Fort Myers, Florida

 / By Lazydays -
From Frontier Garrison to Historic & Artistic Coastal Enclave Built as a refuge for the first American pioneers to settle southwest Florida, Fort Myers was founded as a military base…


Built as a refuge for the first American pioneers to settle southwest Florida, Fort Myers was founded as a military base with less than a dozen civilian homesteads. Over time, it grew into one of two major Gulf Coast ports that supported Florida’s cattle trade. During its earliest years, Fort Myers remained a hardscrabble town of hardworking locals and itinerant cattlemen — until an unlikely champion ushered in a tourism boom.

Famed inventor Thomas Edison fell in love with the rustic coastal town and became a regular visitor. He also took a hand in its postcard-ready makeover. The signature coconut palms that run down either side of McGregor Boulevard are there because Edison would have it no other way. He also introduced his friend and fellow industrial inventor, Henry Ford, to Fort Myers. After these men put Fort Myers on the map, the floodgates opened. Throughout the 20th century, northerners weary of the punishing winters sought refuge from the cold in the town where, a century before, settlers had aimed muskets over walls to fend off hostile Seminoles.

Today, visitors flock to Fort Myers for postcard-perfect vacations that make everyone wish they were here. But, as you soak up the sun, don’t pass up the chance to soak in a little local history, too.

WHAT TO DO IN FORT MYERS

  • Adventures in Paradise — Plan some fun on the water with this company’s fishing charters, boat excursions or dolphin cruises. Boats leave from Port Sanibel Marina (off island) at 14341 Port Comfort Rd., Fort Myers. Call 239.472.8443 to book your adventure.
  • Edison & Ford Estates — Visit the winter residences of Fort Myers’ most celebrated snowbirds. Tour Edison’s lab and discover he invented a bunch of stuff you had no idea about. Stroll the tropical gardens and grab lunch in the Banyan Café. Located at 2350 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Call 239.334.7419.
  • Southwest Florida Museum of History — Housed in the former Atlantic Coastline Railroad Depot, the museum features informative and entertaining dioramas, displays and exhibits that explore the evolution of Florida from prehistory through pioneer days to the present. Additional exterior exhibits include a “cracker” house and “Esperanza,” a luxury Pullman rail car. Located at 2031 Jackson St., Fort Myers. Call 239.321.7430.
  • Imaginarium Science Center — This kid-friendly companion to the Southwest Florida Museum boasts 3-D movies, fossil digs, a stingray touch tank, live sharks, animal encounters, a hurricane experience and limited-run special exhibits — all the makings for a fun family day. Combo packages are available with admission to both the Museum of History and Imaginarium. Located at 2000 Cranford Ave., Fort Myers. Call 239.321.7420.

FORT MYERS RIVER DISTRICT

Work is currently underway on a multi-year project to redevelop and renew the downtown River District. Art galleries, live theater, parks, shops, bistros and, of course, waterfront pedestrian thoroughfares make this re-imagined destination a perfect stop for picnics, morning brunches, afternoon strolls and sultry nights on the town.

  • Art of the Olympians — The Al Oerter Center is home to a non-profit exhibition of Olympian art and Olympic memorabilia. Located at 1300 Hendry St., Fort Myers. Call 239.332.5055.
  • Art Walk — This cultural event is held the first Friday of each month and includes gallery tours, sidewalk setups and an after-party. Visit the website for a route map and details.
  • Music Walk — Enjoy live music at several restaurants, bars, bistros and galleries the third Friday of each month. You’ll hear everything from blues and jazz to rock, reggae and alternative tunes. Visit the website for a map of participating venues.
  • Centennial Park — This pretty, 10-acre community park stretches along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River. Stroll, picnic or just sit under a shade tree and enjoy the day. Gorgeous sunsets, too. Located at 2000 W. First St., Fort Myers.
  • Bennett’s Fresh Roast — This eatery serves breakfast and lunch, but the best reasons to visit Bennett’s are the hand-cut, made-from-scratch donuts and signature house coffee. Located at 2011 Bayside Parkway, Fort Myers. Call 239.332.0077.
  • French Connection Café — A popular quick lunch and casual dinner joint, this place has been pleasing palates since 1977, serving Gulf seafood with a Cajun twist. Located at 2282 First St. Call 239.332.4443.
  • The Veranda — Treat yourself to the antebellum charm and delicious food of The Veranda, which encompasses two turn-of-the-century homes. Located at 2122 Second St., Fort Myers. Call 239.332.2065.

RV PARKS IN FORT MYERS

Cypress Woods RV Resort

The popular Cypress Woods RV Resort offers lakefront and lake-view sites, a swimming pool and shade trees, and is close to shopping and I-75. In addition to large rental sites for Class A and fifth wheel RVs, the resort also has a number of permanent homes and lots for sale.

  • Full hookups: water, sewer and electric (50-amp)
  • Wi-Fi and cable TV
  • No pull-through sites, but room for big rigs
  • Family-friendly and pet-friendly

For reservations, call 239.694.2191. Located at 5551 Luckett Rd., Fort Myers, FL 33905.

Woodsmoke Camping Resort

In addition to nice, roomy pull-through sites, Woodsmoke Camping Resort has smaller sites for little rigs — making it a terrific alternative for Class Bs and Cs as well as travel trailers. The hiking trail, pool and hot tub are among the highlights of this resort. You can also fish in any of their three lakes.

  • Full hookups: water, sewer and electric (50-amp)
  • Wi-Fi, no cable TV
  • Pull-through sites, big-rig access and lakefront sites
  • Family-friendly and pet-friendly

For reservations, call 239.267.3456. Located at 19551 U.S. Highway 41, S. Fort Myers, FL 33908.

Source: Adam Porter, RV adventurer

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