Fort Myers and its surrounding coastal communities have a lot to offer for outdoor recreation, thanks to an aggressive natural lands program in Lee County that has protected large drainages into the estuaries along the coast as well as lands along the Caloosahatchee River and near the headwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp.
Nearby: Charlotte Harbor, Pine Island, Punta Gorda, Sanibel Island
Trails and Parks in Fort Myers
- Alligator Creek - Located where freshwater and saltwater habitats meet along the edge of Charlotte Harbor, the Alligator Creek unit of Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Punta Gorda is an outreach center and living laboratory of the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center. Here, the stir of a salt breeze riffles across cypress domes close to the sea.
- Babcock Ecotour Trail - At Babcock Wilderness Adventures - a popular ecotourism attraction east of Punta Gorda - the Ecotour Trail is a no-cost option to getting your feet wet on an exploration of wet flatwoods habitats along a well-maintained trail through the palmetto prairie.
- Babcock Ranch Footprints Trail - Following old forest roads, the purple-blazed loop of the Footprints Trail through the heart of Babcock Ranch, a vast prairie punctuated by cypress strands, provides a simple introduction to this often-squishy ecosystem.
- Black Island Trail - At Lovers Key State Park, head to the north end of the island to explore the Black Island Trail. Shared with mountain bikers, the trail system at Black Island consists of two separate loops linked by an unpaved service road.
- Caloosahatchee Regional Park - East of Fort Myers, 768-acre Caloosahatchee Regional Park provides an outdoor escape along the Caloosahatchee River with a campground and loop trails for hikers and bicyclists
- Cayo Costa Hiking Trails - Offshore from Boca Grande and Pine Island, Cayo Costa State Park is tough to get to but the 6.5 miles of trails and many more miles of beaches will be yours to roam
- Cayo Costa State Park - To spend a day or a weekend on your own deserted island? Heaven. This is one of the tougher and costlier state parks to get to, but well worth it. Solitude is guaranteed. Miles and miles of lonely Gulf of Mexico beaches are yours to roam.
- CREW Corkscrew Marsh - Explore the northwestern boundary of Corkscrew Marsh - one corner of a massive conservation area surrounding Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and protecting the watershed feeding the swamp - on a series of trails that traverses through pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and palm hammocks.
- Ding Darling Bailey Tract - One of the lesser-known trails at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is at the Bailey Tract, off Tarpon Bay Road. Loop around impoundments with great birding.
- Ding Darling Cross Dike Trail - Connecting Wildlife Drive and the Indigo Trail, the Cross Dike Trail at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is an easy paved walk between two impoundments.
- Ding Darling Indigo Trail - At Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island, the Indigo Trail is the easiest trail to access from the visitor center and the most popular, with up to 4 miles round-trip.
- Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge - Preserving more than half of Sanibel Island for the sake of its bird life, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the top places in the United States to view rare bird species.
- Ding Darling Red Mangrove Overlook - The shortest walk in Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the Red Mangrove Overlook provides a fine perspective for birding - and watching mangrove crabs up close.
- Ding Darling Shell Mound Trail - A wheelchair-accessible boardwalk near the end of Wildlife Drive in Ding Darling NWR, the Shell Mound Trail provides a peek into the ancient history of Sanibel Island.
- Ding Darling Wulfert Keys Trail - Does a crocodile smile? You might find out with a walk down the Wulfert Keys Trail, which follows a mangrove-lined canal at Ding Darling NWR to the edge of Hardworking Bay.
- Edison & Ford Winter Estates - Tropical gardens from the 1920s grow lavishly around the historic winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, their centerpiece one of the biggest banyan trees in the United States.
- Estero Bay Preserve State Park - Providing a buffer between the heavily developed Gulf Coast between Fort Myers and Estero and the delicate estuaries that serve as nurseries for the aquatic life of the region, Estero Bay Preserve State Park encompasses ten miles of shoreline along Estero Bay.
- Estero Scrub Preserve State Park - A tough hike when it's wet, Estero Scrub Preserve State Park has several loops through wet flatwoods and tidal marshes along the rim of Estero Bay
- Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve - A forest of mangroves along the Caloosahatchee River, Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve is a rare find in Cape Coral, with a loop boardwalk through the mangrove fringe.
- Koreshan State Historic Site - When Dr. Cyrus Teed founded a commune along the banks of the Estero River in 1894, he envisioned a utopia in the tropics. Koreshan State Park preserves that slice of history.
- LaBelle Nature Park - On this half mile loop in the city of LaBelle, explore a lush hammock along the Caloosahatchee River at the LaBelle Nature Park
- Lovers Key State Park - With a name straight out of tourist fantasies of 1950s Florida, Lovers Key State Park is a series of slim barrier islands between Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Fort Myers Beach.
- Old Datsun Trail - The Old Datsun Trail at Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park loops 1.7 miles through circa 1905 farmland established by the Miles School of Practical Agriculture
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve - Winding 1.4 miles through the slough, the broad wheelchair-accessible boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Fort Myers leads you into a dark cypress strand.
- St. Jude Trail - A ramble to the mangrove-lined shores of St. Jude Harbor, the St. Jude Trail is a birder's delight, tucked away in a residential neighborhood on the edge of St. James City on Pine Island and protected by the Calusa Land Trust.
- Tegus establish a foothold in Florida (7/31/2014) - It's big. It's colorful. And it's the newest non-native species to establish breeding populations in Florida. Meet the black and white tegu.
- Estero Island walk (4/25/2014) - A bit of inspiration from Spencer on walking Estero Island, Fort Myers Beach
- Kids love wildlife hikes! (2/24/2012) - Here’s a little proof positive that the younger generation still finds the outdoors a thrill. Late last year, I had an email from a reader planning a trip to Florida looking for a way to day-trip the Everglades while visiting family in Punta Gorda. Given the vast distance between the two spots, I suggested, as […]