Don’t get us wrong, we love Toronto. But sometimes we can’t help living vicariously through Instagram snaps of warmer climes we’d love to visit.
One of the places at the top of our travel list for 2019 has to be Southwest Florida. And no, it’s not because we want to meet Mickey. We’re far more interested in white sandy beaches and adventures with airboats and alligators!
Check out our guide to SW Florida to learn how you can experience everything this great region has to offer.
Picture-Perfect Paradise Islands
This part of Florida is home to several islands. But the most popular and famous of these are Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. With unspoiled coastal scenery to rival the Caribbean, these are two must-see locations on any trip to SW Florida.
This paradise isle boasts miles of white sandy beaches strewn with shells, as well as an abundance of wildlife. In fact, Sanibel’s nature preserves make up over two-thirds of the island.
As such, the island is popular with birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts, as well as couples and families looking for a quiet break. Unlike most other Florida beach towns, Sanibel Island is home to very few fast food outlets and chain stores. Instead, most shops here are independent boutiques, and the restaurants specialize in local seafood products.
Sanibel Island connects to the mainland via a high-span bridge so it’s easy to access for a day trip if you’re staying in nearby Fort Myers. And in fact, if you’ve opted for parking at RSW Airport, Sanibel is only a 40-minute drive away.
Known as Sanibel’s little sister island, Captiva Island offers a more intimate stay for those looking to get away from it all.
With turquoise waters lapping at soft white sands, Captiva Island beaches are internationally recognized for their beauty. Turner Beach, to the south of the island, is ideal for fishing and collecting shells. While you should head to Alison Hagerup Beach Park for the best views of a stunning Captiva sunset.
Captiva Island’s quaint downtown area is home to a few stores and restaurants, with many eateries offering waterfront views and live music for a memorable dining experience.
Family Fun in Fort Myers Beach
Due to its close proximity to RSW Airport, the city of Fort Myers is a popular hub for SW Florida tourism.
Fort Myers is home to several museums and galleries, wildlife preserves, parks, shopping and lots of other activities. But, many visitors tend to head to the neighboring town of Fort Myers Beach for more vacation fun.
Fort Myers Beach is particularly popular with families in the summer. This is thanks to its seven-mile stretch of sand, eco-tour excursions and water sports like parasailing and kayaking. Other family attractions include Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise and the Sun-N-Fun Lagoon in nearby Naples.
But, Fort Myers Beach isn’t just for kids. Lovers Key State Park is a popular romantic destination for couples looking for some private time. And, there’s plenty of nightlife, as well as great restaurants, festivals and other events to keep everyone happy.
Airboats and Alligators on an Everglades Adventure
If a day or two at the beach is more than enough for you, head to Everglades City to enjoy the best of SW Florida’s waterlogged subtropical wilderness.
Everglades City offers access to nearby Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands. These preserves are perfect for adventure lovers, with boating and kayaking being the most popular ways to explore the area’s watery labyrinths.
And, for plenty of alligator-spotting opportunities, take things up a notch on an Everglades tour led by local guides, where you can enjoy the unique scenery by airboat, bike or on foot. Although, it’s worth noting that the dry winter season is actually the best time for viewing wildlife in the park, so you might want to book your SW Florida trip sooner rather than later!
Beaches, BBQs and Boating in Cape Coral
Our final recommendation for your SW Florida vacation is Cape Coral. With water parks, skate parks and activities like mini golf and paintballing, Cape Coral is ideal for kids. But the city has plenty to offer for all tastes.
Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve is a great spot for nature lovers to kayak or walk through in search of wildlife. And Mike Greenwell’s Family Fun Park is a popular destination for sporting enthusiasts. Here you can enjoy batting cages, go-karts, and mini-golf, or take in a game on the big screen at the bar.
If you remembered to pack your bikini, Cape Coral is also home to the Sun Splash Family Waterpark, aka the biggest waterpark in SW Florida. And, not forgetting the best Cape Coral beach locations, which feature BBQ grills, picnic tables and playgrounds for plenty of fun in the sun.
Cape Coral also has more than 400 miles of canals. Many visitors to this region enjoy exploring this area in a rental boat. While stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking are also popular activities.
Your Southwest Florida Vacation Guide
From airboats and alligators to the classic mix of sea, sand, and sun, SW Florida has it all.
Whether you’re looking for an adventure vacation, family fun or a relaxing break, you’re sure to find your own slice of paradise right here.
And, for those of you who like the idea of a getaway but want to keep things closer to home, check out these romantic Airbnbs for a winter wonderland weekend!