If you are looking for a vacation destination for the whole family or just adults looking to relax, southwest Florida is the perfect destination! With beaches overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, golf course galore and lots of outdoor activities to choose from, there is something for everyone in your group. Southwest Florida includes many cities but today I’m going to focus on my favorite 3 cities to visit; Fort Myers, Sanibel Island and Naples.
Fort Meyers Florida is known for its beaches and family friendly attractions. You can visit Thomas Edison and Henry Ford’s winter estates that are now museums that honor both men and their work. Enjoy a day at Fort Meyers Beach and soak up the sun while playing in the warm gulf water or walk among the butterflies and their favorite flowers at Butterfly Estates. If you are visiting in January or early February you will want to visit Manatee Park and see the migrating manatee. At Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, there are miles of elevated boardwalk where you can see lots of native animals such as alligators, woodpeckers, herons and so much more. Want a mini vacation inside of your vacation, than you can book a 3.5 hour (approximate) boat ride to Key West on the Key West Express where you can hang out for the day or book your return trip a few days later and enjoy “island life” for a while.
Just a short drive from Fort Meyers is the beautiful Sanibel Island. You will soon catch yourself doing the “Sanibel Stoop” as you search for the perfect sea shell along the beach because Sanibel Island is one of the best places for shelling. This island is famous for its abundance of sea shells but also for its beautiful sunsets, lighthouse and beach. It’s a great place to stay for a week or just visit for the day with boating, fishing, shopping and lots of relaxing. Check out some of the local cuisine at places like The Island Cow with its super fresh seafood or the Over Easy Cafe for some delicious breakfast and lunch options. If you want to relax and enjoy the beauty of the island, be sure to visit the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This wildlife refuge takes up one-third of Sanibel Island and is a fun way to spend your day.
Last but certainly not least is Naples Florida, which has been a family favorite in my family for generations. Naples offers several family friendly hotel options as well as more upscale and luxurious options. Historic downtown boasts several art galleries, boutiques and shops while a short distance away is Tin City which is a more unique and eclectic shopping area with shopping and restaurants by the water (some of my favorite little shops are located here). Make sure to allow some time to visit Naples Zoo and also the North Collier Regional Park which offers nature trails, soccer & softball fields and is home to Sun-N-Fun Lagoon which is a six acre water park! You won’t want to miss catching the sunset on Naples Pier, but get there early because it is a popular place to watch the sun go down and the sky light up with beautiful purple, pink and golds.
Summer is approaching and now is the perfect time to start making plans and booking vacations for the future. No matter where you end up spending your vacation, be sure to check out some of the local favorites in addition to the traditional tourist stops. Some of the best finds are the small businesses and mom and pop shops and restaurants that may be off the “tourist”path.
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