Editor’s Note: Please visit the website of venues and locations listed for the latest updates on business operations.
Sometimes, it’s important to plan a getaway for just the two of you. Whether you and your special someone love dipping into the water and exploring sandy shores, or more earthy pursuits like hiking and biking, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel make for a perfectly peaceful, secluded escape. Consider these activities for a romantic jaunt.
On the Beach and in the Water
Discover an Abundance of Beautiful Seashells
Most islands point north to south, but Sanibel has a less-common east-west orientation that’s blessed it with magical sandy beaches and some of the best seashell collecting terrain in the world. Kick-off your romantic escape with a leisurely shell-hunting walk. Stroll down a white-sand beach hand-in-hand and assume the “Sanibel stoop” – the bent-at-the-waist position that shell hunters assume. For serious shellers, hopping on a shelling cruise to Cayo Costa State Park is a must. This secluded nine-mile stretch of coastline is accessible only by boat. It glimmers with piles of shells that are scattered all along the beach and among the vegetation, and remains unspoiled and filled with raw beauty. Pack a picnic, watch flocks of pelicans and other shorebirds, hike the trails, or camp overnight in seclusion (daily admission is $2 per person; camping costs $22 per night).
Leave Land Far Behind
After you’ve enjoyed strolling along – and stretching out on – the sand, head out on the water for maximum romance. Take in a blazing Gulf sunset on a boat as you watch dolphins leap in the waves and sea birds swoop overhead ($30-$40 per person). Or, embark on an eco cruise, where you can take in nature and see wildlife in their natural habitat. If you're looking to explore at your own pace, consider chartering a private boat, where you can discover secluded islands. Alternatively, a sunset cruise makes for a great date night activity.
Head Straight to Lovers Key State Park
Is there anywhere more appropriate for lovebirds than Lovers Key State Park? Spend a day soaking up the sun on its pristine beaches, including an area that has been left perfectly natural. You can also kayak through 2.5 miles of estuaries to watch for manatees, dolphins, and the rare grasshopper sparrow. Explore on your own, or local guides can supply early Florida history and information on the area’s native plants, trees, and flowers. Entrance is $8 per vehicle.
On the Land
Bike Your Way Through Nature and History
Hopping on a bike and pedaling to your destination: it’s a way of life on the barrier island of Sanibel. There are 25 miles of bike trails here, all ready for you and your loved one to explore together. Bike the Sanibel Heritage Trail to learn how this small community developed in the 1800s and look out for scenic landmarks like the Sanibel Lighthouse and Burnap Cottage. The latter was built in 1898 and is one of the island’s oldest buildings.
Seasoned bikers ready for a couples workout should head to Caloosahatchee Regional Park, which has a rugged, pine-fringed landscape that runs along the eponymous river. Enjoy 768 acres of biking or hiking with wildflowers and blooming trees as a backdrop (parking is $1 per hour, or $5 per day).
Visit a Pristine Wildlife Refuge
Sanibel’s ultimate outdoor adventure is the sprawling J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. One of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems in the country, the reserve protects a habitat that’s home to more than 270 species of birds as well as manatees, bobcats, turtles, and more. You can hike, bike, drive, or take a tram once you arrive ($5 per vehicle, $1 per pedestrian and bicycle).
Play Golf on a Top-Notch Course
If you and your other half love to golf, Fort Myers and Sanibel are undoubtedly already on your radar. There are nearly 50 courses to choose from in this community, but for serious aficionados, there’s the bucket-list-worthy Old Corkscrew Golf Club (rates from $60). This semi-private course is non-residential, meaning that the fairways wind through naturally wooded areas and that there are no homes along the course. You can also opt for a luxury golf resort like The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club if you truly want to focus your getaway on perfecting your swing (rates from $45).
Walk Through a Majestic Botanical Garden
For a dreamy outing, meander through the 20 acres of botanical gardens at the historic Edison and Ford Winter Estates. These gardens surround the former homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and include 1,700 plants that originate on six continents. There’s even a moonlight garden filled with night-blooming species. You can also visit the inventors’ homes and peek inside the on-site laboratory, which was functional until the 1930s. Admission is $25 per adult.
Take a Breather
Step into the Aquagene Spa at the Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina on Fort Myers Beach for an afternoon of bonding and relaxation. The Rendezvous for Two package ($380) includes sugar exfoliation, Swedish massage, and champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries for the two of you. At Sanibel Day Spa, couples massages range from $190 to $290 with the option to add a replenishing deep-tissue option.
Share a Romantic Dinner
Every night can be date night on your getaway, and the area’s many restaurants offer candle-lit ambiance, cozy tables, and sea breezes along with excellent cuisine. Situated in a historic home that dates to 1926, the Tarpon Lodge Restaurant on Pine Island serves elegant dishes in a setting that comes with plenty of Old Florida charm and sunset views. Order the catch of the day, an excellent glass of wine, and enjoy. At Bayfront Bistro on Fort Myers Beach, dine waterfront on the restaurant’s expansive terrace. Specializing in steaks and seafood, its wine menu has been recognized by Wine Spectator. Amidst modern, white-on-white design, the chic restaurant Blanc in Fort Myers promises robust flavors inspired by French and Asian cuisine. Plates like five spice pork belly and sushi-grade ahi tuna sliders are made to be shared.
When to Go
For smaller crowds, better prices, and a sense of unrivaled peace and calm, plan your trip to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in the spring or the autumn, when kids are in school and the weather remains mild and sunny.