First, lets talk about the beaches. The white sugar sand beaches are phenomenal. I walked onto Times Square at Ft Myers Beach and looked at the ocean and saw a multitude of colored umbrellas with retirees under them. It was like a college reunion. People were relaxing, fishing, shelling, and soaking up some good old sun. The residents of Florida have a golden sheen. It was a site for sore eyes. The shops and restaurants along the beach were numerous. You can find anything from the DQ to a nice seafood restaurant, but all of them seemed to be casual. They are really set up for tourists as they have an activity station in the middle of the square. I got a brochure that gave me prices for land tours, fly boards, pirate cruise, dolphin tours, jet skis, parasailing, kayaks, paddle boards, Everglade tours, boat rentals, deep sea fishing, Segway tours, banana boats, and the Key West Express.
I was there in the middle of January and the temperature was 80 degrees. This is about 5 degrees higher than normal, but what a wonderful break from Minnesota weather.
Onto Tarpon Bay Beach. This beach is a little quieter. It has some of the best shelling around. I got my bag and strolled up and down the beach with quite a few others looking for treasures. I've gotten very picky with shells, but still found quite a few gems. After our excursion I picked up a few brochures that had pictures of all the shells from the area. They even have a Shell Museum. Not far from the beach is the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. There is a variety animals and birds in the refuge. It is home to over 270 bird species. You can enjoy the refuge on your own or take a narrated tram. The refuge is more than 6400 acres, so I suggest the tram for first timers. I saw a couple of bike rental shops on our drive. It is a great way to soak up the sun and get some exercise.
Our next stop was Captiva Island where we took a 1 ½ hour Dolphin Cruise. The boat left at 4:00 from Captiva South Seas Plantation. We were on a small boat that had a canopy, but they also have a double deck boat that holds about 200 people. We saw a dolphin right as we were leaving the marina. As we were cruising, we saw several dolphins and a couple of golden stingrays as well as a plethora of birds including an eagle and osprey. Our guide told us to look for manatees, but we didn't see any. After our cruise, we headed to Doc Ford's restaurant. I was happy that we could wear shorts and be in a casual environment and still have great food. My dish was a seafood paella. It was to die for. It has a great variety of seafood and sausage with just the right amount of spice.
Next on the list is Bonita Springs Beach. This is another sugar sand beach with lots of shells. I saw more Florida Conch shells at this beach than at the others. There were also sandpipers, pelicans, and ibis giving us a show. This is a much quieter beach, but easy to get to with a great view of the sunset.
There seems to be a little less traffic in Bonita Springs than in Fort Myers. After being on the beach, we opted for dinner at Iguana Mia. I loved their Mexican Food. It was in a strip mall, right off of Bonita Beach Road. I got a chance to do some shopping as well. I wished I was there on Friday, Saturday or Sunday for the Flea Market. I've been before and you can find some great deals. It was too late to go to the Race Track, but it is right off of Bonita Beach Road.
I know I could have seen some great entertainment, but you just can't do everything. People recommended Doc Fords in Fort Myers for dancing to Deb and the Dynamics. They play two days per week including Sundays from 1 to 5. Find the band's schedule on Debandthedynamics.net. In Captiva there is the Bubble Room restaurant which is a legend on the island as well as Key Lime Bistro and The Mucky Duck. The Mucky Duck is on the ocean and has great food, sunsets, and music.
The fun in the sun was great, but the traffic in Fort Myers is heavy. Be sure to plan extra time to get to Twins Spring Training Camp. However, it was easy to get to the small airport in Fort Myers and return my car rental. All in all, I'd highly recommend a trip to this area. Sun Country and Southwest both fly into Fort Myers from Minnesota, and you can get some very reasonably priced airfare. If you get tired of those beaches, just take a boat to Key West. What more could a person ask for.