SOME BEACHES are too crowded. Some are too hot, some are too small, some are too rocky — the list goes on. But in Southwest Florida, it’s hard to find a reason to say the beaches are “too” anything. The only sentence you might come up with is, There are too many shells…how do I choose which to take home? Because no one ever really thinks, I feel too relaxed, or Gee, these beaches are too romantic.

Though if you were going to utter one of those sentiments, it’d probably be right here — and these photos show why.


These beaches are perfect for shelling.

A Southwest Florida vacation isn't meant to be an adrenaline rush (though those options are around, if you want them). Here it's about calmness and simplicity—your mornings might be spent grabbing a coffee, walking a few steps to the beach, and seeing what last night's waves deposited on the sand. Stay at Sandalfoot Beachfront Condominium on Sanibel Island and it'll quickly become your home away from home...only this home has way better seafood and far, far more seashells.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


But there's more than shells here.

Alright, so it's not all about relaxing. Sometimes you can't resist the urge to get in your kayak and go, and again, Sanibel is a great place to do it. For the best of both worlds, check out Holiday Inn Sanibel Island Beach Resort—you'll be right on the Gulf beaches but also have easy access to the inland side of the island, where Tarpon Bay and the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge offer incredible paddling opportunities.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


Laid-back islands like Useppa offer an escape.

Tiny Useppa is still super close to the mainland, but it definitely feels "out of the way." You'll need a rental boat or ferry ticket to get here, and once you do, you'll be getting around via golf cart or your own two feet. What's more, the island is on the US National Register of Historic Places due to its archaeological significance—people have been hanging out here since 8000 BCE.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


And don't forget Sanibel's companion island, Captiva.

If this looks good to you, make your next vacation Captiva Island. Just north of Sanibel and connected by the short Blind Pass Bridge, it's all about small vacation homes, inns, and other intimate accommodation options here.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


You'll see incredible wildlife.

There are no bad days when dolphins are involved, and if you do it right, you'll see dolphins wherever you go around The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. Ask the staff at Pure Florida—they'll show you just how true this is on one of their dolphin-watching tours. You might spot them on a sightseeing or sunset cruise, too.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


Fort Myers Beach has miles of Gulf-facing sand.

Seven miles of coastline, baby. Not long ago, nothing connected this little barrier island with the rest of the world, but these days it's a legitimate hotspot for watersports, seafood, and some serious relaxing. To get in on the action, check out GullWing Beach Resort—they're located on the south side of Estero Island, all of their suites have private balconies, and their pool-on-the-beach can't be beat.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


Some of the best views are free.

Normally these views come with a sky-high pricetag, but here it's different—sunrises and sunsets are free and open to the public. And on the islands, you can see the sun rise and set over the water, all in the same day.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


There are so many beaches to explore.

Great shelling? Soft white sands? Isolation? Yeah, definitely add Sanibel Island's Bowman's Beach to your list.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


And when night falls, you don't have to leave the sand.

To get a little closer to nature, sometimes you gotta stay outdoors. And when it comes to camping on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, the options are plentiful. Red Coconut RV Park, set right on Fort Myers Beach, is a great place to start.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel


Your Instagram is covered.

Need an epic Insta shot to make all your not-on-the-beach friends jealous? Look no further than Blind Pass, at the meeting point of Sanibel and Captiva Islands. Here, you could take the shot with your eyes closed and it would still turn out beautiful. Stay close and stay comfortable at the Beach Cottages of Sanibel, with both Gulf-front and Bay-front accommodations available.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


Did we mention these beaches might be "too" romantic...

It's pretty clear these beaches breed romance. The soft white sand, the golden-orange sunsets—it's hard not to feel a little giddy in a place like this. Especially when you're off on your own and have the sands to yourself, as you will at the intimate 'Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa. Here on Captiva Island, with water in either direction (the Gulf of Mexico to the west and Pine Island Sound to the east are both a stone's throw away), it'll be all about the two of you.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


The nights look almost as good as the days.

Lighthouses—from the classic to the modern—are a pretty common sight around Southwest Florida (and make for great landmarks when you're wandering home from the beach after dark). But the most famous has to be the historic Sanibel Lighthouse, dating back to 1884. Find it at the eastern tip of the island.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


You can have a sailing day.

Just one? In Southwest Florida, every day is sailing day.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel


Just remember: Keep your eyes on the sand.

Normally you don't go home with a suitcase full of souvenirs, but here you might change your ways. Southwest Florida has some of the best shelling in the nation—and these souvenirs are all free.
Photo: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel