’ll find no lack of shopping to suit every taste! There are small shops throughout the area. If you’re looking for an outlet mall, our favorite is the Miromar Outlets near Estero. The outlets have everything from Abercrombie to Adidas to Ann Taylor, so you’re likely to find something for each member of the family.
When we are in Southwest Florida, we want to be outside as MUCH as possible. There are plenty of places to enjoy the outdoors, but our favorite place is Lover’s Key State Park. Lover’s Key offers kayaking, hiking, a gorgeous beach, and maybe even a chance to spot manatees.
During our most recent trip to Florida, we parked at the parking lot for the Eagle Trail. This parking lot is located just south of the Big Carlos Pass Bridge. From here you can walk Lover’s Key Beach (we found starfish!) or walk the Eagle Trail. Parking is $8/car.
The Eagle Trail is stroller-friendly if you have a jogging stroller or something with solid wheels that could make it through sand. I wouldn’t recommend trying a wheelchair. Overall, this is an easy trail that is flat.
There are so many ways to enjoy wildlife along the Southwest Florida coast! Some places you will want to check out: J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Manatee Park in Fort Myers, and Lovers Key State Park near Bonita Springs. While it’s a short drive away, visitors should also consider taking an Everglades airboat tour! Here’s my full review of the Everglades Airboat Tour that we took a few years ago.
For more in-depth information on wildlife encounters, check out this post on family-friendly wildlife viewing near Fort Myers.
Where to stay in Fort Myers
Fort Myers has a mix of lodging options. From hotels to resorts to condos and rental homes, there is something to fit every budget and family size. If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach, I recommend staying on Sanibel Island or the south end of Fort Myers Beach. For nightlife and plenty of dining options, you may pick Fort Myers Beach. Looking for a place to make your boating and fishing dreams come true? Check out canalfront homes in Cape Coral, Florida.
We recently enjoyed 5 nights at the Gullwing Resort on Fort Myers Beach. This tall condo-style resort is on a quiet part of an expansive beach. Island view rooms offer obstructed views of the beach and the island and full-sized kitchens and the 2 & 3-bedroom condos, make Gullwing Beach Resort Perfect for families.
We used our Chase Sapphire points to book the Gullwing Beach Resort – learn more about using credit card points for travel HERE.
Fort Myers Florida Weather
Fort Myers can be beautiful throughout the year, but the summers are VERY hot! We visited one year in late May and felt like we may have been burnt alive if we stayed in the sun for too long. However, we enjoyed the bluest water and the least amount of rain.
The rainy season is from July – September. Hurricanes and tropical storms are more likely from August – November. If you plan a trip during the time, make sure to understand the cancellation policy of your hotel or condo, should a hurricane threaten the area.
January and February bring lower temps, but bigger crowds, too, as “snowbirds” head south from the Midwest and Northeast USA. Make sure that the pool at your condo or hotel is heated. The ocean temperature in the winter months will only be for the bravest souls, lol, but those cold days are the best times to spot manatees at a place like Manatee Park.