February 17, 2015

Ft. Myers Beach, Florida

Life is wonderful. Travel is glorious. And spontaneity is a necessity to avoid insanity. 

At least, that's my philosophy on any given day. I recently ran across a dirt cheap deal to buy airline tickets to Ft. Myers Beach, Florida...and in a split-second decision...I was sold. This last-minute weekend getaway was much needed, magical, and the perfect escape from gloomy January days.

(For reference, Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island are very close to each other. Our weekend was spent hopping between the two of them.)

As a kid my family vacationed to Sanibel Island semi-frequently. I knew the sea-shell filled beaches and I have fond memories of the Rainforest Café…pre-hurricane Charley.  Post-hurricane Charley, Sanibel Island remained unknown in my life, although I planned this trip with the confidence that Florida had recovered in the 10+ years since Charley has hit. With blurry memories of Sanibel Island and no memories whatsoever of Ft. Myers Beach, we packed our bags and set sail for a bargain weekend and some exploration. Florida has indeed recovered, quite well.

Without further ado, here is my humble guide to some of our favorite things to do, see, and eat if you find yourself buying a cheap ticket to Ft. Myers Beach/Sanibel Island any time soon.

1.    Do: Play Mini Golf

It’s no surprise that this area is fairly touristy. I lived in Florida once upon a time and I know Florida well, so just this once, I was okay feeling just slightly like a tourist (excuse me as I go hide my face in shame.) Which leads me to this observation, tourists play mini-golf on vacation. Go be a tourist. Visit Jungle Golf and try to find all of the hidden items or get a hole in one and win a free round. For the golf-lovers (cough – Blake – cough) and the happy-go-lucky put-putters (me), this is the way to spend the evenings. We might have played mini-golf every night we were there.  We might have won a free round. The tourist in me will never tell.

2.    Eat: Z Crepes Café

How highly can I sing their praises? Drive through the business district of Ft. Myers to the Butterfly Estates (a big name for a small section of local shops) and feast upon this glorious food. We ordered cheese puffs as an appetizer, followed by the signature homemade puree of French onion crème soup, then our entrees of a ham & cheese crepe omelet (Blake) and savory shrimp served with rosemary cream sauce (yours truly). Goodness gracious my mouth is watering just thinking about this meal. We would have ordered dessert if our stomachs had allowed. Also, the service was phenomenal. During our visit there was an undisclosed accident in the kitchen, and we were told that our food would take longer then normal. Our waiter brought out the soups on the house and offered to buy us drinks as well. We declined the drinks and gobbled down the soup. The wait was not that long at all, so we did not feel inconvenienced. To top it off, when the check came our server only charged us for the appetizer and one entrée, claiming, “We want you to remember us fondly.” Oh my, Z Crepes Café, you will always be in our fondest memories.

Note: Plan this excursion on the same day as Z Crepes Café, they are minutes apart from each other. 

For the history lovers in the group, or the house lovers, or the invention lovers, or anyone else who likes to soak in the local story…this is a must. We loved touring the Ford and Edison grounds, which are beautifully kept and preserved. From Edison’s workshop to the humorous guesthouse rules, this was $20 per/person well spent.

4.    Do: Rent Bikes        

When visiting Sanibel Island, renting bikes is a must. Billy’s Bike Shop has good reviews, but after a brunch at the Over Easy Café, we were closer to Finnimore’s Cycle Shop. Finnimore’s did seem a little bit more sketchy (shall we say), but the bikes worked and the pricing was great, so no complaints. We rented two 6-speed bikes for 4 hours at $22 dollars total. The prices decrease the longer you have the bikes. Our path took us up to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve (normally $1 for cyclists, free on MLK Day). This was a lovely scenic ride, complete with one roadside alligator chilling in the swamp. We kept pedaling. It’s worth mentioning, but a short ride further up the road will take you to Captiva Island, where we stopped and spent the afternoon on the white beaches.

5.    Eat: The Royal Scoop, Cheeburger Cheeburger, and the Over Easy Café.

Like I previously mentioned, we like to dine local. While we ate some fancy dinners and gorged ourselves in seafood, nothing quite compared to these local joints. The Royal Scoop’s ice cream is heavenly and Cheeburger Cheeburger has outtathisworld burgers and shakes. Lastly, the Over Easy Café is busy, we waited 30 minutes, but the orange breakfast rolls are heavenly. So is the orange juice. And the pancakes. And the breakfast skillets. And…I think it’s time to book another flight…

Straight off the plane and right into Cheeburger heaven.

Our trip was too fast, sunny, and wonderful. We are coastal hearts and saltwater lovers, so this reprieve from our land-locked home was much needed. After living in Belize last year, we have struggled to find contentment in a place far from the crystal Caribbean waters and warm trade winds. While it is good to be where we are, and we feel strongly like we are where we need to be for the moment, vacations help clear the mind and refresh the spirit.

Oh, and I am a little embarrassed to mention this, but we may have driven 3 hours to Orlando just to walk around the Disney boardwalk, get ice cream from Beaches and Cream, and watch the Epcot fireworks from the bridge. When I was a cast member, this was one of my favorite things to do…so Blake spoke my love language when he suggested this mini-adventure. Be still my (Disney-loving) heart. 

If you get a chance, like a cheap plane ticket and an extra day off work, I highly recommend running away for a weekend. Now tell me, what are you favorite getaway spots?

We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came. – John F. Kennedy

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