The Comeback Coast – Fort Myers Beach, Florida

by Kim Weiss on June 6, 2024 in Travels,

Some people kiss the ground when they land in Jerusalem. Others do the same in Mecca. After decades of living in Florida and relocating from sea level to 7000 feet, I nearly fell to my knees when I landed in the Sunshine State. 

This time I visited the “left” coast, a mere two-hour drive west from my old stomping grounds in South Florida. Fort Myers Beach was my destination, and I was about to enjoy an extended tropical hug. Like seeing an old friend who understands and nurtures you, being in Florida feels like a healing balm. 

Welcome to Margaritaville

King Guestroom at Margaritaville. Photo Courtesy Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach.

Upon being deposited by my friendly Uber driver, an icy margarita was deposited into my hand by a cheerful greeter in the lobby of Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach which would be my home for the better part of a week. Ralph, the kind, margarita-dispensing bell person, with his perfunctory Hawaiian shirt, was all smiles as he led the way to paradise. My room faced the Gulf of Mexico and the view, salt air and seabirds would not be wasted on me.

Resilience After the Storm

One of Fort Myers’ amazing and colorful murals. Photo Kim Weiss.

It didn’t take long to notice that not far in the white sandy beach distance, the same vista of sunset legend, giant chunks of its concrete pier were missing. It takes a lot to break a mighty pier, but Hurricane Ian took a formidable swing at this coast and left a fair share of damage. But I was soon to learn about the resilience of the people and their recovery efforts in Fort Myers and Fort Myers Beach. The fine city and tourism representatives showed us the beauty of the area and the determination and creativity of its people guiding us through a panoply of restaurants, art stops, nature destinations, and world-class beaches.

Exploring the Resort

JWB, Margaritaville’s crown jewel dining venue. Photo Courtesy Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach.

Our first order of business, after sipping our welcome margaritas and settling in, was a sweep through the gorgeous Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach, from the oceanside Lah De Dah bar to our gourmet dinner at the JWB Grill. This windows-everywhere upscale establishment assured we all had a panoramic view of Mother, Mother Ocean. 

Key Lime Pie Extraordinaire at EVERY dining stop. Photo Kim Weiss.

Fish dip and key lime pie became the culinary bookends at every meal, and we were delighted with our first contenders in our unofficial contest. Fresh-caught fish and classy cocktails served by our knowledgeable and entertaining server had our bellies full of delicious food and belly laughs.

The Soundtrack of Relaxation

Jimmy Buffet’s language lives in all the rooms. Photo Kim Weiss.

Throughout the resort, music a la Jimmy Buffet wafted through the air, and one could enjoy the unobtrusive yet pleasing sounds from their terrace or the expansive patio speckled with Margaritaville’s cozy fire pits. I turned in, entranced with our hosts’ surroundings and hospitality and couldn’t wait to take my first-morning beach stroll in eons. The sand was soft and white, the water was the perfect temperature, and I took it all in with every fiber of my being.

A Colorful Tour of Fort Myers

A 3D Mural in Downtown Fort Myers. Photo Kim Weiss.

Sleeping like a driftwood log, after a delicious breakfast, we were off to town for a mural tour courtesy of the  Fort Myers Mural Society. History in vivid color reflected the roots of diversity, music, and story. Afterward, we traipsed through lovely downtown Fort Myers, lunched at Oxbow Fort Myers, and indulged in our second round of smoked fish dip and key lime pie. Again, we were impressed. This contest was going to be hard!

Straight out of the sea, one of the fish delights. Photo Kim Weiss.

Immersed in Nature

Next up, a walk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, slough being a new word in my vocabulary. A hammock of thick, moist tropical air in my lungs amidst trademark cypress knees, water birds, and swamp scenes appeared intact and thriving.

Sunset Dream

Sunset a la Tiki Boat. Photo Kim Weiss.

I couldn’t wait for the sunset tour with Nautical Tiki Cruises that followed our next meal at Snug Harbor Waterfront Restaurant. Yes, there was dip and pie. And it was (so) good. Sunsets (and sunrises) have a special place in my heart (and my book) and floating on the tiki boat was a dream. When we sited our first dolphins of the trip, it was a dream come true.

Captivated by Captiva Island

The piece de resistance for me followed the next day when we drove to beloved Captiva Island to meet Captain Brian. I had been to the island years before with my family and was most concerned about the survival of this jewel on the Gulf Coast from the blows of Hurricane Ian. I knew its sister Sanibel Island fared less well but Captiva came through like a champ. Happily, Sanibel is close behind in its “healing.” We cruised for hours on the placid, blue-green waters, and saw many dolphins, fish, and sea birds and I could have died and gone to heaven. We kicked around the silky sand on a deserted beach, dined at Cabbage Key and I felt as far off the map as I ever had. Only accessible by boat, dare I say we may have enjoyed the winning smoked fish dip of our trip? Maybe it was the pitch-perfect ambiance and company, who knows?

Farewell to Fort Myers

There was another wonderful dinner at The Shipyard, a tour of two hotels in Fort Myers, and our farewell lunch at Voodoo Brewing. We were sun-kissed, well-fed, and continually amazed at the rapid repair of the Fort Myers area.

The choice place to chill for a sunset at Margaritaville. Photo Courtesy Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers Beach.

It’s impossible to encapsulate everything we experienced and enjoyed on this tour. Still, from this veteran Floridian’s point of view, the new and improved Fort Myers Beach is something to behold and applaud. The Margaritaville Resort Fort Myers reminded me of everything I loved and missed about old Fort Lauderdale Beach. Jimmy Buffet must be smiling and winking from the skies holding up a margarita and proud of this ideal getaway.

Cheers, Jimmy! I will return to your Gulf Coast haven soon.


Cover photo Kim Weiss

Kim Weiss has worked as a PR Professional for decades, most notably heading up the publicity department from 1994-2019 for the major book publisher, HCI Books, best known for launching the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Currently, she runs Kim Weiss Publishing Services and freelances as a publicist for numerous authors. Kim is also the author of her own book, Sunrise Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude (HCI – 2012). She lives with her husband John, and cats Sachi and Anabelle in Santa Fe, NM.