A journey of a few miles can offer a thousand opportunities to rejuvenate, relax and reconnect
Book the flight, plan the itinerary, rent the car, hem and haw about being out of the office with so many projects on your desk. Call the kennel, hire the house sitter, create a to-do list… Planning a vacation can be stressful. Erase the stress with a staycation! For some people, the word staycation means taking time off from work and literally staying home. The need for downtime can’t be underestimated, but living in Southwest Florida means we can take the staycation to new levels. People travel from far and wide to frequent our beaches, hotels and restaurants. A gift of living in such an amazingly beautiful city is our proximity to paradise. We cross the bridge!
Often vacationers like to discover those hidden gems that the locals love, but try doing the opposite. Do what most locals don’t do on your staycation. Surrendering to those tourist traps can be exhilaratingly fun! Break out of the routine, be spontaneous (but don’t go crazy, this is a staycation after all) while still hitting a few local hangouts. Traveling the world can still be on the to-do list, but plan a few staycations throughout the year. Within
this guide, you’ll find places to pack into a day, a long weekend, or to visit throughout the season. However you do it, enjoy it!
A Weekend on the Islands: Sanibel and Captiva
Off our Gulf Coast, Sanibel Island to the southeast, and Captiva to the northwest, both barrier islands to Pine Island, are sister islands only separated by Blind Pass a channel originally created by a 1926 hurricane. The islands are most noted for upscale yet quaint atmospheres. A short drive over the Sanibel Causeway and down Sanibel-Captiva Road takes you a million miles from home. Breathtaking views of the native flora give way to a stretch of sea oats that unveil miles of sugary sand. Be enticed by the quirky charm of the islands.
Come by land or sea. Located between the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound on Captiva Island, ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa boasts 13 picturesque acres of luxury resort. Dating from 1931, what began as a collection of fishing cottages now includes 137 units and cottages that vary from standard guest rooms, studios, three-bedroom suites and two- and three-bedroom historic cottages. Many of the nineteen cottages are decorated in a rustic luxury style. Stay for three nights this fall and earn a fourth night free plus $50 dining credit.
Over Easy Cafe
Begin your day on the islands with breakfast at the Over Easy Café on Sanibel Island. A short wait for seating is the perfect excuse to visit Suncatchers’ Dream, a boutique one door down. When your table is ready, sit outside enjoying traditional home cooking. Scan a local paper and uncover the island vibe that makes this an international destination.
Billy’s Bikes and Rentals
Riding Bikes on Sanibel is the perfect activity for everyone. With over 27 miles of paths, you can discover the wildlife preserves, explore the beaches, or just cruise around the island. Billy’s Bikes and Rentals has two locations on Sanibel’s Periwinkle Place.
Captiva Chapel by the Sea & Captiva’s Historic Cemetery
Enjoy a bit of history with a bike stop at Captiva Chapel-By-The-Sea and Captiva’s Historic Cemetery. The chapel is a beautiful setting that reminds visitors to reflect. Listen to a Sunday service under the gumbo limbo and sea grape trees while surrounded by the sound of waves. Travel back in time while exploring the tiny cemetery next to chapel noticing the grave of William Herbert Binder, Captiva’s first resident homesteading the island in 1888.
Sanibel Island Lighthouse
The Point Ybel Light, more commonly known as the Sanibel lighthouse, will take amateur photography to professional levels. It’s difficult to take a bad shot here. The area around the lighthouse is easily accessible and open to the public, but the lighthouse itself is not. Don’t let that stop you though, the grounds are stunning. One of first lighthouses on Florida’s Gulf Coast, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. Wander down to the beach and touch the tip of the island. Notice Punta Rassa and Fort Myers Beach to the east. Don’t forget the camera!
Tarpon Bay Beach
At the beach access point, you’ll find water, showers, and restrooms. There is no bike path north of San-Cap Road, but the road is fine for biking. Walk the beach on a falling tide and you’ll realize why Sanibel and Captiva are noted as the best shelling beaches in the world! Plop down on the sand sinking your hands in the surf and discover the shiny Coquina gems in navy blue, coral, rose, vibrant orange, and sunny yellow before they scoot below the surface. Get lost in the moment among nature’s awe-inspiring beauty.
The perfect activity for one of your days on the island begins when you board the ship for one of the exciting tours or cruises offered by Captiva Cruises, an excursion boat company. Adventures awaits with plenty of vessels and excursions to choose from. Wildlife, Sunset, Beach and Shelling, Out-island and sailing cruises for group outings or private charters are available. Escape for an hour or two or for the entire day.
Kay Casperson Spa located at South Seas Island Resort
Pamper yourself on your staycation. This spa is a unique haven for rejuvenation and transformation, outfitted with modern mani bars and pedi thrones, Redken salons, relaxing treatment rooms, and a stylish boutique featuring Kay’s beauty and lifestyle collections. Brighten a friend’s day when you return home by bringing back relaxation and luxury with a skincare or makeup kit.
The Captiva House
Located at Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa is the charming The Captiva House. Enjoy a specialty drink before heading to dinner. Gentle Suntan or Sunset Slammer are among guest favorites.
The Green Flash
Named after a phenomenon occurring at sunset where observers witness a vivid green aurora just as the sun sinks below the horizon, The Green Flash is a legendary local favorite. Situated on the waters of Roosevelt Channel, guests overlook the Intracoastal Waterway, the tranquil waters of Pine Island Sound and the pristine beauty of Buck Key as they dine on culinary delights. Start with oysters on the half shell freshly shucked and served on ice. Savor the sweetness of the Mahi-Mahi brazed or blackened with a delicious tropical fruit salsa.
The Bubble Room
World famous restaurant, The Bubble Room, was born in 1979 on its present site in downtown Captiva. Decorated with toys from the 1930’s and 1940’s, photographs of Hollywood stars, and host to a year-round Christmas room (among the other eccentricities) make this one of Captiva’s most unique spaces. Stop in for an award-winning dessert prepared on the restaurant’s on-site bakery. The Orange Crunch Cake, moist yellow cake layered with an almond brown sugar crunch and covered with orange cream cheese icing is a vacation itself. Pair it with a Pink Flamingo and dessert is complete.
Tween Waters’ Beach
Mosey back to Tween Waters for the seamless conclusion to a picture-perfect day. Meander down the private extensive stretch of powdery sand. Enjoy the solitude that the night brings as you listen to the sound of the waves lapping the shoreline before retiring for the night.
“YOLO” on Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers Beach (FMB) is a town located on Estero Island in Lee County. Fort Myers Beach hosts seven miles of coastline with family-friendly resorts, quaint cottages, and the charm of a beach town. The Fort Myers Beach Pirate Festival and The American Sand Sculpting Championship takes place in November, making it the perfect time for a staycation. The island’s vibrant tourist industry makes this a destination with plenty of adventure and thrills for the active family.
Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina
Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina, one of the islands exclusive resorts, it perfect for family fun. It’s private beachfront location between the Estero Bay and The Gulf of Mexico gives visitors the best of both worlds. Relax with a good book alongside the Lagoon-style pools featuring a waterfall, plenty of deck space and Tiki bar. Beautifully furnished rooms with lanais, kitchenettes and an abundance of amenities makes your stay effortless. The kids can feast on poolside sundaes at 2:00pm daily and the game room adjacent to the pool area keeps them entertained. Kids Camp allows the adults some time for a special excursion or downtime by the pool. Bring the kids, escape alone, or plan a romantic weekend with your partner. It all works here!
Plan a Cultural and Historical Getaway in Downtown Ft. Myers River District
Thanks to a recent revitalization project, the Ft. Myers River District offers a variety of restaurants, charming shops, theatres, art galleries and collective space where onlookers can enjoy live music. Without compromising the historical southwest Florida atmosphere, the River District has become a trendy staycation destination.
Book a stay with Hotel Indigo, situated downtown in the River District. Near great shopping, historic attractions and local restaurants, you’ll experience the history and culture of Ft. Myers. Plan the perfect date night and reconnect with your loved one or make it a staycation and stay for a long weekend.
The Standard is the perfect place to brunch in downtown. With over fifty years combined experience in the food industry, brothers Chris and Doug Blauvelt introduce their latest culinary venture in the heart of Downtown Ft. Myers. The atmosphere is relaxed, and the food is delightful. Bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys add to the fun!
River District Shopping
A River District staycation isn’t complete without a stop at Timeless Items of Interest & Illumination, Market Earth, and the Franklin Shops. Market Earth, a local favorite, offers unique jewelry and one-of-a kind fashion items. The socks will give you a snicker and make the perfect gift for a friend at the office.
True Tours Historical Walking Tours
We often learn about the areas we travel to by visiting museums or taking guided tours. Why not learn more about our sister city? Gina Taylor, the founder and owner of TRUE TOURS, wants to preserve the fascinating history of Ft. Myers. The increasingly popular narratives are entertaining, accurate and satisfy a thirst for learning. River District History Tour, Haunted History Tour, Legends & Legacies Tour and Fort-Myers-A Modern Renaissance are the perfect way to spend an afternoon or early evening when visiting downtown.
Visit the Social House, known by locals as SOHO, a River District up and coming hot spot. With a beautiful New York City inspired Garden Bar atmosphere, it’s the perfect setting for a craft cocktail. Let’s Sip About It made with Cachaça, Domain Canton, Chamomile Basil and topped with a frothy Egg White has a smooth and refreshing herbal finish. The urban brick backdrop creates a trendy setting without compromising the casual Southwest Florida ambiance.
Housed in the historic four-story building in the heart of the River District, Firestones is a four-in-one experience. With interior brick and rich decor, the vibe here is historic and cool. The Grille floor offers a full restaurant. Opt for the Paella if you enjoy seafood or indulge in an eight-ounce Filet Mignon Center House Cut Filet. The Loft overlooks The Grille Room and offers a waterfront view. The Mezzanine adds amazing ambience. The Martini Bar entertains with comfortable seating, unique lighting, a dance floor, custom bar and staging for live entertainment. Guests enjoy views of the Caloosahatchee River and the Downtown River Basin and Park. The Sky Bar is the only waterfront rooftop bar in Historic Downtown Fort Myers. Upscale seating areas and décor and mesmerizing views make The Sky Bar a step above the rest.
Florida Repertory Theatre
Work and no plays? I don’t think so! History runs deep through the Florida Repertory Theater located in the historical Arcade theater on first Street. Originally serving as a vaudeville house and an auditorium, Fort Myers resident Thomas Edison viewed his first films here, with his friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. Today, the performing arts hall is celebrating 20 years of Award-Winning Regional Theatre. Florida Repertory Theatre is a professional theatre company presenting Outside Mullingar, Sylvia, and Disgraced this season among many other productions.
River District Alliance
The River District Alliance was formed by business owners and residents who wanted to restore historic sites and revitalize the downtown district. Events supporting the redevelopment include Mystery Walk, Art Walk and Music Walk. Visit the many exciting galleries, exhibitions, and performances on Art Walk, the first Friday monthly. Leisurely stroll through downtown guided by a scorecard finding the mystery locations with quiz clues along the way during Mystery Walk. The River District comes alive as local and regional musicians line the streets. From jazz and blues to rock & roll, many genres fill the air on Music Walk. Don’t forget to grab a slice from Downtown House of Pizza (DHOP) on your visit.
Located at the Pink Shell Beach Resort and Marina, breakfast at Jack’s starts the day. The buffet includes made-to-order omelets, waffles with an assortment of toppings, home-fried potatoes, fresh-cut fruit, steel-cut oatmeal, and a variety of cold cereals and baked goods. Sip your coffee on the terrace taking in the gulf views.
Matanzas Pass Preserve
Stroll through parts of the 60-acre preserve that parallels the Matanzas Pass, one of the few undeveloped areas on Estero island. Feel like you’ve traveled back in time before the popular beach resort destination became what it is today. View native plants and wildlife to the sound of songbirds on the 1.25 miles of boardwalks and trails. The kids will enjoy the guided tours.
Let your adventurous side shine with the most exhilarating water sport on the island, hydroflying. A Flyboard rider stands on a board connected by a long hose to a watercraft. Water is forced under pressure to a pair of boots with jet nozzles underneath which provide thrust for the rider to fly up in the air or to dive headlong through the water. Twist, turn and dolphin-dive headfirst into the water. Propel headfirst through the water, resurface and hover over the surface before plummeting again. Hydroflying a little too daring? Parasailing, jet skiing, paddle boarding and Kayaking are also available along FMB.
Steve and Doris Colgate’s Off shore Sailing School
Learn a new lifelong skill on your weekend getaway! This sailing school, conveniently located at The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina, offers a two-day Accelerated Learn to Sail package that includes two night’s resort accommodations. Extend your staycation with this package designed for families, singles and couples. The courses include sailing for beginners as well as intermediate sailors. Group outings and team building programs make for great corporate events. You can earn your US Sailing certification in half-day sessions with time to play and relax. What better way to spend a staycation?
Keep it casual for lunch at The Doghouse. Don’t be fooled by the casual beach stand atmosphere. The food is amazing! Come hungry. The menu includes hand cut fries, loaded burgers, hotdogs and satisfying sandwiches. The fun atmosphere will have you feeling relaxed and refueled!
Esterra Spa & Salon
A stop at Esterra Spa & Salon for an extensive massage therapy session is the perfect complement to an active day. Each treatment is customized to fit your needs. The Hot Bamboo Massage has immediate effects on the body, melting muscle tightness away and leaving you rejuvenated, refreshed and relaxed!
Fresh Catch Bistro
Enjoy a glass of wine and a quiet dinner all while watching the sun sink in the sky. Fresh Catch Bistro, one of the best seafood experiences on the Gulf of Mexico, is known for professional service, fresh products and creative and exciting dishes. The perfect finale to a day on FMB!