Located in Southwest Florida, Fort Myers is a prime destination for a beach vacation in the US. The beaches in the Fort Myers area are known for their soft white sand, incredible shells, warm water, and natural areas that are protected from overdevelopment.
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With close to 20 different beaches, there is something for everyone – shallow water perfect for swimming, spots for wildlife viewing, and plenty of opportunities for water sports.
We loved our visit to the Fort Myers area and the opportunity to spend time on so many beautiful beaches in the area. While we didn’t see them all, we picked out our top favourites as great recommendations for those planning a visit to Fort Myers beaches in 2023.
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But before we dive in…
Fort Myers Beaches After Hurricane Ian
It’d be tone-deaf for us to talk about beaches in Fort Myers in 2023 without mentioning the elephant in the room – the impact Hurricane Ian had on the Fort Myers area.
For those that might not know, Hurricane Ian made landfall in the Fort Myers area in September 2022 as a Category 5 hurricane, causing widespread damage to the beaches in Fort Myers, particularly the barrier islands like Cayo Costa Island State Park, Captiva Island and Sanibel Island. The hurricane had far-reaching effects throughout this destination and parts of the landscape across the island and Fort Myers beach still look different now.
Not all beaches have reopened, and recovery efforts are still underway. Ongoing restoration projects include hurricane debris removal, amenity repair, and road/access reconstruction.
The exciting news is that more and more beaches in Fort Myers are reopening daily, so it’s a good idea to check the Fort Myers Tourism Website to learn about what’s open and what’s not just before your visit!
Tips & Advice for Visiting Fort Myers Beaches in 2023
With repairs and hurricane debris removal still underway at some beaches in Fort Myers, it’s important to remember a few tips and considerations when visiting this destination.
Safety & Repairs
Hurricane debris can still be found in the water and/or in the sand, and more debris may continue to wash ashore. Beach shoes are recommended, as debris can quickly become obscured by sand.
Some restroom facilities are still under repair. While most beaches have portable restrooms during reconstruction efforts, it’s best to check ahead of time and when you arrive at the beach.
Do not attempt to access closed beaches or travel past any beach closure signs. There may be dangerous debris or other conditions deemed dangerous to the public. So do respect the signs and opt to visit open beaches instead.
New Parking System
A new parking payment system has been recently implemented across many beaches in Fort Myers. You can pay for parking via your phone either by texting a local number or by scanning a QR code found on the information board at each beach. All you need is your credit card info and your license plate to enter into the website. No slip or ticket is issued but your parking payment is registered in the system. Where paid parking is reinforced, fees are $5/hour.
Red Tide at Fort Myers Beaches
Fort Myers area, as well as other parts of Florida, get affected by Red Tide, a natural phenomenon caused by a higher-than-normal concentration of microscopic algae in coastal waters. These algae, specifically species of the dinoflagellate Karenia brevis, produce toxins that can be harmful to marine life and humans. When these algal blooms occur, they can discolour the water, turning it reddish or brownish, hence the term “red tide.”
The toxins released by Karenia brevis can have harmful effects on marine organisms. They can also have adverse effects on human health, causing coughing, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes. It is advised to avoid visiting beaches or getting in the water during red tide events, so it’s important to check water conditions online before you plan on visiting any beaches in Fort Myers.
Red tide events in Florida can occur at various times throughout the year, although the occurrences are more common in late summer and early Fall. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is a great resource to keep on top of Red Tide events with their Red Tide Daily Map
Ok. Now that we’ve armed you with all the safety info, let’s move on to the more exciting topic – the beaches themselves! Here is our lineup of the best beaches in Fort Myers to visit in 2023
Best Fort Myers Beaches to Visit in 2023
1. Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach is perhaps the most famous beach in this destination a and for a good reason. The beach stretches for approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) from the southern tip of Estero Island at the Big Carlos Pass to the northern end at Bowditch Point Park.
The warm, shallow waters at Fort Myers Beach are perfect for swimming and relaxing.
There are almost 30 beach access points at Fort Myers Beach, including Crescent Beach Family Park, and Lynn Hall Memorial Park. Not all access points are accessible post Hurricane Ian. This applies to Crescent Beach Family Park, which remains closed for repairs due to heavy damage.
But don’t fret; Fort Myers Beach is still accessible today via Lynn Hall Memorial Park, in the heart of downtown Fort Myers Beach city on Estero Island. There is easy access to the beach and plenty of parking. While facilities are being repaired, parking is free, but check the Fort Myers info page for the most recent info.
Stay at Pink Shell Beach Resort
Another easy way to access Fort Myers Beach and avoid crowds is by staying at a resort with beachfront access. That’s exactly what we did during our trip.
We stayed at the Pink Shell Beach Resort, a great beachfront hotel
on Fort Myers Beach. With stunning ocean views and direct beach access, it offers a range of accommodations from spacious rooms to beachfront suites and private balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The resort provides beach chairs and towels – a great way to experience the beach in luxury!
Lynn Hall Memorial Park offers restrooms with changing facilities, showers, and sheltered pavilions with picnic tables. Sun lounges and umbrellas are available for rent from All Island Watersports and can be reserved ahead of time.
Unfortunately, the iconic Fort Myers Beach Pier, a popular fishing pier, was severely damaged by Hurricane Ian and has yet to be repaired. Many of the beachfront restaurants and bars were also damaged, but some great options have reopened nearby.
If you are looking for a great spot for lunch or dinner, we recommend Yucatan Beach Stand as a fun, casual place to grab a bite not far from the beach.
2. Bonita Beach, Bonita Springs
Bonita Beach is another beautiful public beach, located in Bonita Springs. Known for its soft white sands and clear blue waters, it is a great beach destination for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.
If you want a more active day at the beach, SUP and kayaks are available for rent at Bonita Beach as well.
This beach is located about 40 minutes south of downtown Fort Myers. Once you get to the town of Bonita Springs, access to the beach is via Bonita Beach Park. Parking was free during our visit, but this may change as post Hurricane repairs wind down in this destination. Check the Bonita Beach info page for the most up-to-date info.
Toilets are available, and other facilities like showers and pavilions are still under repair. Beach lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent from water sports providers right on the beach, but most beachgoers opt to bring their own.
There aren’t many restaurants near the beach, so if you are planning to spend an entire day at the beach, be sure to pack a snack. Alternatively, there are a number of restaurants in Bonita Springs where you can grab lunch or dinner before or after the beach.
3. Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island
Bowman’s Beach is a scenic and pristine public beach located on Sanibel Island in Fort Myers neighborhood. The beach is another great stretch of white sand, but it’s a more secluded destination, known for its natural beauty away from development.
The beach is located inside Bowman’s Beach Park and thus offers more than just a stretch of sand. There are walking trails that wind through the park’s wildlife habitats, kayaking and SUP opportunities, and designated picnic areas. In the winter, manatees also frequent this destination. You can spot them right off the bridge leading to the beach.
Bowman’s Beach can be accessed via Bowman’s Beach Park on Sanibel Island. Parking here costs $5 per hour. It is about a 5-minute walk to the beach from the parking lot, a bit of a stroll compared to other beaches. So, keep that in mind when packing for your day.
There are a number of facilities at Bowman’s Beach Park, including restrooms, showers, paddle craft landing and launch sites, plus covered pavilions for a break from the sun.
Since much of this neighborhood isn’t developed, beach chairs and umbrellas aren’t easy to find. So, we highly recommend that you bring your own. This destination is also free of restaurants and beach bars. So, be sure to bring plenty of water and some snacks.
4. Lighthouse Beach
Lighthouse Beach is an iconic spot on the eastern end of Sanibel Island. It is known for the lighthouse, which stands even today, post Hurricane Ian, as a historic landmark. The beach offers lovely views of the Gulf of Mexico and is a popular spot to look for dolphins, manatees and other marine life.
Lighthouse Beach Park is still recovering post-Hurricane Ian, so not all facilities are currently open. Parking is available at $5/hour.
Basic toilet and washing facilities are available, but many are still under repair. There are no beach chairs or umbrellas available at the beach. So, if you want to stay a while, bring your own.
There are no restaurants or beach bars nearby, although a number of them are located further on Sanibel Island. Check the Lighthouse Beach Park info page for the most up-to-date info, as more facilities may become available in the coming months.
5. Turner Beach
Turner Beach is a quiet stretch of sand with great fishing and sunset views on Captiva Island. The beach was previously known as a popular spot for shelling. However, some visitors have reported a decrease in shells since the Hurricane. Despite the decrease in shelling activity, the beach is still a lovely spot for a day out.
One of the best things about Turner Beach is its natural state and lack of overdevelopment. This is typical of many other Fort Myers beach destinations.
Turner Beach is quiet and more remote with few facilities, especially since Hurricane Ian, which had a significant impact. Parking is available at $5/hour. But many other facilities are still under repair due to hurricane damage, so be sure to check the Turner Beach Info Page for updates.
6. Lovers Key Beach
Lover’s Key Beach is, in our opinion, one of the most picturesque beaches in Fort Myers. The beach was originally only accessible by boat, but is now connected to the mainland by a bridge. It was once destinated to be a site of luxury condos, but the land was eventually designated as a State Park, so that its beaches and mangrove forests can be preserved for all to enjoy.
Access to Lovers Key Beach is via Lovers Key State Park, which was only recently reopened since the Hurricane for limited day-use activities. Tram services now transport visitors to the beach (within 800 ft) from 8am until sunset. The Discovery Center and boat ramp are still closed, but paddling equipment is now available for rent through the concession.
With its pristine sandy shores, gentle waves, and abundant wildlife, Lovers Key Beach is a favourite beach for nature lovers. You can spend your day sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, or strolling along the scenic trails that wind through the park admiring the panoramic views of the surrounding estuaries and mangroves.
Parking is now available at Lovers Key State Park at $8/day. Restrooms, picnic spaces, showers and a few other facilities are also available at the park. More and more facilities are reopening daily, so be sure to check the Lovers Key State Park info page for the most recent information.
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7. San Carlos Bay – Bunche Beach Preserve. This 718-acre natural area includes a sandy beach, mangrove forests, and salt flats that are the habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. Not your typical beach, the San Carlos Bay-Bunche Beach Preserve is a designated Great Florida Birding Trail site. Also, there are plenty of opportunities for kayak and SUP adventures.
8. Dog Beach. There is a dedicated dog beach on a barrier island south of Lovers Key State Park, and it’s definitely worth a stop, if just to watch dogs frolic and enjoy life to their fullest. There is a portable toilet but no other amenities. If you’re taking a scenic drive through the islands, consider pulling over here for a break.
9. Alison Hagerup Beach Park. Also known as Captiva Beach, Alison Hagerup Beach Park is known as one of the most romantic beaches in the Fort Myers area. This is the spot to wrap up a day of exploring and take in spectacular sunset views.
10. Little Hickory Beach – a beachfront park located in Bonita Springs, Florida. Situated on a barrier island inside Little Hickory Island Park, the beach used to be one of the hidden gems of this destination, offering fewer crowds and a beautiful stretch of sand. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ian has caused severe damage to the boardwalks, vegetation, and pavilions within the park. The repair crews are working hard to restore the park, but as of July 2023, the beach remains closed.
Have a favourite Fort Myers beach to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!