Florida has become a long weekend getaway go-to spot for us over the last few years, as the sunshine state almost always guarantees nice weather, the beaches are beautiful, and with quick easy direct flights on Allegiant Air we can usually get there for a fairly good deal (yay!) with minimal travel time (YAY!) From Des Moines we take a direct flight to Punta Gorda, which lands us less than an hour from Fort Myers Beach. (travel tip : you can do a monthly view of flight prices on Allegiants website, so if you just want a random weekend getaway and are flexible on dates, check that first and go whenever flights are the best price!)
For us, vacation doesn't feel like vacation until we are sipping margaritas. In the Fort Myers area, a few of our favorite spots are Doc Fords (you can boat or drive there, it's a yummy food spot too for lunch or dinner), The Fish-Tale Restaurant (it's a nicer place at the marina so you can unwind there after a day on the water), Pinchers (super casual place where you can enjoy your beverage with your feet in the sand and oftentimes with live music playing). For dinner our favorite spots are Mantanzas which is on the water for a really good dinner, or The Cottage for a more casual spot on the beach.
While the Fort Myers beaches are large, clean, and always a nice place to relax and read a book or go on a walk (keep your eyes open for starfish along the beach or just a few feet deep in the water!), we like to spend a lot of our Florida time fishing. We catch snappers, grouper, cobia, stone crabs, and the occasional shark or other random creature. Deep sea fishing is a pretty wild experience if you're never done it - I recommend everyone give it a try! To be dozens of miles out of sight of land, bait up a hook and suddenly see the fishing pole practically bend in half, it's pretty exhilerating, as you just never know what's on the other end of that line!
If you're wanting to hire a guide I'd recommend calling Fish Tale Marina, which is where we base out of. You can also go on sunset cruises and dolphin tours from the area. Regardless of how you get out on the water, make sure you do - whether by boat, paddle board, or kayak, as you'll most likely see dolphins, often within just a few feet of you. It's always so magical to see them in person, in the wild. (Doesn't that pic below look photoshopped? I snapped it just leaning over the side of the boat, they were just a few feet away!)
Wherever you end up around sunset time, make sure to stop and take it in. On clear days it's so beautiful to watch, and you'll likely see everyone around you stopping to do the same thing. If you're lucky the sky will be glowing with a pink/blue/yellow hue, which is the perfect reminder that you're on vacation and don't need to be doing anything else in that moment other than taking in the view.