Escape to Florida’s romantic Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
By Kate McWilliams
Those who imagineFloridato be filled with families, crowded beaches and theme parks and an unlikely destination for a romantic getaway will be surprised by a visit to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel on the South Gulf Coast (The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel includes: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande & Outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres). Made up of extensive stretches of white sand beaches, tiny islands, beachfront dining and hidden islands only accessible by boat, the area is ideal for a romantic getaway.
Many of the Gulf Islands’ beaches are only accessible by boat meaning that they are not on the usual tourist trail and have very few visitors each day. Cayo Costa, for example, is only accessed by boat and has nine miles of inviting beaches, acres of pine forests, oak palm hammock and mangrove swamps. Couples can swim, snorkel, picnic in the shade and even stay overnight in one of the island’s basic cabins.
Kayaking the Great Calusa Blueway
Couples looking for some active fun together can hire kayaks and head out on The Great Calusa Blueway; a 190-mile water trail through coastal waters and inland tributaries. Kayakers can stop off along the way at Mound Key inEsteroBaywhich, unlike most mangrove islands, rises high out the water and can be explored on foot. For a taste of oldFlorida, a paddle down the Orange River throughFort Myersshows residents sitting in their porches overlooking the water.
The family-run winery is located in a rural setting just outside Fort Myers. Couples can sample Eden’s six signature wines, including Eden Spice and Eden Stars. Favourite wines can be bought at the winery shop and taken home as a reminder of the holiday. www.edenwinery.com
Island hopping boat trips
For a romantic day of island hopping couples can join Captain Jack Boat Tours (www.captainjackboattours.com). Departing from Matlacha Restaurant, the trip visits Boca Grande, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key andNorthCaptivaIsland with the chance to see dolphins, alligators, racoons, otters and manatee.
Sunsets on Gasparilla Island State Park
Separated from the mainland by Charlotte Harbour and Pine Island Sound, Gasparilla is part of a chain of Gulf Coast barrier islands and is ideal for a bit of romantic seclusion. It has the best sunset spot in the whole Fort Myersarea at the striking Boca Grande lighthouse which overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.
Shelling in Lovers Key State Park
The coastal park was aptly named after it became popular with couples when it was only accessible by boat. Although now accessible by road it still lives up to its romantic reputation. Couples can kayak through the narrow waterways of nearby barrier islands, explore the leafy forests and enjoy some of the best shelling in the world on the park’s two-mile stretch of beach.
Romantic breaks are available at Lovers Key Resort, which is located on a small, almost private island and is offering special romance packages until 6 September. The seven night ‘Gotta Getaway’ package costs £536 per couple and includes seven nights accommodation, Champagne and strawberries on arrival, a romance guide providing local options for romantic dining, activities and beaches and £30 to be used at the Flipper’s on the Bay restaurant. Direct return flights with Virgin from London Heathrow to Miami start at £900.