Fort Myers has slowly but surely grown in size over the past 20 years and that growth has crept steadily toward the east, farther and farther away from the Gulf of Mexico. The greater distance from the beaches has caused many of us to not venture to the coast for months at a time. We seem to have forgotten why we moved here in the first place.
This week’s Footprints column is dedicated to all the locals who are now inundated with lots and lots of snowbirds from up north and truly need to feel like an islander for just a day or two.
Going to the beach is highly recommended and a lot of fun, but during season getting there and going home can be a nightmare. However, picking travel times will certainly help a lot. Go early! That’s right, get your butt out of bed while it’s still dark and get on the road before the sun comes up. There are only a handful of people that might beat you to the beach, shellers and fisherman, but other than those you should have clear sailing on the roads and ample parking when you arrive.
The time to leave the beach is also important. Get the heck out of Dodge just after lunch. When I finished my charter trips I’d leave Fort Myers Beach and head for home around two o’clock in the afternoon. There was traffic, but not nearly as much as late afternoon or early evening.
Better yet, book a room and stay for the weekend. I know this can also be tough during season, but booking in advance will help. You’d be surprised how many places have availability on some weekday’s for a night or two, so try that first.
Do you own a swimming pool or do you have a friend with a pool? Perhaps all you need to do to FEEL like an islander is spend a day at the pool. Check out that chaise lounge chair you haven’t used in months. Cover it with a plush beach towel, add a frozen concoction, some island music, a good book and you are there!
Take a boat tour along our coastline. My favorite is a dolphin watch, but a sunset cruise is a close second. There are many tour operators in our area that offer sightseeing trips, so take advantage of them. Schedule a trip for dolphin watching either first thing in the morning or late in the day when dolphins are most active. Sunsets here are beautiful and relaxing. After the boat returns to the dock, have dinner at a local restaurant and then head home when the roads are clearer.
If you really want the full island experience, take the Key West Express to the island of Key West. Yep, that’s right. The Express departs Fort Myers Beach at 8:00AM and arrives in Key West about three and a half hours later. It’s an amazing trip aboard a 170 foot long catamaran with jet drive engines. After arriving you’ll have until 5:00PM to visit the famous Duval Street and visit shops and do a little sightseeing. If five hours isn’t enough, and in my opinion it’s not, you can book a room for a night or two and return later on another departure. I really can’t think of a better way for a local to truly get away from it all.
Southwest Florida is a wonderful place to be in the winter and we are very fortunate to live where summer-like weather blesses us almost every day. So take a little time off and do yourself a favor. Spend a day or two like an islander.
Captain Rob Modys is a lifetime Florida outdoorsman and retired spin & fly fishing guide. He is past president and board chairman of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association and serves on the board of the Florida Guides Association.