3 Days in Fort Myers Itinerary (Plus Travel Tips)

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Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, Fort Myers’ islands and neighborhoods offer a lively downtown, pristine beaches, and an abundance of wildlife. I loved my time exploring the city, and I know you will, too. In this guide, I cover some of the best things to do with 3 days on your Fort Myers itinerary, travel tips, where to stay, places to eat, and more!

3 days in Fort Myers Florida Itinerary
IN A HURRY? PIN IT FOR LATER!
3 Days in Fort Myers Itinerary - Sanibel Beach

Disclaimer: We were invited by Fort Myers, however, opinions are always my own.

This post also contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.


Quick Itinerary Overview

Here is how the itinerary is set up. With 3 days, you will have ample time to explore the best this city has to offer. With more time, you could spend additional time lounging on the beaches.

  • Day 1: Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve and Downtown
  • Day 2: Beach day at Sanibel and Captiva, Watersports, and Pine Island
  • Day 3: More Beaches like Lovers Key State Park, and day trip options
Sunset at Bokeelia Fishing Pier with dolphin
Sunset at Bokeelia Fishing Pier

You can save and open this map on your mobile device with the Google Maps App. On Desktop, you can star the map. It details driving each day, food, and additional activities.


Getting Around Fort Myers’ Islands and Neighborhoods

In order for this itinerary to make sense, you need to know how you will be getting around the area. The best way to explore is by car.

If you did not road trip to Fort Myers in your own car, you should rent a car to explore the area.

Additionally, you can find rideshare services like Uber.

Pelican on Sign at Fort Myers Florida inlet

Fort Myers After Hurricane Ian

As you might already know, Fort Myers and the surrounding areas were heavily impacted by Hurricane Ian (a category 4+) on September 28th, 2022.

Fort Myers Beach Pier
What is left of Fort Myers Beach Pier (also known as Pelican Pier)

In a little less than a year, the city has worked hard to rebuild and is open for business. While some areas still remain closed and rebuilding, many of the most popular tourist areas are welcoming guests, including Sanibel Island, Pine Island, downtown Fort Myers, and Cape Coral.

Some beach areas are still currently rebuilding. But, by visiting, you will help them in the effort to keep small businesses open and get back to the thriving community they are.

After our visit post-hurricane, I can definitely recommend visiting.

Sanibel Island Lighthouse
Sanibel Island Lighthouse

Day 1: Nature and Downtown

On your first day in Fort Myers, you will experience nature and the downtown area. Some of the things you will be visiting include:

  • Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
  • Manatee Park (Seasonal)
  • Downtown Fort Myers

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Start your day off nice and early, and visit the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced slew) Preserve. This stunning preserve is brimming with wildlife and nature. It is best to visit around dawn and dusk for the best chances to see wildlife.

During a visit, you should walk along the scenic 1.2-mile boardwalk and enjoy nature. Walk slowly and softly while looking for wildlife and enjoying the beautiful cypress trees.

Six Mile Slough Preserve in Fort Myers

Fun Fact: The name Six Mile Cypress Slough was a result of when people used to travel by wagons on their way to Fort Myers. When they would reach the swamp area, they knew they were about 6 miles from town.

The preserve consists of 3,500 acres of wetland that act as a natural drainage way during heavy and prolonged rain periods.

Some wildlife you can expect to see are turtles, fish, an array of wetland birds, butterflies, alligators, and otters.

There is also an Interpretive Center, which can be great to visit with kids. For a more unique experience, you can even consider doing a Wet Walk, where you will actually be guided inside the water!

Travel Tip: While in the area, you can grab lunch at The Boathouse Bar and Grille Fort Myers. They are an outdoor bar and eatery right on the marina and even have a pool. They open at 11 AM and I loved the vibes here.

Admission: Free to visit. Parking fee $1 per hour or $5 for the day. Make sure to go to the blue meter to pay and put the ticket in your car window.

Hours: The Boardwalk is open daily from dawn til dusk. Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Sunday: 10 AM – 4 PM

Address: 7751 Penzance Blvd

Six Mile Slough Preserve
Six Mile Slough Preserve

Manatee Park

During winter and springtime, you have a high probability of seeing Manatees at Manatee Park. This is a place to see wild manatees up close and personal. Since they are wild, there is no guarantee you will see them, but there is a high probability when the Gulf of Mexico is below 68° F.

If you want to ensure manatees are present, check the live webcam here.

You can even go kayaking here with both rentals and self-docking stations available. Additionally, there are walking paths, fishing, and picnic areas available.

Admission: There is no entry fee, but you must pay for parking. It is $2 an hour or $5 dollars for the day.

Hours: Daily 8 AM – Sunset

Address: 10901 State Road 80 (Palm Beach Blvd.)

Edison & Ford Winter Estates – Downtown Fort Myers

Next, head to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Considered one of the best places to visit in Fort Myers, this Estate was built for Thomas Edison and Henry Ford later joined.

You can walk around and tour the gardens for free, and it is really pretty, but to explore the estates, you must purchase a ticket.

Edison and For Winter Estates

Visiting the estates allows you to take a trip back in time to the 1929 appearance of these estates, including Seminole Lodge and The Mangoes. This is a cool way to experience how these American icons lived.

On the grounds, you can also see the largest banyan tree in the continental USA, along with trees that grow in the Amazon.

Aside from touring the estate, you can also grab a bite here (although I recommend downtown instead), along with buying plants and pottery.

During our visit, lightning was nearby, so we were not allowed to tour the estates because they are considered an indoor/outdoor museum.

Florida Fun Fact: Did you know Florida is the lightning capital of the USA?

Admission: General admission starts at – Adults $25; Ages 13-19 $20; Ages 6-12 $15; Under 5 years old is free. There are additional tours.

Hours: Daily 9 AM – 5:30 PM (last ticket sold at 4:30 PM)

Address: 2350 McGregor Blvd.

Edison and For Winter Estates

River District

After, head down to First Street to explore downtown. You can enjoy a bite to eat, indulge in happy hour, pop into some of the shops, or cool off with some ice cream at Gulf Coast Fudge Co. It is a little pricy, but sooo good!

Make sure to visit downtown Fort Myers itinerary - Edison Theatre

Some places to grab a bite or enjoy dinner include Ford’s Garage (a unique chain that we enjoy), Downtown House of Pizza, The Standard Restaurant Downtown, and Izzy’s Fish & Oyster.

For drinks, check out Beacon Social Drinkery (rooftop bar located in the Luminary Hotel), The Firestone Skybar & Martini Bar, and The 86 Room (a unique prohibition-inspired bar). I really liked the 86 Room a lot.

If you enjoy performing arts, you can view upcoming performances at the Florida Repertory Theatre or enjoy art at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.

If you’re traveling with kids in Fort Myers, you may also want to consider a visit to the IMAG History & Science Center, which is an interactive museum with over 60 exhibits, or a visit to the waterfront Centennial Park.

Downtown Fort Myers Tip: Make sure you pay attention to signs for parking. There is both street parking and a garage to park. This is also where you will find a lot of the nightlife in Fort Myers.

The 86 Room Shaded Patio in downtown Fort Myers
The 86 Room Shaded Patio in downtown Fort Myers

Sunset Cruise

End the day with a sunset cruise or, at the very least, end your day by the water. The city is known for its incredible sunsets since they are located on the west coast. You will be sure to enjoy a few stunning sunsets during your trip.

Sunsets in Fort Myers

Day 2: Sanibel, Watersports, and Pine Island

During your second day, you will be visiting the beaches. Some of the things you will do today include:

  • Dolphin Tour (optional)
  • Sanibel and Captiva Island
  • Kayaking
  • Pine Island

Dolphin Tour with The Westin Cape Coral

If seeing bottlenose dolphins excites you, and you stay with the Westin Cape Coral, you can actually enjoy a free dolphin cruise. You just have to sign up at check-in and they offer a 9:30 AM; 11:30 AM and sometimes 1:30 PM to try and see dolphin. I had so much fun doing this, and the guides were very knowledgeable.

If you’re not staying here, you can still find a ton of tour companies offering dolphin tours since Fort Myers has a very healthy population of these beloved marine mammals.

Dolphin Tour during 3 days in Fort Myers itinerary

Sanibel and Captiva Island

Sanibel and Captiva Island are a must when visiting. Here, you will find beautiful blue waters, tons of shell hunting, and even some wildlife. Beaches to visit include Gulfside City Park Beach, Sanibel Lighthouse, Tarpon Bay Beach, Captiva Island, and Bowman’s Beach.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum was still closed during our trip, but it is about to fully be open again! This is a unique museum that is fun for the whole family.

Sanibel Parking Tip: You MUST pay to park in most of Sanibel. You can do this on your phone, and it is usually around $5 dollars an hour. MAKE SURE YOU PAY! If not, you will likely be greeted with a $150 dollar parking ticket.

Florida Beach Tip: It is a good idea to learn the “stingray shuffle.” Stingrays are present on the Gulf Coast of Mexico, hiding in the sand. When enjoying the water, just make sure to shuffle (drag) your feet through the sand to avoid stepping on one.

Admission: There is a $6 dollar toll to go over the bridge to Sanibel.

Sanibel Beach

J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge

If you love bird-watching and nature, then you will also want to add the drive through J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. This one-way 4-mile refugee is a barrier island of Sanibel and part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the USA.

Osprey in J.N "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge

When visiting, you have the opportunity to see an array of birds, including Osprey, Spoonbill, Heron, and waterfowl. We saw tons of birds. This is also a popular place for fishing and even spotting alligators and coyotes. We didn’t see any gators and were told dusk and dawn were the best time to see them.

Additionally, you can kayak and paddleboard here. This can be done through Tarpon Bay Explorers – nearby.

Please Note: Some of the boardwalks are still closed due to the hurricane. Additionally, ALWAYS pull off to the right-hand side.

Admission: $10 per car. Federal Passes are accepted.

Hours: Every day except Friday from sunrise to sunset. The gate is currently opening at 7 AM, but it is encouraged to check the gate times as they do change.

Address: 1 Wildlife Drive Sanibel, FL 33957

Visiting the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a must with 3 days in Fort Myers
Spoonbill

Kayak Through The Mangroves and Canals

Another top thing to add to your itinerary is either kayaking or a SUP Rental through the mangroves and Canals. Mangroves are a very important part of the Gulf’s ecosystem and provide a home to tons of wildlife.

You can often find a variety of fish, crabs, and birds. While in the canals, you have a good opportunity to see dolphins and even manatees.

We went kayaking with Gulf Coast Kayak, and had a really great time exploring the mangroves and canals. Although we didn’t see dolphins, they said they are often there. They are located in Cape Coral.

If you’re not in this area, you can find dolphin kayak tours around the greater Fort Myers area.

Florida Fun Fact: Did you know Cape Coral has more canals than Venice, Italy?

Kayaking in Fort Myers
Relaxing at the Sandbar

Pine Island

After, make your way to Pine Island and plan on being here for the sunset. This is actually the largest island on the Gulf Coast off of Florida and right by Cape Coral. Pine Island gives off a small-town feel, and most land is actually agricultural land.

Pine Island Photo Spot: If you love murals, make sure to grab a picture on the side of the Eagles Nest Restaurant.

Pine Island Mural

So while you won’t find sandy beaches this way, you will find seaside marinas, mangroves, restaurants, and excellent fishing. Pods of Dolphins also love visiting the waters off this island.

Whether you’re coming by car or boat, The Tarpon Lodge is a great spot for food. They have a lovely property that is open for everyone to enjoy, or you can even stay at the lodge itself.

Aside from the restaurant serving up fresh seafood, you can also grab a drink at the outdoor bar, which had live music while we were there. While by the dock, we saw tons of pelicans hanging out.

Tarpon Lodge
Looking out the marina at Tarpon Lodge

Additionally, right across from the Tarpon Lodge is the Randall Research Center. It is free to park in the lot, and it is here you will learn about the Calusa Native Americans that used to inhabit this land. The area is quite small, but there is a free outdoor restroom. If you’d like to learn more about the Calusa Natives, you should make a stop here.

Pelicans in the Marina water on Pine Island

Bokeelia Fishing Pier

End your day on the small but picturesque Bokeelia Fishing Pier. You can, of course, fish here. We saw plenty of snook in the water. But if you’re not an angler, you should still add this to your Fort Myers itinerary on a clear night for an incredible sunset.

Remember that the best colors of the sunset usually happen just after the sun sinks below the horizon. Not only did we witness an unbelievable sunset, but a dolphin hung around the area the entire time.

Bokeelia Fishing Pier on Pine Island
Bokeelia Fishing Pier on Pine Island
Dolphin on Pine Island

Day 3: Local and Day Trip Options

On day 3, you have some options. You can visit some beaches you haven’t visited yet, like Lovers Key State Park, known as a beautiful and picturesque beach with great shells to collect.

There are also tons of water sports you can enjoy on this last day, like jetskis, a fishing trip, parasailing, SUP, sailing, a shell hunting tour, or kayaking.

Florida is one of the rainiest states in the USA, so if the rain ruined any activities you had planned on previous days, you could make it up now.

Additionally, you can take a day trip to the Panther Wildlife Refugee (outside of Lee County).

Florida Beach Tip: Florida is known to have no-see-ums flies at some of the beaches. If you feel bites and see little flies, I would consider a different beach (thankfully, FL has so many!). When they bite you, you will be itching for days after – I know from experience. Usually, more windy days prevent them from getting you.

Pelican hanging out in Fort Myers

Day trip to the Panther Wildlife Refugee

When visiting the Panther Wildlife Refugee, the actual chances of seeing a Panther in the wild are very rare, however, there are two dedicated hiking trails surrounded by nature. The trail takes around 45 minutes and is free to visit. You can learn some fun panther facts here.

You can see more trail info on Alltrails. Hiking pants and bug spray is highly recommended.

Directions: State Road 29 leads to the trails, which are 0.25 miles north of Alligator Alley (I-75). Just past the intersection with I-75, on the west side of State Road 29, keep an eye out for a wide-open gate and some brown hiking trail signs.

Keep in mind that the parking lot for the hiking trails is located south of the Refuge’s administrative building. The office location does not provide access to the general public.

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset


What and Where to Eat

I know I’ve mentioned a handful of places to eat and drink throughout this itinerary, however, I think food deserves its own section. Therefore, here are some of the places I recommend trying.

  • The Boathouse Bar and Grille Fort Myers | Menu
  • Eagle’s Nest Restaurant | Menu
  • Tarpon Lodge Restaurant | Menu
  • Gulf Coast Fudge | Ice Cream & Milkshakes
  • Sage on 47th | Menu
  • Murder Mystery Dinner Train | Menu
Pulled Pork Tacos at the Boat House  Bar and Grille Fort Myers
Pulled Pork Tacos at the Boat House Bar and Grille Fort Myers

Where to Stay

Now that you know some of the best things to do, here are some great places to stay.

The Westin Cape Coral: Visit Fort Myers hosted us at the Westin Cape Coral, and we really loved our stay here. The property is a 4-Star hotel and overlooks the Marina. One of my favorite things to do was sit on our balcony for the sunrise. They also have an excellent breakfast menu, and we loved the outdoor seating and bar.

Additionally, I thought it was very cool that they offered the dolphin tours for free – which was easily a highlight.

Westin Cape Coral Hotel at Sunset
Westin Cape Coral Hotel at Sunset

Luminary Hotel & Co., Autograph Collection: Located in downtown Fort Myers, you can never go wrong with a Marriott Autograph Collection hotel. This 4-Star hotel is located right on the river and around 19 miles from Sanibel.

Marriott Sanibel Harbour Resort & Spa: Located just 300 feet from the beach, this property is stunning and faces Sanibel and Captiva Island. They have their own private fishing pier and a family-friendly kids club.

Holiday Inn Express Cape Coral: Also located in Cape Coral, this more budget-friendly hotel has great reviews.


What to Pack

No matter what time of year you plan on visiting Fort Myers, there are some essentials you should pack with you. Some things to bring or buy when you arrive in Fort Myers include:

  • Water Shoes or Strap on Sandals for Kayaking and walking in Mangroves (I like Teva)
  • Lightweight breathable sun protective clothing
  • Sunhat
  • Sunglasses
  • Reef-safe sunscreen
  • Insulated Waterbottle
  • Bathing Suit
  • Cute Cover-ups
  • Dresses
  • Sports Shorts & Tops for hiking
  • Long Sleeve Shirt and Pants for sunrise and sunset (helps avoid getting bit by bugs)

Florida Tip: When swimming in the ocean, avoid wearing shiny jewelry or glittery swimsuits that can imitate fish scales.

Read: See my ultimate beach packing list!

Chairs at the Boat House Bar and Grille Fort Myers

How to Get to Fort Myers

Fort Myers is the perfect weekend getaway road trip if you live in Florida or the Southeast. However, if you’re too far to drive, you should fly into the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW). This airport is located about 20 minutes from Downtown Fort Myers.

Close-up of Dolphin at Fort Myers

Weather

No matter what time of the year you visit Florida, there is a possibility of rain. Because Florida is a tropical destination, it usually rains for just a short time, and then the sun shines again.

So, if you see rain in the forecast, don’t get overly concerned.

Spring: During the spring, you can expect temperatures around 62 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. The beginning of spring is a great time to see manatees. You will also see less rain during these months.

Summer: Summers in Florida are known to be hot and humid, but it is still a very popular time to visit and enjoy water sports. Temperatures are around 78 degrees to over 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The summer tends to rain a little every day. June is also the start of the hurricane season.

Fall: During the fall in Fort Myers, the temperatures start to cool down, making it more pleasant to visit. Keep in mind fall is also a more active time for hurricane season. Make sure to have travel insurance. Temperatures are around 72° F – 85°F.

Winter: The winter in Fort Myers is very popular due to cooler temperatures. This is a great time to visit for hiking and looking for manatees. Temperatures are around 55° F – 78° F.

dolphin fin
Six Mile Slough Preserve

Weekend Getaway Wrap-up

This concludes how to spend 3 epic days in Fort Myers, Florida. I hope you have the best time exploring this charming Floridian city!

Do you have any questions about this itinerary? Let me know in the comments below.

Did you find this guide helpful? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Photo of author

Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

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