What’s new from The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
LEE COUNTY, Fla. (U.S.A.) – July on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel means that summer days are in full swing with Fourth of July celebrations and lots of outdoor activities as visitors begin taking long-awaited vacations.
In addition to offering plenty of space for social distancing, great year-round weather, shell-drenched beaches, wildlife and the sparkling Gulf of Mexico, the destination offers lots of new experiences for return guests and first-time visitors. For the latest vacation information, visit FortMyers-Sanibel.com
Happening this month
July Fourth Celebrations
City of Cape Coral Red, White and Boom!
Begin the day with a 5K run at 7 a.m. (registration at 6 a.m.) that starts at the foot of the Cape Coral Bridge. The evening celebration takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. with live entertainment beginning at 5:30 p.m. and fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Note: the Cape Coral Bridge, as well as Cape Coral Parkway from Del Prado Boulevard to the bridge, will closes at 3 a.m. Sunday, July 4. Details, parking and entertainment: www.capeboom.com
Downtown Fort Myers Freedom Fest
Celebrate Independence Day beginning at 6 p.m. in downtown Fort Myers with live music from Thunder Beach Band, food trucks, vendors, and fireworks from Lofton Island on the Caloosahatchee River. www.myriverdistrict.com/events/freedom-fest
Fort Myers Beach Fireworks
The fireworks show begins at 9 p.m. at Times Square. Closing time for the Matanzas Pass Bridge oncoming traffic is from 9 to11:30 p.m. Big Carlos Pass Bridge on the south end of the island will remain open. For parking/trolley information and a list of best places to watch, visit www.fortmyersbeach.org/events/fort-myers-beach-fourth-of-july-celebration
Adventures in Paradise
Enjoy the Fort Myers Beach fireworks from the water beginning at 7:30 p.m. with a cruise through San Carlos Bay. Watch a beautiful sunset and enjoy drinks and snacks. www.adventureinparadiseinc.com/cruises/holiday-cruises/fourth-of-july-cruise
Star Spangled Bonita
The fun takes place in Riverside Park from 5 to 9 p.m. and includes live music, food and beverages, activities for kids and a glow parade. Fireworks begin at sunset. www.cityofbonitasprings.org/july4th
Turtle nesting season runs through Oct. 31
The destination is known for its wildlife and turtle nesting season is special to those who live here as well as to the visitors who travel from all over the world to experience it. This ritual is one of nature’s miracles. Most common to the area is the loggerhead sea turtle, which lives to be 40-60 years old. These fascinating creatures are big – they weigh 250-400 pounds. Like the visitors, who return year after year to enjoy our beautiful beaches, loggerheads return to the same beach time after time to deposit their eggs.
Be sure to observe a nesting turtle from a distance. Do not shine lights on or around her or she may abandon her effort to nest. Forgo taking photos or using cell phones and stay far away where she cannot see you as she crawls back to the water.
Welcome and Discovery Center opens at Lovers Key State Park
Just in time for summer fun, the new Welcome and Discovery Center has opened at Lovers Key State Park. The center is located on the banks of an inland waterway with a design that pays homage to this beautiful backdrop. The $5.7 million structure starts by educating its visitors outdoors, where the pillars of the elevated building imitate mangroves and a 400-gallon touch tank welcomes hands and curiosity. The information desk takes its cues from Old Florida fish shacks and the gift shop includes books, jewelry and art. www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/lovers-key-state-park
Visitors come to Lovers Key to enjoy its shell-strewn beach that stretches 2.5 miles, with three different beach accesses along calm, clear waters. Bikers enjoy more than 5 miles of multi-use trails through maritime hammock and off-the-beaten paths where you may encounter butterflies, marsh rabbits, gopher tortoises and alligators in a freshwater pond.
Southern Living magazine named Lovers Key one of Florida’s most romantic destinations. In the early 1900s the island was accessible only by boat. Legend says that only lovers made the effort to get to this romantic island, thus the name Lovers Key. www.southernliving.com/travel/florida/most-romantic-destinations-fl
Save the dates
7th annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest
The countdown has started! Returning Sept. 17-26, the award-winning event will include new artists, events and star-studded performances by some of country music’s greatest singer- songwriters from Nashville and beyond. Island Hopper kicks off on Captiva Island Sept. 17-19; moves to downtown Fort Myers Sept. 20-23; and closes at Fort Myers Beach Sept. 24-26.
The official Island Hopper mobile app is available to download for iOS and Android users. This new app was designed to enhance the festival experience. Features of the app include:
- First chance to purchase tickets for select performances
- Personalized schedule
- Artist information
- Performance times and venues
- Festival coupons
- Island Hopper hotel deals
- Festival maps
- Updates and alerts
Visitors will enjoy more than 80 artists, 100 shows, most of which are free and in small, intimate venues. Island Hopper is presented by iHeart Media, Cat Country 107.1, BMI and The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. island- hopper.fortmyers-sanibel.com
Meanwhile, tune into the live virtual concert series, Songs from the Sofa and Songs from the Sand. At 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month, a BMI songwriter performs live from the comfort of their sofa (or from one of our beautiful beaches). Facebook @islandhopperfest; Twitter @islandhopperswf; and The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel YouTube
Murals commemorate McCollum Hall’s colorful past
As Dunbar’s historic McCollum Hall heads toward preservation, local artists have been working to commemorate the building’s colorful past with vibrant outdoor murals depicting its days hosting big-name performers of the “Chitlin Circuit” back in the 1940s and 1950s. Besides recalling performances by Black musical greats, such as Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, the murals pay homage to Dunbar community traditions, including the Easter Sunday parade and heated sidewalk checker matches. The Fort Myers Mural Society oversees the project, which engages a number of local artists as the 12-mural series nears completion. Check details at www.fortmyersmuralsociety.com
To learn more about Dunbar Cultural Landmarks, download the Florida Stories app (free) and follow the route to learn about historic places in the Dunbar community. The tour follows the route to narrated cultural stops. https://floridastories.oncell.com/en/fort-myers-dunbar-community-207854.html
Wonder Gardens plans Otter Grotto
Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs is launching the Robert & Deborah Blain Otter Grotto. The $250,000 otter exhibit will feature a clear acrylic tunnel and a play-cave for children to explore, while otters play and swim around guests. Clear viewing domes will allow children and adults to interact with the otters through the cave-walls. The cave will be wheelchair accessible. Current plans call for an October opening.
Wonder Gardens, opened in 1936 as an Old Florida roadside attraction on Old 41 and was a popular stop for travelers making their way from Tampa to Miami. Now, 85 years later, it welcomes about 75,000 visitors annually. www.wondergardens.org
Topgolf to add Fort Myers location
Topgolf plans to bring its technology-enabled entertainment experience to Fort Myers in late 2021. The seventh venue to be located in Florida, the complex will include 70 climate-controlled hitting bays, full-service restaurant and bars, 200 HDTV’s, rooftop terrace, private event space and meeting rooms. www.topgolf.com/us/fort-myers
Have fun and save with Fort Myers Sun Saver Passport
Sunshine is just one of many reasons to visit Southwest Florida. Use your mobile phone to access exclusive deals and savings on experiences and find yourself exploring everything under the sun here.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel has launched a free mobile savings passport. Users have access to exclusive deals on attractions, restaurants and experiences throughout the destination.
- Sign up at https://explore.visitfortmyers.com/
- The passport will be delivered to your mobile phone via text
- Redeem it on your mobile phone at participating businesses
- Visit the website for a complete list of attractions, restaurants and experiences
The Oxbow Bar & Grill has opened at the Luminary Hotel & Co. Located in what was once known as the City Pier Building in the Downtown Fort Myers River District, it offers a mix of causal dockside dining and shopping. Open daily for lunch and dinner it serves brunch on weekends.
With panoramic riverfront views on the Caloosahatchee River, Oxbow features an upbeat nautical vibe that will appeal to the area’s boaters. Inspired by its unique location, the 150-seat restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor seating. Menu selections include fresh oysters and seafood, craft sandwiches, burgers and steaks. The second floor will offer 2,400 square feet of event space featuring a patio with private access and a catering kitchen for private celebrations or meetings for up to approximately 150 guests. www.oxbowfortmyers.com
Chartreuse Craft and Cocktail Lounge has opened in the Bonita Springs Historic District. The lounge offers classic and craft cocktails and a variety of desserts with a 1930s, Old Florida, swanky vibe. www.chartreuselounge.com
Also in Bonita Springs, Cru Wine Club has opened its intimate, 650-square-foot wine tasting room, which features seating inside and outside, may be booked for a maximum of 12 guests to learn about California wines and discover new varieties to buy for enjoyment at home. Light bites and wine tastings will be featured during the day and chef-prepared small plates with host- led wine pairings will be featured during happy hour. The room will also be available for small private events. www.cruwineclub.com
Boop’s By the Bubble Room, the nostalgic, yummy, old-fashioned soda fountain, has just opened on Captiva Island adjacent to the popular restaurant. An ice cream parlor that serves Love Boat ice cream also includes espresso coffees, pastries and the famous Bubble Room cake. www.bubbleroomrestaurant.com
400 Rabbits on Sanibel Island, the new (and only) Mexican restaurant on Sanibel, 400 Rabbits gets its name from the 400 drunken rabbit gods, an Aztec myth involving the infinite ways people could get tipsy. Restaurant co-owners Debra and Jeramie Campana brought in Chef Don Yamauchi, who was nominated for a James Beard award as one of the top five rising star chefs in 1993. He is also a 400 Rabbits co-owner. The restaurant is known for hand-crafted margaritas, dedicated guacamole station, burritos and street tacos. www.400rabbitssanibel.com
Coming soon to downtown Bonita Springs…
Ceremony Brewing is completing final renovations in preparation for a late summer opening. The brewery will make and sell its own beers as well as supplies and equipment for home brewers. The tap room plans to also serve drinks from other area brewers, offering patrons a variety. Local restaurants will supply food. www.facebook.com/CeremonyBrewing
The Bohemian plans a summer opening as the owners of the popular Downtown Coffee and Wine Company are branching into the restaurant scene with a new, upscale and intimate restaurant with a menu filled with eclectic cuisine. Patrons will be able to watch chefs at work in the restaurant’s unique layout that includes seating for 44 inside and 33 on an outdoor deck. www.thebohemianbonita.com
The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village has completed a $15 million renovation. The comprehensive, guestroom-focused transformation debuts almost a full year ahead of schedule, a silver lining resulting from the nationwide hotel closures that impacted 2020.
Highlights of the renovation include 15 new guestrooms increasing the resort’s total room count to 308 rooms; design inspired by the beauty of Southwest Florida with dedication to the use of local materials; a new guest program, Fridge Fills, in-room ingredient baskets for ready-made meals to enjoy from the comfort of the newly renovated suites. www.westincapecoral.com
News from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW)
Toronto to RSW service with Air Canada returns daily starting Oct. 2 and the seasonal flight from Montreal to RSW returns from Nov. 2 until April 2022.
United Airlines will begin offering daily nonstop flights to San Francisco and Los Angeles on Dec. 16 and will continue through May 5, 2022.
The Lufthansa Group plans weekly nonstop flights between RSW and Frankfurt (FRA) in March 2022. Flights will be operated by Eurowings Discover three times a week.
Spirit Airlines plans nonstop flights between RSW and Louisville (SDF) and St. Louis (STL) beginning Nov. 17. There will be daily service between RSW and STL and four times weekly service between RSW and SDF.
Alaska Airlines will resume its nonstop service between RSW and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) on Nov. 19. Both flights will operate daily.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in the news
Southern Living picks Sanibel Island as one of The South’s Best Beach Towns
The editors of Southern Living magazine featured Sanibel in its fifth annual The South’s Best issue, selecting the island as one of its Beach Towns of 2021. Sanibel was featured on the cover of Southern Living’s April edition. The island “kept the heart of the South beating during some of the toughest times of 2020 and 2021,” says the magazine. www.southernliving.com
Fort Myers, Sanibel and Matlacha on “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love”
Award-winning “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love” returned for season 4 on PBS and featured Fort Myers, Sanibel, Matlacha and more. www.samantha-brown.com/episodes/season-4
Town & Country magazine features Boca Grande’s renovated Gasparilla Inn
The classic, Old Florida resort has undergone a refresh that is detailed in Town & Country magazine. The article begins with “Because sipping on Boca Punch and playing a game of backgammon sounds good right about now, doesn’t it?”
Forbes picks Fort Myers: One of Florida’s most underrated cities for a weekend getaway
“A historic community once frequented by Thomas Edison, Fort Myers is the ideal destination for a relaxing weekend getaway. While nearby Sanibel and Fort Myers Beach have earned acclaim for their idyllic beaches and shoreside resorts, the city of Fort Myers is undergoing a tourism renaissance of its own right now—a quality that’s best represented by the Luminary Hotel & Co., a brand new addition to the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Officially unveiled in September 2020, this polished AAA Four Diamond venue is breathing new life into the food, drink, and hospitality scene across the Fort Myers River District.”
Give our new Shellcast podcast a listen
Think of Shellcast as a beach break for your ears. The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel’s new podcast gives listeners a chance to soak up some virtual sun and learn more about our slice of paradise. Listeners tune in to experience the sounds of the destination’s beaches, nature and interviews with local experts. Shellcast is available on https://www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/shellcast and wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. Instagram: @shellcastthepodcast.
Free seasonal tours at J.N. “Ding” National Wildlife Refuge
The J.N. “Ding” National Wildlife Refuge plans to run its Free Summer Tours Program through Aug. 7. The tours will be socially distanced with 10 people or less. Sign up at dingdarling.eventbrite.com to find out about tours, such as a children’s program, art activities, a mindfulness walk at Bailey Tract and a beach walk. www.dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/free-refuge-programs
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum opens “Beyond Shells” on Sanibel Island Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum’s new $6 million expansion, “Beyond Shells: The Mysterious World of Mollusks,” transforms the visitor’s experience. It connects them to the little-known live animals that contribute to the ocean’s stunning shells and educates visitors about the important role these animals play in our ecosystem.
The bright new space gives visitors the chance to rediscover the museum with 11 aquariums that showcase cold and warm water species, like octopuses, squid and nautilus. Visitors duck into a pop-up bubble for a 360-degree look at mollusks and fish, and immerse their hands in two engaging 15-foot touch-pool experiences.
To learn more about the shells from our beaches, download the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum app ($1.99). Snap a photo of your shell and learn what kind it is and all the details about it. shellmuseum.org
Editor’s note: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida includes Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer Islands, North Fort Myers and Lehigh Acres. For media assistance, visit www.fortmyers-sanibel.com/media-central