Naples, Florida, as well as Fort Myers, are the most well-known cities in Southwest Florida, and this post will cover fun things to do in the area! If you’re looking for the best things to do in Southwest Florida and cities such as Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach, Naples, or Sanibel Island, look no further.
Southwest Florida is a beautiful region with plenty of things to see and do. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach, an exciting adventure at the Naples Zoo, or want to explore one of the lush wildlife preserves in the area, there is something for everyone to enjoy here.
Here are 15 of the best things to do in Naples, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel Island (Southwest Florida)! I set up this post at a 3-day itinerary, but there are enough activities in the area to stay for much longer if you’d like!
Table of Contents
15+ Awesome Things to do
in Naples & Southwest Florida!
Day 1- Estero Island and Naples
1. Estero Island
As soon as I touched down at the airport, I went to Estero Island, a small barrier island that includes Fort Myers Beach.
Estero Island is a great place for families with kids, couples looking for a romantic getaway, singles traveling without children, and groups of friends looking for fun in the sun!
This island is just 20 miles away from the airport and about 40 minutes north of Naples. Estero Island is known for its pristine, sparkling white, Gulf coast beaches, and state parks.
There are several great parks along the island that offer nice swimming spots and walking trails if you’re looking to get away from crowds or just want a more secluded experience.
Where To Eat On Estero Island
The Wyndham Hotel has a nice outdoor oceanfront restaurant, Pinchers Crab Shack, so I stopped here for lunch on Estero Island beach.
Pinchers has excellent seafood options and a Tiki bar. I enjoyed a Yeungling beer too, before checking out the ocean.
Hanging out at the beach on Estero Island
Things To Do On Estero Island
Lovers Key is a state park that’s close by. Filled with mangrove forests and sandy beaches, Lovers Key is a popular destination for all of the water activities, including fishing, boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
You can also hike and bike on the trails, have a picnic in the pavilion, check out the wildlife, or even take a tour. If you’re looking for a day of adventure, there are plenty of things to do at this stunning natural oasis.
Estero Bay Preserve State Park
Estero Bay is another state park to visit and you can rent kayaks, paddle-boards, and fish, here. Dogs are welcome, too.
One of the top things to do at Estero Bay State Park is hiking along its scenic trails. The park offers several paths that wind through different ecosystems, including salt marshes and forests.
Along the way, you can spot a variety of wildlife species such as snakes, lizards, turtles, and various bird species. If you’re lucky, you might even get a glimpse of one.
Koreshan State Park
Koreshan State Park is a beautiful place to visit and there are many things to do here!
You can go hiking, canoeing, fishing, swimming, or just enjoy the scenery. The park also has a great campground if you’re looking to stay overnight.
2. Lowdermilk Beach Park- Naples
Next, I went to Lowdermilk Beach Park, which is one of the best things to do in Naples.
It’s a public beach with playgrounds, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, and sand volleyball courts.
There are rentals for kayaks, paddleboards, beach chairs, and other equipment at the beach.
You can also get food and drinks here at the Beach Cafe. Pets are not allowed on the beach.
The beach itself is free but you do have to pay at the pay stations to park.
Lowdermilk Beach Park Amenities
Sand Volleyball Courts
Lowdermilk Beach Park
3. Naples Pier
Just a couple of miles away from Lowdermilk Beach is the Naples Pier. Located along the beautiful coast of southwest Florida, the Naples Pier is a must-visit destination for travelers and locals alike.
Close to local restaurants and shops, the Naples Pier is a beautiful pier that stretches out about 1,000 feet on the Gulf of Mexico. This area also includes miles of beach.
This iconic landmark offers visitors stunning views of the azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico and an array of things to do and see.
Whether you are looking for fun outdoor activities like swimming, sunbathing, or surfing, or simply want to marvel at the spectacular homes, Naples Pier has something for everyone.
The Naples Pier also has a great deal of history. It was built in 1888 and the original Naples Post Office was built on the pier!
Fishing on the pier is big and some of the fish caught here include sea trout, mackerel, and snook. There is a concession stand on the pier that sells bait, as well as snacks and drinks.
One thing to note is that you don’t need a fishing license to go fishing on the pier.
The pier is a fun thing to do in Naples, Florida, and a great place to watch sunsets over the Gulf. It’s also really common to see dolphins swimming near the shore area.
Naples Pier Amenities
Concession stand/Eating area
4. Try Amazing Seafood!
You have to try some of the amazing seafood restaurants while in Southwest Florida! I went to USS Nemo the first night in Naples.
This restaurant was recommended to me by someone from back in Minnesota. USS Nemo is one of the best seafood restaurants in Naples and is a favorite of the locals.
This restaurant is known for its assortment of fish, lobster, scallops, and more. You can see their menu here.
If you’re not in the mood for seafood while in Naples, there are plenty of other options to choose from.
For more casual dining, check out one of the many pizzerias or sandwich shops.
Other popular restaurants in Naples include:
Day 2- Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach
The next morning, I went to Sanibel Island. Sanibel is about an hour away from Naples and there is a toll to get on the island.
If you’re looking for some adventure on the island, you can rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards from one of the many rental companies on the island.
There are also plenty of opportunities for fishing, both from the shore and from boats.
For those who want to explore beyond the beach, there are numerous hiking and biking trails.
Renting bikes while on the island is a fun way to explore everything that Sanibel has to offer.
Sanibel Island is about 15 miles long and 5 miles wide, so there’s a great deal to see and plenty to do here!
Many of the popular stops on the island are at different ends of the island, as well.
5. Lighthouse Beach Park- Sanibel Island
Lighthouse Beach Park is one of the most popular beaches on Sanibel Island. The park is home to the iconic Sanibel Lighthouse.
Visitors can explore the area, fish from the pier, hunt for shells, or simply relax on the white sand beach. There are also picnic tables and grills available for use.
This beach is at the eastern end of the island and has spectacular views of the Gulf.
Check out Fort Myers Beach off in the distance from the tip of the island!
Take a tour of the Sanibel Island Lighthouse, which is right off the beach.
Lighthouse Beach Park Amenities
Lighthouse Beach Park
6. Bowman’s Beach Park- Sanibel Island
Bowman’s Beach Park is a bit more secluded from the other beaches on the island and is considered one of the best beaches in the country.
This park is a 50-acre area on the west end of the island and is located by the J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the other top attraction in Sanibel.
Shelling is really popular at Bowman’s Beach and the other Sanibel beaches. In addition to the beach, there are hiking trails, grills, bathrooms, outdoor showers, picnic areas, and a playground.
It’s actually quite a walk from the parking lot to the beach. Pets are welcome here and also at Lighthouse Beach Park.
Exploring Sanibel Island is one of the best things to do in Southwest Florida!
Bowman’s Beach Park Amenities
Bowman’s Beach Park
7. Fort Myers Beach Pier
Just a short drive from Sanibel Island, the Fort Myers Beach Pier and Beach area is an ideal place to spend the day at! While here, also check out the waterfront shops and restaurants at Times Square.
The area is great and there’s a lot to do close by. The pier goes 560 feet into the Gulf of Mexico and is another popular fishing spot.
You can rent a fishing pole and buy bait here. The pier has you covered so you don’t need a license to fish.
Mackerel, sea trout, redfish, blackdrum, and bluefish are just some of the common fish to catch off the pier. This pier is another great spot to see dolphins.
There are snacks and beverages on the pier that you can purchase but you may want to save your appetite because Fort Myers Beach has lots of good restaurants within a couple of blocks.
Fort Myers Beach
After you’re done at the pier, you can hang out on the 7 miles of beaches in Fort Myers Beach.
The beach is right by the pier, where you can relax all day in the sun and play in the water.
There’s also nearby parking, showers, picnic areas, and a playground.
Fort Myers Beach Pier Amenities
Fishing Pole/Beach Gear Rentals
Fort Myers Beach and Pier
7. Times Square- Fort Myers Beach
Times Square is a must-do if you’re in Fort Myers Beach! It’s a great place to walk around and see everything.
There are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars on the beach, street performers, and live music.
Fort Myers Beach has upcoming events to look forward to throughout the year.
There are Sunset Celebrations at Times Square Friday and Saturday nights. Hours may vary.
Here, they have music, entertainment, and food. It’s family-friendly and pets are allowed too.
8. Pier Side Grill- Times Square
Pier Side Grill is a casual waterfront restaurant in Fort Myers Beach.
The grill has lots of appetizers, seafood, and burger options.
They often have live music playing on the patio and great drink specials, as well. It’s a nice place to chill out and eat some food while enjoying the views!
Pier Side Grill
9. Nervous Nellie’s- Times Square
Just a couple blocks away is Nervous Nellie’s, another bar and restaurant right on the waters of Fort Myers Beach.
This bayside restaurant is known for its seafood and casual dining. The colorful buildings of this area of Times Square match the laid-back vibe of Fort Myers Beach.
Saturdays and Sundays they have live music here on the patio.
Taking in the scenery at Nervous Nellie’s
Day 3- Naples and Marco Island
11. Sightseeing Tour In Naples
On the last day of my trip, I did a sightseeing tour of Naples Bay and Gordon Pass.
It’s a great thing to do if you want to just relax, take in the beautiful views of the area and admire the waterfront homes.
The staff is knowledgeable and they give you a lot of information and history of the area. You may even get to see some dolphins.
The boat ride is family-friendly and lasts an hour and a half. They also have drinks and snacks on the boat.
I did one of their day cruises, but they also offer sunset cruises at night.
13. Tin City- Naples
The boat cruises depart from and return right to Tin City.
Tin City is a waterfront shopping area in Naples with restaurants and places to buy clothes and home goods like soap and souvenirs. They also have a magic store and other unique shops.
There is live music here and Tin City has events throughout the year, as well.
13. Tigertail Beach Park- Marco Island
The last stop of the trip was Tigertail Beach in Marco Island. This beach is notable for having a lagoon that you walk through to get to the beach.
It’s about a 7-8 minute walk in waist-high water to get through the lagoon.
It’s almost swampy walking through the lagoon so I was a little nervous as to what creatures would be in the water but it wasn’t bad.
If you don’t want to walk through the lagoon, you could take a longer route and walk down a ways until the lagoon ends and head north to the beach.
Tigertail is a nice beach with white sands and is known for bird watching and shelling. Some of the common wildlife seen here are bald eagles, falcons, and pelicans.
The beach has bathrooms, a picnic area, a volleyball court, and a playground. There are also concessions with food and drinks as well as beach equipment to rent.
Tigertail Beach Amenities
Jet Ski, Paddle-board, and Water Sport Rentals
14. Naples Zoo At Caribbean Gardens
I didn’t get a chance to go to the Naples Zoo during this trip, but I still recommend going since it’s widely considered one of the best things to do here!
Some of the animals here include bears, monkeys, snakes, lions, and giraffes. Speaking of the giraffes, they have a daily Giraffe Feeding Experience.
There are also 2 cafes at the zoo that you can dine at. Or you can bring your own lunch.
You can buy beer and wine at the zoo, as well.
Take some of the memories home by buying a gift at their gift shop.
15. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge- Sanibel Island
The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,600-acre refuge and one of the top things to do in Sanibel Island and Southwest Florida!
The refuge is known for its migratory bird population and provides habitat to more than 245 species of birds.
There are lots of animals to see here including birds, bobcats, river otters, crocodiles, turtles, snakes, tree frogs, fish, and more.
The refuge offers free tours and you can rent bikes, boats, kayaks, and other water sports rentals.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
Relaxing at the beaches, watching baseball games, exploring the state parks, and doing the water activities are just a few of the things to do here in Naples and Southwest Florida.
Naples, Florida has everything you could want in a vacation spot – sandy white beaches with crystal clear water, world-class fishing, golf courses galore, tennis courts, museums, art galleries…the list goes on!
It’s also known as a popular area for retirees and you can find snowbirds here during the winter months!
There’s a lot to do in the area and it’s not too far away from some of the major cities in Florida.
Unique Things To Do In Naples
Tin City Shops
The Revs Institute
Naples Botanical Gardens
Southwest Florida is a beautiful region along the lower end of Florida’s Gulf coast. Naples is in the southern part of this area.
Naples is about 2 hours northwest of Miami and under 2.5 hours south of Tampa. It’s also a little over 3 hours southwest of Orlando.
I flew into the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers which is just over a half-hour to Fort Myers Beach and Naples.
Photo Credit Expedia
There are plenty of affordable hotels in the area. If you’re looking for a less expensive place to stay, Ramada by Wyndham Naples is a good budget hotel option.
The Ramada is also close to the Naples beaches and pier and is just 35-40 minutes away from the Fort Myers Airport. It’s also just a few blocks away from the zoo and the downtown Naples area.
Another great place to stay in Naples is Cove Inn on Naples Bay which has spectacular waterfront views and is next to the Tin City shops.
If you’re looking to stay closer to the airport, Fort Myers Beach is a nice option, although the drive time is not too much shorter than Naples, due to traffic.
The Wyndham Garden is another waterfront hotel with spectacular views, right on the beach and has Pinchers restaurant here, as mentioned.
Final Thoughts: 15+ Awesome Things To Do In Naples & Southwest Florida!
No matter what your interests are, you’re sure to find plenty of things to do in Southwest Florida that will keep you entertained during your stay.
So whether you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation or an action-packed adventure, this is the perfect destination for you.
The beaches in Naples and Estero Island are amazing. For more beautiful Florida Gulf beaches, go here!