Fort Myers, Florida – at a glance
An up-and-coming area of the Sunshine State; Fort Myers is located alongside the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida, right between Tampa and Miami. It’s the commercial centre of Lee County and holds the county seat.
Fort Myers is a pleasantly mid-sized city with the 2018 census estimating its population to be at approximately 82,000 people. There’s a fantastically diverse population and culture in Fort Myers, with a great mix of urban and suburban areas. No matter where you are living, there are amazing local amenities nearby.
Unsurprisingly, Fort Myers has the classic Floridian weather – a primarily tropical climate with high humidity at times, but more than nine months of sunny days to get your required dose of Vitamin D on the beach! Plus, Sanibel Island is less than an hour away by car, which is famous for its stunning vistas, shell-finding, drinking and dining, and resorts. It’s also around a five hour drive to Key West, and only three hours from Orlando – so Fort Myers is perfectly located for a weekend getaway in any direction.
Living in Fort Myers
Fort Myers might be ranked #1 in terms of places to retire, but it’s also highly ranked for places to relocate. More than a quarter of residents are over 65, but millennials and young families have been flocking to South Florida over the years.
There are great job opportunities here – from local businesses, to bigger corporations, it’s a great area of Florida in which to job-hunt. For example, the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce hosts regular networking events for young professionals. Hertz, Gartner, and Chico’s are headquartered in Lee County. Fort Myers residents statistically have a lower than average commute time: less than 30 mins. That means more time to enjoy everything the area has to offer!
Fort Myers Real Estate
If you’re looking to move somewhere short-term before settling down, median rent is less than $1,000 – this is relatively low, so there’s a similar proportion of renters and homeowners. And, most importantly, the average home sells for just over $200,000, which is less than the Florida average! There is a property to suit every budget here.
Speaking of properties, the rate of property crime is much lower than the national average, so you can rest assured that you and your family will feel safe in Fort Myers.
What to do in Fort Myers
There is so much to do and see around Fort Myers and the Lee County area.
The Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, Broadway Palm Dinner Theater, and Arcade Theater (which hosts the Florida Repertory Theater) are great if you want to catch a play, musical or concert any time of year. There are also two symphonic groups (the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra and the Southwest Florida Symphony), as well as the Opera Naples group, for some classical music. Plus, the Sidney and Berne Davis Arts Center hosts exhibits and concerts throughout the year.
If you’re looking for some retail therapy, there are shops and malls aplenty. Locals recommend the Sanibel Outlet Shops, where you are practically guaranteed to find anything you could possibly be looking to buy. Food-wise, thanks to the organic heritage farm Rosy Tomorrows, as well as loads of other farmer’s markets around the city, you’ll be able to enjoy local farm fresh and organic food year-round.
In terms of countryside scenery, where to even start with nature parks? Fort Myers is relatively close to the Everglades – the drive over is between one and two hours, depending on which of the nature reserves you want to visit.
If you like to secure your own fishy catch, or fancy a day relaxing by the water, head to the freshwater lakes of Lakes Park – which are also great for bicycling and bird-watching!
Hike, stroll, or kayak around the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, where you can see some fascinating serene ecosystems, or hit up one of the many other nature preserves around the area – e.g. the Wild Turkey Strand Preserve, Caloosahatchee Creeks Preserve, the National Wildlife Refuge, Buckingham Trails Preserve, Powell Creek Preserve, Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, Harns Marsh, or Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve.
History buffs will enjoy a guided tour of the Edison & Ford Winter Estate (the winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford), which houses a historical museum and an acres-huge botanical garden. There’s also the Southwest Florida Military Museum & Library, for those interested in the country’s military history, and the Railroad Museum of South Florida, which features model trains, railroad artifacts, and a one-mile miniature train ride.
Sports fans will be delighted too – there’s the CenturyLink Sports Complex, and some northern sports teams have their spring/winter training grounds in the Fort Myers area, so there’s usually some football or baseball to watch! For the golfers, there are various country clubs and golf courses around the county. There’s also a wealth of options around the many beaches for taking part in water sports such as parasailing and kayaking – or simply to relax and enjoy the sunshine with the family and a picnic.
Where to eat and drink in Fort Myers
In terms of food and drink, Fort Myers has a fantastic mix of upscale and relaxed places to eat – from celebratory fine dining at The Veranda, to casual comforting Southern cuisine at the Farmers Market Restaurant, this city has it all. There’s no shortage of options for great food made with locally-sourced ingredients and served with a smile. Plus, being a beach-side city, there’s always the freshest, tastiest seafood available on every corner.
Locals recommend the Mediterranean cooking with a cuban twist at La Trattoria Café Napoli, the mouthwatering Korean BBQ and Asian fusion food at Ember Korean Steakhouse, the tacos and burritos at Jalapeños, going for a quintessentially British Afternoon Tea at the Wisteria tea rooms, or gathering with friends for classic American smoked BBQ meats and self-serve beers at the Lodge sports bar.
What about bars? Well, you’ve got waterfront or rooftop cocktails and a bite to eat at the four-story Firestone Skybar & Martini Bar. There’s also some great craft beers at Old Soul Brewing, Bury Me Brewing, Millennial Brewing Company, and Fort Myers Brewing Company. But if that’s not your scene, there’s the Golden Rind cheese & wine shop, Time To Make Wine/Hangar 41 Winery & Brew Shop, or you could opt for an evening of bourbon and live blues bands at the Barrel Room… I could go on! A quick search online will leave you spoiled for choice!
Some of the highest-ranking public and private schools in Florida are located within Lee County. For those with older kids, or adults looking to get back into higher education, Florida Southwestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University are located in Fort Myers. The University of Florida is only a 3 hours drive away (Go GATORS!).
There’s plenty of ways to get kids to tune into the fascinating local wildlife. For example, Manatee Park, where you can rent a kayak and see up-close views of manatees and other marine life. There’s also the Calusa Nature Centre & Planetarium, whose motto is ‘Inspiring people to connect with nature’, features live animals, and exhibits about animals, plants and the environment of Southwest Florida. A visit to the Butterfly Estates is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike – this butterfly conservatory and garden is dedicated to preserving native Floridian butterfly species. And for more animal-fun, you can take the kids to the IMAG History & Science Centre to enjoy the interactive exhibits, a walk around their aquarium, and lots of fun-based learning! Perfect for birthday parties, or simply a family day trip.
For more active days out, the Sky Zone Trampoline Park and the Sun Splash Waterpark are popular with locals year-round. And for indoor fun, Beach Bowl bowling alley is the place to be. Sporty youngsters will be delighted to know about the Jason Verdow Memorial Park – which has over five acres of Little League baseball fields and playgrounds.