Big Cypress national preserve Florida

8 Day Trips From Fort Myers To Experience The Beaches And Swamps Of Florida

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One area of Florida I want to explore even more than I have is the west side, specifically the southwest. I’ve still gotten to see quite a bit over there, though and am sharing some great day trips from Fort Myers with you today! These are all great additions to any Florida road trip.

Everything on this list will be no more than an hour and a half from Fort Myers so you won’t just be driving allllll day.

Now for all those great hotel options in Fort Myers. As usual, there are tons of chains here so if you’re a point collector, you’ll have tons to choose from no matter which you prefer.

As for non-chain hotels, here are some great ones. If you want to be by the beach, The Neptune Resort and DiamondHead Beach Resort are two awesome choices that are both family friendly.

If you want to stay somewhere smaller, check out The Hibiscus House Bed and Breakfast. The Hotel Indigo is perfect if you want to be downtown and the Legacy Harbour Hotel is for you if you want a waterfront view that isn’t the ocean.

If you do decide to travel right now, please do so safely and at your own risk.  Wear a mask, wash and sanitize regularly, check any government regulations before going, and book accommodations with flexible cancellation policies, just in case. 

Photo by Kullez Flickr

Sanibel

Distance from Fort Myers

37 minutes – there is very limited parking on the island and you have to pay a $6 toll every time you come back to the island so renting bikes is a great way to get around and see the island without really worrying about parking.

Here is something that can help plan any parking. Or to avoid that, consider staying in Sanibel if your budget allows.

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This is the perfect day trip from Fort Myers if you want to see the beach and do some shelling. It’s great because it’s not too far from Fort Myers but it’s far enough. I would definitely recommend going there first thing in the morning to hopefully beat the mid-day crowds, at least a little bit.

Must-do activities

There are plenty of things to do on Sanibel but the number one thing to do is shelling! There’s Bowman Beach and Lighthouse Beach Park which are good places to start. Consider walking a little further from the main areas to get away from the crowds and definitely go a low tide.

You can rent a bike to explore the island, visit the shell museum, or visit the J. N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Corkscrew Swamp Florida

Corkscrew Swamp

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour – make sure you put the boardwalk or the visitor center into Google Maps or it will take you to some weird place in the middle of farms by Ave Maria (fun fact: the guy that founded Dominos founded Ave Maria.)

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This is home to the longest boardwalk in Florida and will let you have a close look at the Florida swamp without going as far away as Big Cypress. It is about $15 for entry, but it’s a cool boardwalk and you can spend a couple of hours here.

Must-do activities

Walk that boardwalk and keep an eye out for wildlife along the way like birds and alligators. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll even see the ghost orchid there blooming!

Myakka state park canopy walk

Myakka State Park

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour 15 minutes

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This is the perfect day trip from Fort Myers if you want to spend a whole day outside. You could easily spend days here doing all the things, but one whole day is enough to see plenty.

Must-do activities

While you’re there make sure you do the canopy walk (almost like ziplining but you’re walking above the treetops,) do some Geocaching, take a boat tour, go kayaking, bike the roads, or hike some of the many trails.

If you want to do something a little different, consider trying to get a permit for the hike to Deep Hole!

tigertail beach marco island florida

Marco Island

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour 11 minutes

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

It’s the beach without the Sanibel crowds! Hard to beat that, right? It’s easy to navigate around the island and a great jumping off point for the Ten Thousand Islands (which you can read about below)!

Must-do activities

Shelling! We went shelling on Tigertail Beach, but there is also South Beach. You can rent kayaks and paddle boards at Tigertail to paddle around the mangroves and look for birds.

You can also visit the Marco Island Historical Museum or the Marco Island Center for the Arts, visit the Briggs Nature Center or the Otter Mound Preserve.

Matlacha Florida

Matlacha

Distance from Fort Myers

30 minutes – There is parking here, but it can be very hard to find since a lot of the roads are blocked off because they’re residential. If you want to avoid the parking struggle, consider staying on the island.

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This is a little different than anything on this list. Instead of being a beach or swamp getaway, it’s a cute little artsy fishing town! Its super close to Fort Myers which means you could easily get there last minute, too.

Must-do activities

While Matlacha isn’t brimming with things to do, there is enough to keep you busy. Spend the day wandering around the galleries and shops, try some fishing, enjoy fresh seafood, or do some kayaking/paddle boarding through the mangroves.

Gator Hook trail big cypress Florida

Big Cypress

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour 30 minutes

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

It’s pretty much as close as you can get to Everglades National Park without going all the way across to Homestead then in to Flamingo. You can technically visit the Gulf side of the park, but it’s primarily boat tours or paddling.

This is also the furthest trip from Fort Myers on this list, but it’s totally worth the drive especially since you’ll probably see alligators.

Must-do activities

There are quite a few boardwalks in Big Cypress so make sure you do all those. If you want to try a little swamp hiking, do the Gator Hook trail. Want to get even further into the swamp? Rent some kayaks or do a ranger-led paddling tour if you’re not comfortable going out on your own or just want to learn while you’re out there.

Fakahatchee Boardwalk Florida

Fakahatchee Strand

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour 15 minutes – this could be a little off either way. The boardwalk and the Hilton are in different areas, but both shouldn’t be much more than this.

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This could be combined pretty easily with a day trip to Big Cypress. It’s a much less well-known corner of the swamp to explore and see some wildlife.

Must-do activities

This is a pretty wild park (like, untamed kind of wild) without many maintained trails. Like, almost none. But, there is the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk which is a must-do and the hike to the Fakahatchee Hilton, a small shack with a pond out back full of gators.

Keep an eye out for wildlife wherever you are. Try some Geocaching or take a walk or bike down one of the side dirt roads (literally dirt or mud, not gravel.)

Photo by Paula Martinelli – Paula Pins the Planet

10,000 Islands

Distance from Fort Myers

1 hour 15ish minutes – this depends on the area you’re going to. If you’re doing a tour it will most likely leave from Marco Island, Naples, or Everglades City (if it’s with park service).

Why it’s the perfect Fort Myers day trip

This is about as wild as you can get in this very busy area of Florida and you can experience it on your own or with a tour.

Must-do activities

This is a great place to go shelling, kayaking, or boating. Take a boat tour out to the Cape Romano Dome Houses or do a shelling tour if you don’t feel comfortable renting a boat yourself (it can be difficult to navigate the area.) There is also the Marsh Trail if you want to do some hiking.

If you’re feeling really adventurous and are prepared for it, consider doing some wild camping on the islands. Just know there are no facilities for this type of thing.

Have you done any of the Fort Myers day trips? What is your favorite day trip from Fort Myers?

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