Thursday, November 15, 2018 Edition: U.S. & World | Regional

Best Southwest Gulf Coast Beaches in Florida

The Greater Tampa area of Florida has been ranked as the number 20 saddest area in America to live. Yet, if you drive a mere 30 to 45 minutes to the south, the Cape Coral/Ft. Myers area is ranked as the 19th happiest place in the USA to live.

How could such a short distance make this much of a difference? It’s the same sun. The same sand. The same Gulf of Mexico. But, the differences are like night and day.

The Tampa area, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater, offers miles of white sand beaches, mostly crowded. They all three offer an excellent nightlife, multiple dining choices, and lots of “touristy” things to do. Of course, they also offer mega-crowds, traffic congestion, a fast-paced lifestyle, and price-gouging in specific tourist spots. Sometimes the quiet relaxing few days a person was hoping for is not a possibility.

If you’re driving all the way from New York, Maine, or Minnesota for a stress-free week of relaxation in the Sunshine State, what’s an extra half-hour of driving on I-75 going to matter?  A few more songs on your cars radio and you’ll be where you can really stretch out and leave your worries behind.
 
Reasons to Visit Ft. Myers

Fort Myers is the perfect Florida destination for anyone who wants it all, but at a slower pace than the better-known tourist locations. While it is not off of the beaten path or an unknown city, many travelers simply don’t want to go the few extra miles. But if you don’t mind, it’s well worth the additional dollar in gas it’ll cost you.

Smooth white sand beaches with lazy swaying palm trees, hanging from a kite while airborne behind a speeding boat, lots of nightlife, fresh seafood restaurants, excellent golf, biking, and so much more. And, if you want to take a day trip through the Everglades, which is highly recommended, you aren’t very far.
 
Ft. Myers
 
If you want to get beyond the gorgeous beaches, and especially if you’re traveling with kids in tow, go to the Imaginarium Science Center. It’s family-friendly and has an aquarium, interactive exhibits, history displays and a 3-D theatre.

Thomas Edison was Henry Ford’s mentor. Bet you didn’t know that. As such, Ford bought an estate right next to Edison’s in downtown Ft. Myers. In honor of the previous owners, both estates are now museums in their respective honors.

For serious shopping stop in at Fleamasters Fleamarket. It’s over 400,000 sq. ft. of bargains. Stay away from the souvenir shops. Spend your money here. With over 900 shops and live music, you’ll find what you’re looking for as your boogying down the aisles.
 
Ft. Myers
 
In the mood to catch some live theater? At the family-friendly Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, you can. This isn’t put on by a local theater group, nationally known acts are brought in. There is an art theater, a lobby bar, and of course, a gift shop.

When the sun goes down there are casual beach bars with Jimmy Buffet wannabes crooning on stage, buzzing nightclubs where the in-crowd parties the night away, juke-joints, and like any city, a few places to avoid but those should be obvious.
 
Ft. Myers
 
Natural Wonder in Cape Coral

There are two main beaches in Cape Coral at Four Freedoms Park and at the Yacht Club Community Park. Both have playgrounds for the kiddos, barbeque grills, and picnic areas. There is also the Yacht Club Community Pool which is Olympic sized and has a kiddy pool, an interactive Dewdrop fountain, and underwater “bubblers.”
 
Cape Coral
 
For some mesmerizing time on the water, there are many private charter boat tours that’ll take you out for a few hours or all day, such as Capt. Kelly’s Private Charter and Boating Services. You’ll view the shoreline from afar, visit coves, watch dolphin play in the boats wake, see mullet jump, and if you’re lucky, spot a school of flying fish effortlessly gliding across the water’s surface.

If fishing is more to your liking, there is very little chance of coming in empty handed after spending a few hours on a guided fishing charter. Grouper and Red Fish will more than likely be what’s hanging off your stringer. Most of the charter guides will clean the fish for you and there are several restaurants that will even cook them to your liking.
 
Fort Myers Florida Fishing
 
For nature lovers, there is Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve. Residents of the area say this is the most peaceful and tranquil place in the entire area. So as not to disturb the environment, there is a four-mile-long boardwalk which winds through the park. The park is home to an abundance of various birds, and if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll more than likely see a gator or two, which is another fine reason for the boardwalk.

Take a tour of the Wicked Dolphin Rum Distillery. This is a family run business where high-quality rum is produced and bottled. The distillery is known for producing an assortment of flavored rums, and at the end of the tour, visitors are invited to sample a few.
 
Cape Coral
 
The Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library is an interesting place. The majority of military memorabilia was donated and there is quite a bit to see. The most interesting part of the tour is listening to Veterans share firsthand accounts of battles they participated in.

For a leisurely few hours make certain to visit the Harbour View Gallery. There are small quaint shops, restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops, and the ambiance is 100% tropical. Quite often there is outside music, generally in the form of an acoustic soloist or a small acoustic group.
 
Fort Myers And Cape Coral Florida. The Whole Ball Of Wax
 
The next time you’re heading to Florida, or even if you’ve never been, now you know where to “sort of” beat the crowds, and learn the true meaning of the word “relaxation.” Just keep heading south.
 

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