There’s nothing better than spending your summer on the beach, whether you enjoy the sun and sand for a week, a month or the whole summer.
As with any destination, there’s local knowledge that will make your visit better and that’s what we want to share here. We want everyone to enjoy our corner of paradise so spend just a couple minutes becoming summer savvy.
Since we are a barrier island, our eco-system is a fragile and changing one, so our residents work together to ensure it remains beautiful for generations to come. Please join us in protecting our Island!
Do the stingray shuffle. Shuffle your feet when entering or walking in shallow water. During the summer months, several species of stingrays migrate along our shores. They love to bury themselves in sand in the shallows along our beach. It’s easy to step on one accidentally. If that happens, the stingray’s defense mechanism is a barb at the end of their tail. Get stung by that and it’s going to hurt.
Experts say a hot water soak is the best remedy for a sting once the barb is removed. The hot water helps to break down the toxin in the wound. Anyone stung by a stingray should have the wound checked by a medical professional to be sure that the entire barb has been removed.
That stingray shuffle causes vibrations that warn the rays that you’re there and will cause them to move away. Do the stingray shuffle, all summer long.
Sun — The summer sun is a powerful force that should be respected. Wear sunscreen, at least 30 SPF, even on cloudy days, especially near the water. Reflection off the water can double ultraviolet exposure. Wear sunscreen under your clothes as a t-shirt provides less than 10 SPF. Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
Heat – Summer equals hot and humid- all the time. 90’s during the day and 70’s at night. When you add in humidity, you take away some of the body’s ability to cool itself. Protect yourself and your family from heat related illness by staying cool and drinking plenty of water. Keep a close eye on the very young and the elderly.
Lightning – Florida is the lightning capital of the U.S. thanks to our sea breezes and high humidity. Our afternoon thunderstorms put on a lightning show that is wondrous to watch, but only if you’re not outside because anyplace outside is dangerous in a lightning storm. A couple years ago, someone lost their life to lightning on our beach. Don’t be the next. If you hear thunder, get off the beach and get inside. Lightning can strike in the sunshine, as far as 10 miles from a storm. A gazebo, tiki hut or cabana is not good enough; you need a fully enclosed building. A vehicle with a solid metal roof is second best if no building is available. Once inside, stay away from windows, plumbing and electronics.
Our turquoise waters draw visitors from near and far year round to float, fish or swim in it. That valuable commodity is monitored for quality and safety all the time. Algae occur naturally in the water, especially in summer. Some types of blue-green algae can produce a dangerous toxin. You may have heard about a blue-green algae outbreak in Florida. As of press time for this publication, that outbreak is primarily located at Lake Okeechobee and the east coast. While blue green algae have been identified in Cape Coral and the Caloosahatchee River, it is not the toxic variety.
During the summer rainy months, dark water released from Lake O flows down the Caloosahatchee River and into our back bays and the Gulf. If you encounter dark water from the Lake O releases, try a beach further south, like Newton Park or Lovers Key. FMB also has a community pool open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday Noon-6pm.
Water conditions are being monitored, but you can check them yourself:
Florida DOH Florida Healthy Beaches Program: bit.ly/FLbeaches
Florida FWC Red Tide Status: bit.ly/redtideFL
DEP Algal Blooms Monitoring and Response For Florida: bit.ly/DEPalgae
Lee County Environmental Laboratory Water Testing FAQ: bit.ly/waterLee
Warm water, whether fresh or salt, encourages native bacterial growth. Our water temperatures hover in the high 80’s during the summer. Health officials caution that those with open wounds or a compromised immune system should stay out of the water to avoid contracting an infection.
Protect the Beach
Turtles — Here on Fort Myers Beach we are fortunate to have both sea turtles and rare birds nesting on our beaches. Sea turtle nests are marked with stakes and yellow tape. Give the nests a wide berth and keep pets away from them. Sea Turtle season runs from May 1-October 31. Any kind of light that can be seen from the beach at night is harmful because it can disorient new hatchlings as they emerge from the nest. No flashlights or phone lights on the beach. Nesting turtles can become entangled in beach chairs and furniture, so at the end of the day, remove furniture from the beach. If you come across a nesting turtle or a bunch of hatchlings, give them plenty of space. Learn more at turtletime.org
Birds – The Little Estero Critical Wildlife Area (CWA), a state-owned bird sanctuary on the south end of the beach is a critical resting and nesting area for a number of imperiled shorebirds. Nesting areas are roped off during the season that runs from April 1-August 31. Beach-goers are urged to watch for nests wherever they are on the beach. If you find one outside a posted area, give it a wide berth and call Rae Blake at Town Hall (239-765-0202) to report it so it can be marked and protected. Don’t leave food or trash on the beach, as that attracts crows that attack shorebird nests and hatchlings.
Live Shells –Feel free to pick up any empty shells you find on the beach or in the water, but leave the live ones there, including starfish, sand dollars and sea urchins.
Dogs – Dogs are welcome on our beaches with the exception of the CWA. They must be on a 6’ leash and picked up after. Remember to bring them some water also when you go for a walk.
Trash – Each beach access has a trash bin, a recyclable bin and bags for cigarette butts. Not only is it unsightly, litter can also kill wildlife that may ingest or become entangled in it. Leaving nothing but footprints behind you helps the beach stay beautiful for when you return!
Alcohol – Several beachfront restaurants have roped off areas where you can sit with your feet in the sand and enjoy a cold alcoholic beverage. Alcohol outside these areas is prohibited.
Fireworks – A really bad idea on the beach as it startles both human and animals. Also illegal.
The beach is a fragile environment that we all enjoy, residents and visitors alike. We hope this information helps you to enjoy our island while protecting its natural beauty and resources for future generations.
A Beach Guide for Residents & Visitors is available at Town Hall, 2525 Estero Blvd. with additional information on protecting the beach.