Florida Travel / Fort Myers Day Trip

view of Caloosahatchee River fort myers day trip

Fort Myers is in Lee County along the Caloosahatchee River.

You would be hard-pressed to run out of things to do in Southwest Florida! Catering to every interest, you can lounge at one of the many postcard-worthy beaches, enjoy culinary pleasures ranging from casual water-front tiki bars to upscale dining with a view, paddle your way across the water in the Gulf of Mexico, or explore the vibrant culture and history of the cities and town that dot the coastline. In this article, I’ll share ideas for a Fort Myers Day Trip.

Where is Fort Myers

Vintage home with a statue in front yard Fort Myers Day Trip

Take the opportunity to explore the Estate’s exhibits, you’ll get an in-depth, interactive, glimpse of the life and accomplishments of Edison and Ford.

Located about 90 minutes from Sarasota, and about an hour from Naples, Fort Myers is in Lee County along the Caloosahatchee River. Lee County is loved by visitors and locals alike for its miles of beautiful beaches, seashells on Sanibel Island, charming downtowns, outdoor experiences, fishing, paddling, and rich history. It’s a place where families come to make memories that are passed down from one generation to the next, as you’ll see later in this article.

Downtown Fort Myers

Izzy restaurant brick building downtown fort myers day trip

If you love the charm of historic downtowns whose well-preserved historical buildings, Downtown Fort Myers is your kind of city!

Downtown Fort Myers River District is where this day trip begins. If you love the charm of historic downtowns whose well-preserved historical buildings have been reimagined with the coolest restaurants, bars, boutique shops, and well-planned gathering spots, then you’ll appreciate Downtown Fort Myers. 

Palm trees swaying in the breeze coming off the Caloosahatchee River line the main street. Red brick pavers adorn the road and sidewalk on the main street, which was closed off to traffic when I was there, making it a walkable promenade.

We visited during the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, a popular event that brings out the most envious of greens, music that spills into the streets, spontaneous dancing, backyard livestock, and beer.

In fact, be sure to check out the Downtown Fort Myers Event Schedule. It appears they find plenty of reasons to celebrate with art, music, dining, and shopping along the river. And because of Southwest Florida’s sunshine and temperate climate all year long, spending an afternoon outside, then lingering into the evening as the sun dips into the water, sets the stage for the perfect day trip getaway. 

Festival or not, stroll through the streets and enjoy shopping at a delightful selection of local stores. 

“Fort Myers reminds me of Honolulu and Jamaica. It is one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen.”

John Burroughs, Naturalist, 1914

Waterfront Dining at OxBow Riverfront Bar & Grill

Restaurant on the water Oxbow Fort Myers Day Trip

Oxbow describes their restaurant as casual dockside dining on the doorstep of Downtown Fort Myers with panoramic views of the Caloosahatchee River.

Oxbow describes their restaurant as casual dockside dining on the doorstep of Downtown Fort Myers with panoramic views of the Caloosahatchee River. That is accurate. In fact, one dining guest docked their boat on the river and then walked up to enjoy cocktails and lunch just steps from their vessel. Pretty cool.

Live music was playing inside, which I could hear on the patio every time the server came through the doors with a colorful cocktail or a plate filled with culinary creations from the kitchen. The outdoor patio is perched over the water for the perfect view of blue skies, beautiful clouds, and boats enjoying a day on the water.

red colored cocktail and lunch plate with poke tuna

On the drink menu, creative cocktails tipped their hat to two of Fort Myers’ icons. Sippin’ with Ford features Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon with Aperol, Orange, Lime, and Ancho Reyes Verde, while Lit Like Edison features Ilegal Mezcal mixed with pineapple, lime, agave, fee foam, and Tajin Spice Rim. I chose the Oxbow Palm, a blend of Wheatley vodka, lemongrass, lemonade, and blueberries. 

The menu has a variety of starters, sandwiches, burgers, salads and entrees like fish and chips, roasted eggplant, and Gulf Coast cioppino. I love mango and ahi tuna so the Tuna Poke salad was an obvious choice. Imagine layers of flavors starting with cilantro lime rice, topped with ahi tuna, mango, seaweed salad, avocado, and fried wontons, all drizzled with a ginger soy dressing. Perfection.

Walk the Riverfront

view of blue water on the Caloosahatchee River with bridge in background

Did you know that boaters can cross Florida from Fort Myers to Stuart, using the Caloosahatchee River?

After lunch, take a 1.2 mile walk along the river to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Punch in the address on your phones GPS and enjoy the after lunch stroll. Along the way, you’ll enjoy public art, waterviews, a playground, and historic homes. Of course, you can drive; however, you will likely miss some of Fort Myers beauty.

“There are over one hundred million people in the United States, but only one Fort Myers, the flower city of Tropical Florida.”

Thomas Edison, May 3, 1923, Fort Myers News Press

watershed with fountains fort myers day trip

When you leave Oxbow, you’ll notice the Luminary Hotel, fountains, and a water detention basin that are part of the Downtown Riverfront Development Project. It’s a pretty spot that also sheds some light on how we can make little efforts to keep the river healthy. This phase of development, according to the placard on the wall, was completed in December 2012. They say this project restores the original vision of Fort Myers’ early benefactors by bringing the life of the city and the beauty of the Caloosahatchee River together.

Fun Fact: Did you know that boaters can cross Florida from Fort Myers to Stuart, using the Caloosahatchee River, the Okeechobee waterway and the St. Lucie Canal? It’s 135 miles long and includes locks and dams to get the boats from one side to the other. Have you ever done this?

sculpter of three men in the park Fort Myers Day Trip

Right past the bridge at Cleveland Avenue, you’ll find Centennial Park. It’s a clean green space with a playground and public art. One of those pieces, Uncommon Friends, created by sculptor D. J. Wilkins is amazingly detailed up close…and confusing. It depicts three men in suits lounging around an open campfire. 

Without knowing a lot of history around the life of Thomas Edison, the sight of men in suits camping by an open fire was confusing for me. Afterall, when I’m camping, business attire is the last thing in my backpack! However, it is an incredible piece of art. Then, when you continue your journey to the Edison and Ford Winter Estate, things become much clearer!

Edison and Ford Winter Estate

mangrove tree and garden store Fort Myers Day Trip

You quickly understand how this special place served as inspiration to Edison and Ford throughout their lifetimes.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “museum person,” do yourself a favor and spend some time at the Edison and Ford Winter Estate. You’ll be surprised because there is something for everyone here. From tales of discovery, to baseball (Fort Myers is home to Spring Training), to photography and music, to gardening and adventures on the road, and sassy young ladies with a sense of humor.

“Don’t capsize in the sailboat if you can help it. Remember there isn’t anyone to rescue you in 750 miles – and besides, there are the sharks.”

palm trees in foreground and house in back Fort Myers Day Trip

The grounds were, as the name suggests, the winter home for Thomas Edison and his friend Henry Ford. And while the men may take front stage, you cannot help but notice the strong influence of the women who shared life with these visionaries. Afterall, while the men were tinkering, the women were managing several households, raising kids, entertaining, and filling in the gaps!

Before going through the museum exhibits, I pictured Thomas Edison as a serious man who spent his life in a laboratory. Which he did; however, he accomplished so much more than that.

He was curious and that curiosity was a thread that connected every aspect of his life. I started to wonder how much we would accomplish with a similar inspirational setting, filled with interesting people, and a sense of endless possibility. What a great time in history that must have been!

vintage laboratory at Edison estate fort myers day trip

When you take the opportunity to explore the Estate’s exhibits, you’ll get an in-depth, interactive, glimpse of the life and accomplishments of Edison and Ford. The Estate offers guided and self-guided tours. You’ll quickly see that Thomas Alva Edison was a busy, productive man.

Throughout his life, Edison acquired 1,093 patents and wore many hats: inventor, manufacturer, businessman, marketer, husband, father, friend, and adventurer. In fact, there is an entire display at the museum called “Into the Wild.” It chronicles Edison’s road trips across the country whereby his friend Henry Ford’s vehicles were tricked out to accommodate early “RV” travel (of sorts!).

“What I want now is a chance to get out in the woods and see the birds and flowers. I like to study them, and the rocks and ferns and other things in the woods; it rests me.”

Thomas Edison

sign saying Into the Wild at Edison estate

These trips served many purposes. An opportunity to get away from it all and enjoy nature, an excuse to get together with friends, and a means to bring his product and enthusiasm directly to the people they were meant to serve. It sounded like he was the perfect salesman and he found a unique way to keep his finger on the pulse of his customer’s needs.

You’ll also learn that the winter property was deeded to the City of Fort Myers by Mina Edison for a nominal sum.

After Thomas Edison died in 1931 at the age of 84, his wife, Mina Edison continued to return to Fort Myers and remained active in the community.

enclosed porch at Edison home Fort Myers Day Trip

Over 200,000 visitors enjoy Edison and Ford Winter Estate every year, getting a glimpse into the life and accomplishments of the families who cherished it.

As the story is told on the timeline at the Edison and Ford Winter Estate, after 62 years of ownership, Mina Edison deeded her beloved Florida Estate to the City of Fort Myers on February 18, 1947 for the price of one dollar. One dollar! They go on to say that by doing that, she hoped that her homes and gardens would serve as a tribute to Thomas Edison, who they call “America’s greatest inventor.”

She wrote:

“My faith and belief in the sincerity of the people of Fort Myers prompts me to make this sacred spot a gift to you and posterity as a Sanctuary and Botanical Park in the memory of my honored and revered husband, Thomas A. Edison, who so thoroughly believed in the future of Fort Myers.”

~Mina Edison, March 6, 1947

Large tree with big exposed root system

Visitors enjoy the grounds and views of the river. Some gather a picnic lunch to linger as the former residents did.

It would be easy to just shrug that little bit of information off as something that happened “way back then.” However, as you stroll the expansive waterfront grounds and appreciate the history and beauty of this spot, you quickly understand how this special place served as inspiration to Edison and Ford throughout their lifetimes. Then, if you’re like me, you’ll also have an inkling about the property value. 

For me, that filled me with appreciation. While there were so many things she could have done with the estate, including selling it as prime real estate, Mina Edison chose to gift it to a town she cherished. And by extension, she inspired the town to carry the torch of this family’s legacy. Because of that, over 200,000 visitors enjoy the property every year, getting a glimpse into the life and accomplishments of the families who cherished it, and having the opportunity to create memories of their own.

What Else? Fort Myers Day Trip

a collection of vintage light bulbs

Edison acquired 1,093 patents and wore many hats: inventor, manufacturer, businessman, marketer, husband, father, friend, and adventurer.

What you do next will depend on your interests and the time of day. If there is a lot of daylight left, there is a lot left to do in Fort Myers! You can head to the beach, paddle the waterways, or take a hike. During Spring, head to the JetBlue ballpark for Spring Training in Florida

When you’re ready to wind down, head back to Downtown Fort Myers to end your day with dinner, drinks at one of the rooftop bars, craft beer at a brewery, an event at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center, or rooftop yoga at the rooftop garden and reception area.  

You may discover that one visit to Fort Myers is not enough. Beyond the downtown area, there is so much to see and do. You’ll be looking at your calendar to add more Fort Myers Day Trips to your Florida Travel plans. Enjoy!

 

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