I recently partnered with Visit Fort Myers and the Paradise Coast to experience all that beautiful Southwest Florida has to offer. Both Anush and I love the Sunshine State and have been several times in the past, but never to the Gulf Coast side. I had heard nothing but amazing things about the beaches there so when this opportunity arose we were so excited for a chance to visit this part of Florida. Paradise is closer than you think with direct flights to Fort Myers via United from San Francisco, LA, and the east coast, too. Looking for easy Spring break plans anyone? Southwest Florida is just a flight away!
We split our time between Captiva Island and Marco Island, but throughout our stay we had a chance to explore Sanibel Island and Naples, which was perfect to give us a taste of what Southwest Florida is all about! In my opinion 3-4 days is the perfect amount of time to visit Southwest Florida. In fact, we actually ended up doing this trip over President’s Day weekend which was the perfect amount of time.
If you are planning for a long weekend getaway to Southwest Florida, here’s a sample itinerary for you!
Day 1 : Captiva & Sanibel Islands :
- Fly into Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and drive to your hotel. We stayed at the beautiful South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. This is one of the best places to stay in the Sanibel/Captiva region. South Seas Island Resort is a beautiful place with an old Florida feel and charm to it which I loved! The entire resort was like a destination within itself – it is a secluded 330-acre retreat and wildlife nature preserve on the Florida Gulf Coast with two-and-a-half miles of pristine white-sand beaches! Next time I wish we had a little more time to explore the resort itself because it was so stunning!
South Seas Island Resort
- After checking in, head on over to Doc Ford’s for dinner. This is an absolute must visit if you are on Captiva! Don’t miss out trying out their delicious Yucatan Shrimp.
Day 2 : Captiva & Sanibel Islands :
- Grab breakfast at Keylime Bistro in Captiva. Keylime Bistro is situated in the middle of the Historic Captiva Island Inn Village. A great place for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And don’t forget to try their award-winning key lime pie for dessert! After your meal you can stroll the quaint shops around the restaurant, check out the local general store and the historic Captiva Island Inn.
- Make random pitstops along the scenic coastlines of Sanibel and Captiva! Every corner is so picturesque!
- Go beach hopping on Captiva and Sanibel Islands. Sanibel and Captiva Islands have about 15 miles of jaw-dropping beaches. More than 400 species of seashells wash ashore here, which is why these areas have some of the best shelling beaches in the world! Whether you are new or an experienced sheller (AKA a person who hunts for seashells) these beaches will absolutely delight you! Here are some of my favorite beaches in the area :
- Captiva Beach
- Blind Pass Beach
- Tarpon Bay Beach
- Turner Beach ( best shelling beach!)
5. Bowman’s Beach
- Grab lunch at the Lazy Flamingo – we loved the fresh seafood here, like the grouper sandwich and the clams.
- Make your way to the tip of Sanibel Island to explore the shell-covered beaches and the historic 19th century Sanibel Lighthouse.
- If it’s a hot day and you are craving ice cream after a long day of being out in the sun you have to check out Joey’s Custard for some yummy homemade custard and ice cream!
- Catch a beautiful sunset at Sunset Beach located at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva. The colors of the sky when we saw the sunset here were so magical.
- Have a delicious Mexican dinner at 400 Rabbits on Sanibel.
DAY 3 : Naples :
- Check out early from South Seas Island Resort and Grab Breakfast on Fort Myers Beach at MoJoe’s. They have yummy smoothies, bowls and sandwiches.
- Explore Lover’s Key State park. Lovers Key State Park protects some of the most pristine barrier islands in Southwest Florida. There are over two miles of sugar-sand beaches at Lovers Key! There is so much to do here – Hop in a kayak or lounge under an umbrella on the shore. Explore serene canals and lagoons that are favorite grazing spots for manatees and shorebirds. Lovers Key is a must-visit if you are in Southwest Florida.
- Also make sure to stop at Bonita Beach in Bonita Springs for some of the best beaches in Southwest Florida. In fact, Barefoot Beach is the perfect crossing point from the Fort Myers area to the Naples area, and was voted as one of the best beaches in the US!
- Drive further South to Naples and grab a yummy alfresco Italian lunch at Campiello and dessert at Gelato and Co. Champs, pizza and gelato was the perfect lunch combo for the afternoon!
- Explore Downtown Naples. Take a stroll down 5th Ave South and Third Street South and around the gorgeous neighborhoods around.
- Walk over to explore the iconic Naples Beach and Pier.
Day 4 : Marco Island :
- Grab breakfast at your hotel. We loved the Tesoro Restaurant on the 5th floor at JW Marco Island, the views from here were so gorgeous!
- Spend time on Marco Beach – whether you want to go from a swim, run on the beach or laze around under the umbrella, Marco Island is an absolute paradise! They don’t call it Paradise Coast for nothing !
- Checkout of the hotel and head on over to Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. A visit to Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is a journey into the heart of the Everglades ecosystem. Discover the rugged beauty of this famed natural area on Corkscrew’s famous boardwalk – a 2.25-mile adventure through pine flatwoods, wet prairie, around a marsh, and finally into the largest old growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. The sanctuary is also home to hundreds of alligators, otters, white-tailed deer, red-bellied turtles and a wide variety of birds.
- Drive to Goodland to do the Then Thousand Island boat tour by Eco Endeavors. This was easily our favorite activity and highlight of our trip to Southwest Florida, so I highly recommend doing it! The tour takes you to the incredible Ten Thousand Islands which are a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of southwest Florida, between Cape Romano and the mouth of the Lostmans River. Despite the name, the islets in the chain only number in the hundreds. It is such a unique ecosystem and one you have to experience if you visit the area! This 3 hour excursion will take you through the mangrove forests and barrier islands that make up the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge! Some of our highlights in this tour – seeing so many dolphins (during season you can also see manatees!), spotting several diverse species of birds such as pelicans, egrets, eagles, osprey, visiting a quiet barrier island only accessible by boat where we had plenty of time to spot/collect rare shells and swim as well as seeing the iconic Cape Romano houses. Here are some of my fave pics from the boat tour:
Fly back home with all the fun memories from Southwest Florida! It is such a gorgeous part of Florida which makes for an easy quick getaway whether from the East or West Coast. Thanks to the direct flights from United!
FYI This is just a sample itinerary based on our trip to the destination. Please feel free to substitute any activity or recommendations with the ones you like to do. Find more recommendations here on Visit Fort Myers and Paradise Coast.
Thanks for stopping by! xoxo
Disclaimer : This trip was in Partnership with Visit Fort Myers and Paradise Coast, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.