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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Fort Myers Travel Guide

This is the last post about spring breaking until I do a re-cap of my spring break. I know this is last minute, but hey, we're in college maybe you need something last minute. Or maybe you can use this guide to help you if you ever want a beautiful vacation in Florida. Throughout the post I have included links to posts I have done about each thing throughout the years. And if you have any additional questions feel free to email me! You can see a ton of Fort Myers, Sanibel & Captiva on videos I have made when Hannah visited by clicking here and here

How to Get There:

You can either fly to Fort Lauderdale and drive two hours or fly directly to Fort Myers. I typically catch a direct flight on Southwest from Austin to Fort Lauderdale but for this break I am taking a Delta flight that stops in Atlanta before ending in Fort Myers. The airport is about a 30-45 minute drive from downtown or the beach. The airport is done up in cream tile and pale colors that really reflect the destination. 

Where to Stay:

There are many different areas in which you can stay in Fort Myers. If you are looking for downtown accommodations check out the Hotel Indigo. If you want to stay out on the islands {Sanibel and Captiva} I always recommend 'Tween Waters Inn. The property's pool was recently re-done, it is right on the water, and it has a charm that you can't get many other places. If you are feeling even more in an island state of mind, go stay on Boca Grande {aka my favorite place in the county}. The islanders don't use their cars, instead opting for golf carts and the Gasparilla Inn and Club {check out my photos here} is amazing {some presidents have even stayed there}! 

What to Do:

On Sanibel Island

First and foremost you should visit Lighthouse Beach, it is on the tip of the island and it is beautiful. My dad and I always head to this beach for the day when we do a Sanibel trip. The historic lighthouse isn't open for tours but there are some real clean bathrooms under it so be sure to visit those. You also must go to Gene's Books, it is THE book store to visit on the island. Hannah and I went this past

winter and we were blown away by the selection of books this small shop contains. If you like any form of mystery {and in any country mystery} you have to visit. The Sanibel Historical Museum and Village is a really fun way to learn about the history of the island {I've done some shoots there: here and here}. I really enjoy the kayaking trail at Tarpon Bay Explorers. It is not super hard and you get to see a lot of wildlife from the water. You can do single or double kayaks and they offer paddle-boarding. After exhausting yourself from kayaking and trust me, you will, visit Bailey's General Store they have a delicious bakery y'all. But also check out the old general store that has really cool stuff. After dinner check out Jerry's Foods which is a whole complex with an ice cream store and shops. All of the shops are wonderful on the island so just take a drive and stop in at the ones you like. The goodwill out there is amazing. Hannah and I did a whole trip to Sanibel and you can see the photos here.

On Captiva Island

My favorite thing to do on Captiva is go to the beach. If you are staying on the island at 'Tweenies you can visit their private beach which is phenomenal. The photo above was taken during sunset there. At Crow's Nest they have Crab Races {I kid you not} at night, there is a family friendly one early in the evening and a later, more adult one later in the evening. Also, a ride on Captiva Cruises is wonderful. You can go out to Cabbage Key a fun island with a restaurant that may or may not have inspired the song "Cheeseburger in Paradise" or do a nature cruise where you can see dolphins, manatees, etc. At the end of the island is South Seas Island Resort where they have a small shopping mall with really cute shops {and the only Starbucks on the islands!}. On the property they have a place called Scoops and Slices which is a 1950s themed dinner that serves ice cream and has a wall of candy. 

On Boca Grande

As I have said, Boca Grande is probably my favorite place in Fort Myers. It was named by Town & Country as the preppiest place on Earth. They have a pink train depot, Lilly Pultizer in the shop windows and people dressed in polos and Bermuda shorts on bikes {you can see one of my outfit posts shot in downtown here}. If you are there you must walk around the downtown, stop by the former train depot, go shopping in the little shoppes and visit Gasparilla Island State Park. The park features my mother's favorite building (maybe) on Earth. The Port Boca Grande Lighthouse, with its unique shape is the perfect thing to take photos of (my mother has a blown up photo in her office). You can get tours and sometimes go up in the lighthouse itself. 
In Fort Myers: 

So my official hometown has quite a few things to do. The first thing I would suggest is the EdisonFord Winter Estates. Thomas Edison "wintered" here so you can visit his home and his lab where he made rubber. If you remember my prom photos, I took them at this lovely site. You can get different kinds of tours of the homes and labs or you can just walk around the site. The plants are all either native or tropical so the gardens are beautiful. After that, head downtown. You can walk along First Street and stop in the shops. My favorite is The Franklin Shops, which is a large store with tons of tiny stores inside. The Sidney Berne Davis Center is beautiful at night. The outside is lit up with words to create a magical effect. There are always events going on, Art Walk, Music Walk, etc. Main Street Antiques and Collectibles is a fun place to go with your friends to try on crazy clothes too. The Arcade Theater hosts Florida Rep, which is an award winning theater. They do amazing work and everytime I am home I see a show there. Centinnial Park is a fun place to walk along the Caloosahathee River and there is a cute playground for kids. After you are done downtown, head toward Lakes Park a local park that features swan paddle boats, those fun four-person bikes, and if you have kids/act like a kid there is an awesome water park. You should also visit Fort Myers Beach for a day or two, the beach is really nice at Bowditch Point Park. Mound House is also really interesting - it's a Calusa Indian Mound. Speaking of Calusa Indian Mounds, Randell Research Center on Pineland is one of my favorite things in Fort
Myers. They just discovered another Calusa Indian Mound and it is.so.cool. Honestly, my dad and I go out there whenever they find new things. After the mounds visit Matlacha which is pronounced Matt-La-Shay {I know, it's crazy}. This little island town is quirky and colorful...and downright crazy. I am good friends with a very popular and kind of amazing artist, Leoma Lovegrove so make sure to stop by her gallery. The Matlacha Menagerie has beautiful pots and clay-wares that I love to look around. After jaunting around the various galleries, buying tons of amazing artwork, stop by Great Licks Ice Cream shop for a little pick-me-up. 
Where to Eat:
On Sanibel:
   Lighthouse Cafe - Probably my favorite breakfast place in all of Florida, Lighthouse has the best bacon. I mean seriously, if you love crispy bacon, this is for you. They also feature delicious hotcakes, nicely buttered toast, and flavorful potatoes. Their eggs are also fluffy and buttery. Honestly I could go on and on about this place, it is so so so so good. Please go, it is on the way to Lighthouse beach and the decor is lighthouse inspired. 
   Island Cow - This eclectic and fun restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve you delicious muffins before your meal {try to get the funfetti kind!}. Hannah & I adore their pastas; whenever she visits it is one of our first stops on the island. The atmosphere is not perfect for Instagramming but the lighting in the mornings is perfect for a photo of your table full of pancakes. 
   Doc Fords - If you are into seafood or cuban sandwiches, Doc Fords brand new location on Sanibel is for you. The restaurant is based on books written by Randy Wayne Wright and hosts lots of items from the books. I always go for the Cuban sandwich but people seem to love the Yucatan Shrimp. 

   Schnapper's Hots - I discovered this adorable hot dog stand on my last trip to Sanibel with Hannah. We had just finished kayaking and were really craving burgers {I realize it's a hot dog stand but I just do not like the taste of hot dog meat}. Their fries really compliment the cheeseburger and they serve ice cream as well. There aren't a ton of seats inside the restaurant but they have seats out back. 
   Pinocchio's Ice Cream - Hannah and I are obsessed with this place. Their ice cream is over the top creamy, they pack ice cream cones so full you can't finish them and they come with animal crackers on top. My favorite flavor is the Dirty Sand Dollar, which is carmel, malt, malt balls and chocolate chunks...so good.

On Captiva:
  Mad Hatter - This is technically on Sanibel but you are almost to Captiva so we are going to count it. Mad Hatter is great if you are looking for a more upscale dinning experience with a beautiful view of the sunset. The Black Grouper is superb and the Chocolate Truffle Terrine is to die for. During season make sure to call ahead and get a reservation. The restaurant is small and fills up fast.

   Bubble Room - If you love crazy things, giftshops, people dressed like abbreviated Boy Scouts, and cake...this place is for you! The Bubble Room is a true Captiva classic and I always am willing to take my friends there for dessert. In my opinion the food is overpriced and not very good, but the cake. The cake is amazing. Make sure to have your cake in the restaurant the first time you visit {after that get it to go and eat it on the beach}, the atmosphere in the restaurant is wild and there are tons of photo opportunities {I reviewed the restaurant here}. For the perfect Instagram shot, either have a photoshoot with your cake or take it with the wall in the parking lot covered in bubbles. 

On Boca Grande:
    Miller's Dockside - I have never been to another restaurant on Boca Grande because I am so loyal to Miller's. The dining is alfresco, right on the water {it's literally dockside} and the food is always delicious. I have had a chicken sandwich, burgers, grouper, and so many other things -- all delicious. Sometimes they even have the most amazing sweet potato fries! 

In Fort Myers
   Fancy's - If you are looking for amazing southern fare, Fancy's is your best bet. I have been going there for years {throwback to my birthday dinner}. Lunch or dinner are great, the chicken and waffles are a must have. If you aren't feeling that they do a mean grilled cheese {with sweet potato fries} for lunch and their banana pudding is perfection.
   Norman Love - This is a new one for me but now that I know it exists I am super into it. Go to Norman Love not for the chocolates because I am not a huge fan and they are super expensive. Go for their artisan gelato and baked goods because those are amazing. Their new chocolate salon is on the way to the beach! 
    Sun Harvest - If you follow me on Instagram {@hautetable/@haydenpigott} you know I am obsessed with this place. Florida is known for citrus {obviously} but SH takes it to a whole new level. Their orange and vanilla ice cream swirl cones are a delight in the summer. And they offer free samples of their orange juice, which is fabulous. It is on the way to the airport so stop when you get off the plane and right before you get back on. 
    Golden Fork Cafe (CLOSED) - This is the perfect breakfast place to stop in at before you visit downtown or the Edison Ford Winter Estates. They have light & fluffy pancakes, soft eggs and crispy bacon. It is one of my favorite places to get breakfast in my hometown and it's always relatively quiet so if you like to read the paper in the morning go here!  
    McGregor Cafe - I adore the patio at McGregor Cafe because it is under a ginormous tree and you sit where you can see the road. It is the perfect place to people watch while sipping on a iced tea from a large ball jar. They offer a variety of sandwiches and salads; most of it is delicious so you can't go wrong. I typically go for the "Wild Thing" which is roast beef, herb garlic cream cheese, lettuce and onion on a toasted croissant. My mom loves the chicken salad; it comes with some type of flavored pound cake which is always a treat. 

     Three Fishermen - I should preface this by saying seafood is not my favorite. In fact it is probably my least favorite category of food possibly ever. However, I have been going to Three Fisherman since I was little and their grouper is phenomenal. It is on the water, with a great view of downtown and their hushpuppies are A+. Get the homemade apple sauce as a side with your fish because who makes applesauce anymore?!    
      Crave - Crave is my go to for a classy brunch with my girlfriends. The restaurant is tiny but they serve delicious chocolate chip pancakes and they have quality coffee. Their lunch menu also features traditional foods {you can even get adult chicken fingers}. It is kind of like a really classy diner. 
      Heavenly Biscuit - This Fort Myers Beach stop has the best cinnamon roll I've ever had {read my post all about it here}, and I don't like cinnamon roles. They also serve huge biscuits full of different things {I'm a big fan of fried chicken in mine}. Bring some friends because you won't be able to finish it by yourself.

     (REDACTED, they supported the January 6th Capitol sedition)  Publix - Wait...Hayden, why would I eat at a grocery store? Lemme tell you, you don't have to actually eat there, get it to go and take it to the beach. The Publix Sub {affectionately called the PubSub} is quite honestly the best thing to come out of Florida...maybe not but definitely close. The grocery store has a deli and they make fresh sandwiches at all hours of the day. My favorite is the Ultimate, which comes with three different meats, cheese, lettuce and whatever other toppings you want. Please go, you won't regret it. 
      The Bagel Factory - The Bagel Factory is my favorite place in Fort Myers. There is this hometown feel about the place, the bagels are the yummiest things I've ever tasted, and it reminds me of my family. Everyone in the place knows one another but that doesn't mean they aren't friendly to outsiders. We've been going there since before I can remember and now we go every Sunday {so if you're there you'll see me looking real sleepy - stop by and say hi!}. Get the Everything Bagel with plain cream cheese toasted. 
     Wisteria Tea Room - My dad and I love this place for our more exciting events, like before I left for London and before I go back to college. When we to Wisteria Tea Room my dad is the only guy in the place but the food is so.good. It's your typical tea house with lace table cloths and mismatched china. The roast beef panini is always warm with the cheese oozing out. The soups are also delicious; I'm a huge fan of the chicken and rice. 
     Bennett's Fresh Roast - Donuts that make your heart sing...literally how I feel about this place. When they opened when I was little I soon became obsessed. Their donuts are little pillows of goodness and the plain donut with chocolate icing and the trio of chocolate chips is beautiful. Their cinnamon twist is baked to perfection. 
     Bert's Bar - Bert's is amazing for lunch or dinner when you're out on Matlacha. You can sit on the dock or pull up your boat. There is typically live music on the weekend and it is very basic. Like the atmosphere is a beach shack, nothing more. Their grouper is A+ and the homemade chips make me incredibly happy. 
These are the videos I made of Hannah & I's trips in Fort Myers, I linked them above but here they are in their entirety. They give a good overview of the destination in general.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, looks like you had a great time!