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Nicknamed the "City of Palms", Fort Myers is a coastal paradise that attracts those looking to relax on the beach, fish on the deep sea, or island-hop on nearby Captiva and Sanibel islands. It is known as the one-time home of famous inventor Thomas Edison, who moved to the city in the 1880s and planted hundreds of palm trees along McGregor Boulevard where he built his home.
Now, over 2,000 royal palm trees line the street, giving the city its appropriate nickname. Fort Myers is spread along the Caloosahatchee River, which provides a central scenic attraction for the city, as well as a place for boat cruises to tour. In addition to exploring the city’s vibrant downtown and historical attractions, many Fort Myers visitors also head west to explore the over 100 outlying islands off the coast. Sanibel and Captiva islands are two of the most popular, but there are many others that also offer spectacular beaches and great ocean scenery.
Year-round temperatures range from 65-85° F with hot and humid summer weather lasting from May to October
Fort Myers, Florida, has attracted natives and settlers ever since it was a Seminole War outpost, and its location on the Caloosahatchee River makes it a lively, scenic metropolitan center today. Tourists visit Fort Myers not only for the city itself but for all that the area has to offer, from Cape Coral and North Fort Myers to Bonita Springs.
The barrier islands of Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel and Captiva attract hordes of tourists who flock there to stay in hotels overlooking the shore, loll on white-sand beaches and swim in the surf. Visitors also enjoy exploring the mangrove-clogged waterways, fishing, boating, golfing, playing tennis and pickleball, and other outdoor pursuits available in the area.
Fort Myers Beach is a popular tourist destination. It bustles with watersports, fishing and nightlife, and its southernmost area contains a beachfront state park teeming with birds. Sanibel Island is well known for its plentiful intact seashells and its diligent wildlife conservation. Captiva Island serves as a gateway to a string of upper islands accessible only by boat.
Fort Myers itself supports a burgeoning arts scene buoyed by galleries, theaters and festivals that attract tourists. Historic McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers never fails to impress with its rows of majestic royal palms that were planted by Thomas Edison. Cape Coral remains largely residential and family-oriented with a water park and other family attractions.
South of Fort Myers, Florida Gulf Coast University ushered in a boom of development and shopping opportunities that appeal to tourists.
Sights—The gardents and historic homes and museum at Edison & Ford Winter Estates; beaches on Sanibel and Captiva islands.
Museums—Explore the in-house lagoon and live animals at the IMAG History & Science Center; learn about ancient civilzations during a visit to Southwest Florida Museum of History; see the Butterfly Estates' beautiful butterfly population.
Memorable Meals—Local seafood with a southern accent at Veranda; Gulf Coast Floribbean with a taste of Italy at Christof's on McGregor; fried seafood at the Shrimp Shack.
Late Night—Burgers and blues at Doc Fords; The Ranch or Dixie Roadhouse for live music and line dancing.
Walks—Sunset strolls along Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel Island beaches; treks through the Four Mile Ecological Preserve in Cape Coral; hike along the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve boardwalk.
Especially for Kids—IMAG History & Science Center; Sun Splash Family Water Park; Gator Mike's Family Fun Park.
The Caloosahatchee River runs between Fort Myers on its south banks, and Cape Coral and North Fort Myers to the north. The river flows into San Carlos Bay, which separates the mainland from the barrier islands and is part of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Across the Intracoastal Waterway, the string of islands includes Bonita Beach in the south, trailed by Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, then Sanibel Island. Bridges connect the three islands directly to the mainland. Sanibel links to Captiva Island to the north with a short bridge. Black Island hooks up with Bonita Beach at one end and Fort Myers Beach at another, and Lovers Key lies on its west side. There are more islands near Captiva Island that are inaccessible by car, and countless keys and islands lie leeward of the barrier islands in the bay waters.
The area between Fort Myers and Bonita Springs is filled with mostly residential communities such as San Carlos Park and Estero.
Fort Myers' waterways and balmy climate drew the Calusa people to the area, where they subsisted off seafood and shellfish, leaving behind great shell mounds as evidence of their activities. The fierce Calusa kept Spanish explorers at bay in the 1500s, but European diseases killed off most of the tribe. Those who survived blended with the Cuban fishers who arrived later on the barrier islands to export mullet and roe back to their homeland.
First known as Fort Harvie, Fort Myers became well-known around 1858 during the Seminole Wars. Soldiers who were stationed in the strategic location often stayed, seduced by the area's pleasant climate. The region's far-flung ports saw their share of blockade-runners during the Civil War, which brought yet another influx of soldiers-cum-settlers. The cattle industry brought "cow hunters" to the area. Cow hunters, known for their raucous lifestyle, would drive descendants of the longhorn steers left by early Spanish explorers to Punta Rassa, where today's Sanibel Causeway makes landfall.
With the arrival of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone in the late 1800s, the Fort Myers region began its rise as a destination for the wealthy and adventurous. Teddy Roosevelt, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Zane Grey and Mary Roberts Rinehart were among those who went to the area to fish for tarpon. Others began to discover Fort Myers' natural charms, and today it is one of Florida's fastest-growing tourist areas.
For 15 mi/24 km, Fort Myers' McGregor Boulevard is lined on both sides with statuesque royal palm trees, the first 200 of which Thomas Edison imported from Cuba and had planted.
Thomas Edison, who spent many winters in Fort Myers, is considered the most inventive man who ever lived, holding 1,093 patents for everything from light bulbs, cement and phonographs to the natural rubber he made from goldenrod.
The banyan tree at the Edison winter home, a gift from industrialist Harvey Firestone, is the largest specimen in the U.S. The tree's aerial roots have a circumference of more than 400 ft/124 m.
There are more than 100 coastal islands west of Fort Myers, some residential and others uninhabited. Tarpon fishing became a big sport there after a Chicago streetcar mogul built the Isaak Walton Club on Useppa Island in 1911.
In the 1985 B-movie classic Day of the Dead, directed by George A. Romeros, Fort Myers is the setting for the city of zombies and the human heroes escape to the beach of Sanibel Island.
The walls of Cabbage Key's historic inn are papered in more than US$30,000 worth of autographed US$1 bills. The inn, built by mystery novelist Mary Roberts Rinehart and her son in 1938, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests and boaters at Mile Marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Fort Myers is known for the professional baseball teams that complete their spring training there. The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins both play in the area and offer fans a chance to see favorite players up close.
To step back in time, simply travel to Sanibel Island, where the only fast-food restaurant is a Dairy Queen.
The little-known island of Pine Island is home to mango farms and an ancient Calusa settlement.
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