These cities are perfect for families and mellow travelers. They can give you a different kind of experience in an otherwise jam-packed state.
Fort Myers is a chill and relaxed small city on the west coast of Florida. It offers the perfect escape from the rowdiness of its giant-party counterparts. It features history, development, simple fun, parks, and even more parks. It is best for the slow traveler, the truly curious, and for small family trips.
What Makes Fort Myers Unique?
Fort Myers Beach
Fort Myers City and the charming little town of Fort Myers Beach are apparently separate areas with closely related names. But with their charms usually intertwined with each other, Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach will always be a single itinerary. Despite their autonomy, when put together these two gems offer quite the contrast and the added excitement.
With their draws and charms perfectly complementing each other, you can surely find a wealth of various activities there. From the young to the young-at-heart, Fort Myers Beach has something for everyone. Thanks to its location on Estero Island, the town is blessed with a coastal stretch of golden sand that expands for miles.
This gorgeous golden stretch features shallow, warm, and gentle waters. It is perfect for a plethora of activities that are safe and kid-friendly. It allows for a fun and laid-back time at the beach, especially swimming, kayaking, and parasailing. And if you come at the right season, you might have a chance to spot dolphins and manatees.
Fort Myers’ most prized feature, the iconic Historic Downtown deserves a whole block of day in your Fort Myers itinerary. Also known as the Fort Myers River District, the area is speckled with glimpses of the city’s past and the wealth of its history and culture. You can revel in its old buildings, as you take part in the genius mix of funky modernism and history.
Take a stroll or a slow drive around the downtown’s many streets filled with buildings straight out of history books. Hit the First Street and marvel at its early twentieth-century architecture. Many of which hold historical significance.
In fact, the Historic Downtown’s 540-acre (219 ha) area houses a wealth of US historical landmarks. It doesn’t only have a slew of classic historical buildings, the Historic Downtown also features a concentration of Art Deco buildings.
But the downtown isn’t only best for history lessons and educational city tours, it is also Fort Myers’ cosmopolitan center. It has several hotspots for dining, entertainment, and even shopping.
If you stroll around or did your research well enough, there are many more gems in the area. You’ll find that the area is home to some of the city’s food places, shopping centers, and entertainment spots. To further enjoy Fort Myers under the Florida sun, there are many patio dining setups all over, while living the local culture.
Parks, Parks, and Even More Parks
Situated right in the southern corridors of Florida, Fort Myers boasts an abundance of parks that helped define the state as the US’ park capital. These parks vary from conservatories to natural parks rich in flora and fauna.
If you’re interested in visiting Fort Myer and love the outdoors, you will have plenty of spots to conquer. Many of which are just a short drive away from the city.
Fort Myers, as you should know, is one of the most park-ridden cities in the entire country. It sports protected parks and preserves many of which are the most famous. To narrow down your choices, here are some of the best places to visit:
Lakes Regional Park
Famous among families, Lakes Regional Park boasts fun features perfect for children of all ages. It also has many other family-friendly charms.
This 289-acre (117 ha) park used to be a gravel quarry and was converted into what it is today. But thanks to its interesting origins, now the park is left with a man-made lake where you can do plenty of activities in. You can boat or fish on the lake.
J.N. Ding Darling National Refuge
Accessible from the downtown area, the J.N. Ding Darling National Park is a pioneer and a champion in itself. The park’s establishments and its ideals are dedicated to the preservation of the local wildlife. You can learn and maybe even appreciate more about how rich in wildlife Southern Florida is.
Thanks to a well-preserved and protected habitat, you can see animals in action in their natural environment. The national park also hosts several thriving ecosystems to further cater to a wide range of fauna. You can even check out a resident mangrove habitat inside.
The great thing is that the park allows you to explore the many habitats and ecosystems. you’ll find many activities that can take you around the park. If you want to explore the famous mangroves, you can try canoeing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Or, you can go around the many trails across the park and savor the natural outdoors.
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
It was commissioned and designated by the government for the preservation of Florida wildlife. The Six Mile Cypress Preserve has been a champion for both the local flora and fauna. The vast expanse is home to a wide range of various plant and animal species and aims to advocate for their value and protection.
If you want to explore the park on foot, there is a mile-long boardwalk that takes you around the many different areas of the park. As you explore, you’ll encounter kiosks providing information about the wealth of nature and wildlife in the area.
One interesting activity to do here is bird-watching as the park houses an extensive list of bird species. You might see birds such as ibises, spoonbills, and blue herons. Because of its large wet expanse, the park is also a sanctuary for amphibious species such as crocodiles, alligators, turtles, and many more.
Edison and Ford’s Winter Escape
Fort Myers may not make as much noise as its bigger Florida counterparts but it certainly has many iconic landmarks. Two of which are located right at its coastline, formerly housing two industrial giants of the US.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates have to be the most must-visit pieces of history ever in your Fort Myers itinerary. You can’t complete your Fort Myers experience without these two.
These estates are former winter homes of two revolutionary Americans, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Currently, these houses are designated as National Historic Landmarks. They’re also museums that you can visit for a hefty price.
Edison and Ford were very close friends back in their time who both sought a winter escape from the north. They chose to build estates right next to each other in Fort Myers in the late 1800s. Spanning 21 acres (8.5 ha) together, these houses serve as a memorial for the US’ changing tide in terms of the industrial revolution.
Edison’s Seminole Lodge and Ford’s The Mangoes both offer a glimpse of the history of the industrial revolution. They also house some memorabilia of the former residents of the estates. You can even marvel at the built-in laboratory in Edison’s home, along with much other equipment used back in the 1800s.
But the tour prices tend to be costly because of the estate’s value and its important part in US history. Should you decide to take a tour, you won’t only be touring around the houses and the laboratory, you can also get a look around the seven galleries and garden.
Just when you thought that Florid doesn’t get any quirkier, Sarasota is the definition of underrated, yet expensive. One, if not the most upscale and chic city in the US, Sarasota is home to beautiful beaches and millionaires and billionaires. The city is perfect for families and well-heeled vacationers. Sarasota is perfect for low-key travel with high stakes.
What Makes Sarasota Unique?
The Ringlings contributed several things to the development of Sarasota. They are considered a pioneering family in Florida. From their showbusiness origins, the “Greatest Show on Earth”, now their love of art, and culture. They have brought fame and charm to this cute city by the Gulf of Mexico. Now, after several decades, their 66-acre (28 ha) estate is open for you to marvel upon.
The incredible expanse houses several features such as the Museum of Art, Circus Museum, and many more. You can easily tour all of these with just a single deal. Should you decide to marvel at this explicit slice of history and culture in Florida, make sure you block out half a day.
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art
The museum is absolutely unique and one-of-a-kind, which is why it’s one of Sarasota’s most popular attractions. Classical architecture and art – both copies and genuine originals – from many different eras may be found within the museum.
The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art first opened its doors in 1927, with artwork donated by the museum’s namesakes. It is now managed by Florida State University and is considered the state’s primary art museum.
The Ringling has almost 15,000 works in its collection, divided into six categories. They are European art before 1900, ancient art, and decorative art. You can also visit the modern and contemporary art, Chinese ceramics, and non-Western art sections.
The Circus Museum is one of several buildings and grounds of the Ringling Museum complex on Sarasota Bay’s beachfront. It is a delight to visit for anybody interested in circus arts or art in general.
The Circus Museum houses a wide range of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus memorabilia. This includes wagons, posters, and a full-scale model circus. The model circus contains 44,000 pieces.
The Ringling Mansion is an architectural marvel. When the Mansion was finished in the 1920s, it cost a staggering 1,650,000 USD. And when you consider the amount of work that went into creating the Mansion, it’s easy to see why it cost so much to construct.
The Ringling Mansion has 52 rooms. Mable Ringling, John’s wife, was in charge of the space’s design. This comprises the entire interior, outside, and even the furniture. The Ca’ d’Zan is a great place to visit if you like architecture.
The Mansion is built to seem like a canal in Venice and stands right on the lake overlooking sand bars. It would pass for Venetian if it weren’t for its modern-day neighbors.
Florida’s Most Beautiful Beaches
When you’re fronting the Gulf of Mexico, chances are you’ll find a trove of gorgeous beach coasts, and Sarasota isn’t an exception. The 35-mile (56 km) stretch of sand and surf along Sarasota Bay has some particularly beautiful jewels.
Six keys or barrier islands border the coast. Each with its own distinct character with sparkling white, powdered-sugar sand, and spectacular sunsets. Here are three of the most visited keys in Sarasota Bay to help you narrow down your choices:
Perhaps the most visited beach in all of Sarasota, the beach in Lido Key is famous for its three distinct areas. Each offers different flavors for different kinds of beachgoers. North Lido Beach is a little off the beaten path, with limited parking and no facilities.
Another is Lido Beach, a popular destination for tourists and locals searching for a relaxed but vibrant atmosphere. South Lido Park, on the point of Lido Key, has views of downtown Sarasota and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a picnic area and a nature trail.
Just like Lido Key, Siesta Key also has three beautiful beaches that make up the entirety of its gorgeous stretch. Siesta Beach features a park with tennis courts and a children’s playground.
Adventurers like climbing around the Point of Rocks encircling the tidal pools and coral reefs at Crescent Beach. Boat docks and picnic spots make Turtle Beach a family favorite. All of these spots are consistently rated as some of the US’ best.
On this beautiful beach, which rests on a deep fossil layer studded with petrified sharks’ teeth, you may find a treasure or two. Venice Beach also has pavilion-shaded picnic tables and a waterfront cafe.
Sarasota has earned a reputation as a millionaires’ hotspot in recent years. It continuously ranks among the top US metropolitan statistical areas. It has the largest concentration of wealthy households.
The Sarasota area has almost 17,000 true millionaires, a high concentration by conventional measures. And 2,450 of them have 5 million USD or more. Stephen King, Jerry Springer, Rosie O’Donnell, and Terry Bradshaw are among the well-heeled neighbors.
One of the attractions that lured many millionaires to Sarasota was the possibility to live a low-profile existence. Away from the prying eyes of finance sharks. This option is available in a number of elite residential developments. They range from golf and country clubs to luxury condominiums. If socializing is on your mind, there are plenty of options around.
Parks and Museums
As a capital of culture and history, you’ll surely see quite a collection of parks and museums all over Sarasota. From aquariums and quirky collections, to state parks, Sarasota offers everything for everyone.
With its sheer concentration of parks and museums here are some of the most recommended:
Myakka River State Park
Myakka River State Site is a must-see park for the outdoorsy traveler in Sarasota. It is also one of Florida’s largest state parks. The famous state park trails through unspoiled wilderness, river, and lake paddling. It has an elevated boardwalk over towering canopies, camping, and much more. Wildlife and other natural beauties abound in the 57 square miles (148 sq km) it spans.
Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium
A Sarasota icon dedicated to wildlife protection. Many damaged sea species, including manatees and turtles, have been helped by Mote Marine. You’ll find over 100 different fish and marine critters, as well as a 135,000-gallon shark habitat.
Through glass walls, visitors may view some of the operational labs, such as the Seahorse Conservation Laboratory. Staff and volunteers are also available to answer any queries you may have.
Sarasota Classic Car Museum
Sarasota Classic Car Museum is the second-oldest antique car museum in the United States. It houses an interesting collection of cars representing 100 years of automobile history. This museum features a rotating collection of exotic, historic cars. Most of them are even unique to each other.
Some of its famous exhibits include the 1965 Mercedes-Benz owned by John Lennon. And a big collection of Rolls-Royce automobiles originally owned by John and Mable Ringling.
Is Fort Myers or Sarasota Better?
When it comes to the number of thrills and curiosities for an epic holiday experience, Sarasota is clearly the better option. It has some of the most beautiful beaches and quirky sets of museums and parks in the US. Sarasota provides the right blend of draws for an unforgettable Southwestern Florida experience.
But that doesn’t mean Fort Myers fairs far, the city is best for those looking to have a more relaxed and lazy getaway from bigger cities. The city offers a few draws and fewer activities but it is definitely worth the slow travel.
Is Fort Myers Cheaper Than Sarasota?
With Fort Myers’ cheaper costs of living compared to Sarasota’s plush living standards, it is in fact 6.3% cheaper. And not just living expenses, housing in Sarasota is also a hefty 21.1% more expensive than in Fort Myers.
Expect to pay more in Sarasota during your visit, but you can always be sure you’ll get your money’s worth.
Sarasota vs. Fort Myers Weather
Both Sarasota and Fort Myers have warm sunny days, with only an average of 53 to 56 inches (134 to 142 cm) of rain each year. The highest average temperature in Fort Myers is around 92 F (33 C) making it the warmer entry compared to Sarasota’s 90 F (32 C).
Fort Myers Beach vs. Sarasota Beach
When it comes to beaches, Fort Myers can’t even stand a chance against Sarasota’s well-known entries. Some of the US’ best beaches are all found in Sarasota’s many keys.
Is Fort Myers North or South of Sarasota?
Fort Myers sits south of Sarasota along the same coast, where they both front the Gulf of Mexico.
How Far Is Sarasota From Fort Myers?
Sarasota is approximately 65 miles (105 km) north of Fort Myers, directly.
How Far Is Sarasota From Fort Myers Airport?
Sarasota is roughly 73 miles or 118 km from Fort Myers Airport, directly. If you’re going to take the long road, the driving distance is approximately 89.7 miles or 144.5 km.
How to Get From Fort Myers to Sarasota
The most common ways to get to Sarasota from Fort Myers are by taking a bus or driving.
How Far of a Drive Is It From Fort Myers to Sarasota?
If you want to take the high road between cities, the drive between Fort Myers and Sarasota is around 82 miles or 132.5 km.