Vacation Guide to Southwest Florida

Your Guide to Fort Myers Florida: History, Culture and Heritage

Fort Myers which is also known as The City of Palms is in Southwestern Florida by the Caloosahatchee River. People visit Fort Myers Florida for deep sea fishing, golf and beautiful white sand beaches along the Gulf Coast. The city’s downtown waterfront is getting a makeover with new restaurants, clubs, shops and galleries.

In this article, we will talk about what makes Fort Myers Florida special. We will look at the cool things to see, learn about its history and find out what makes its culture lively and exciting in this sunshine state.

What is the meaning of Fort Myers?

Fort Myers got its name from a military fort that was really important in history. The town is named after Colonel Abraham C. Myers. Colonel Myers was the son in law of David E. Twiggs, who was in charge of Fort Brooke, a military fort near Tampa.

Fort in Tampa was named Fort Myers as a kind of present for Colonel Myers. What is interesting is that Colonel Myers never actually went to see the fort named after him.

Fort Myers was built a long time ago to protect early settlers from attacks by Native Americans, especially the Seminole Tribe during the Seminole Indian Wars. The first Fort Myers was important because it was in a very strategic spot by the Caloosahatchee River.

History of Fort Myers Florida

A long time ago in 1513 and 1521, a man named Ponce de Leon from Spain explored the Gulf coast of Florida. It is believed that he stopped at the barrier islands of Lee County where Fort Myers is now. At first, only people from Spain and Cuba settled there creating temporary fishing and farming camps along the coast.

In the 1700s, pirates used the coastal area to raid cargo ships sailing to and from New Orleans. More people moved to Florida after it became a US territory in 1821, but they had conflicts with the Seminoles, the Native American people who originally lived there. This conflict turned into a big war known as the Second Seminole War from 1835 to 1842.

During that war, the US Army had a base called Fort Harvie where Fort Myers is now. After the war, it was abandoned but the army returned in 1849 after a trader was killed. A year later, they built Fort Myers on top of the old Fort Harvie ruins, naming it after Colonel Abraham C. Myers.

In the 1860s, Union troops occupied Fort Myers during the Civil War and the southernmost battle of the war happened nearby. After the war, Fort Myers was taken apart and its wood was used to build the first downtown buildings.

Old view of the1st Street Downtown Fort Myers
Old view of the1st Street Downtown Fort Myers

Beginning of Fort Myers

In 1876, the community was planned and officially named Myers, but people still called it by the old name. At that time about ten families lived there and an economy based on cattle, farming and logging started to grow. Eventually, in 1901, the original name was officially brought back.

In 1904, a rail line connected Fort Myers to Punta Gorda and building booms in the late 1800s and early 1900s led to more houses outside downtown. Brick and masonry buildings replaced the old wooden buildings downtown. Despite the impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s on Fort Myers, some beautiful buildings were constructed during that time.

During the 1940s, the construction of air bases brought thousands of servicemen to Fort Myers. After World War II, the town grew steadily just like the rest of Lee County and Southwest Florida. And that’s how Fort Myers became what it is today.

Geography of Fort Myers Florida

Fort Myers Florida Map
Fort Myers Florida Map

Fort Myers is a city in southwestern Florida. It is the main city in Lee County and was chosen as the seat in 1887. This city is located by the wide part of the Caloosahatchee River that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It is about 100 miles southeast of Tampa. On the other side of the river is Cape Coral, a city that is to the southwest of Fort Myers.

It has smaller towns like Page Park, Pine Manor and Whiskey Creek to the southwest. The Southwest Florida International Airport is to the south. Lehigh Acres and Gateway are to the east. Across the river is North Fort Myers and Tice is to the north. Buckingham is in the northeast. Fort Myers covers an area of about 105 square kilometers.

Why Should We Visit Fort Myers Florida?

Fort Myers Florida
Fort Myers Florida

In between Tampa and Miami on the Gulf Coast of Florida, there is a city called Fort Myers that is getting bigger. People also call it the “City of Palms.” It is known for its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico. Many folks love to visit because it’s warm all year. It has lots of green plants, rivers and is close to nice white sand beaches. Famous people like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone used to spend time here.

Fort Myers used to be known mostly as a place where older people lived but now it has changed. It has become more diverse offering many different cultural activities and delicious foods from different chefs. So, Fort Myers is becoming a more exciting place for everyone.

This holiday spot in west Florida might not be as loud as the party places on the eastern side but it is still super interesting. Fort Myers is different from busy cities like Miami. Instead of crowds and noise you get family friendly beaches and old homes like the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. These two important people made Fort Myers the nice place it is now.

Nature is a big deal here too. There are lots of places with wildlife and nature like Manatee Park. Because they have kept most of the coastline natural, people go to the small Fort Myers Beach.

Population of Fort Myers Florida

Fort Myers has a total of 96,851 people living there. Most of the people, about two thirds are white. Among them, almost half are not Hispanic and around 15% are Hispanic. The next biggest group is African Americans making up more than one fifth of Fort Myers residents. Some people, about 7.79% are non white Hispanics and 2.76% are Asian.

When it comes to language, over 71% of people in Fort Myers speak only English. Around one fifth speak Spanish and the rest speak different languages mostly from the Indo European group. Almost 80% of the residents were born in the United States and 33.23% were born in Florida.

The largest group of people born outside the United States is from Latin America. More than 80% of non citizens and over two thirds of naturalized citizens in Fort Myers are also from Latin America.

Economy of Fort Myers Florida

Fort Myers Downtown Commercial District
Fort Myers Downtown Commercial District

Fort Myers is at the end of a waterway called the Okeechobee Waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Okeechobee. Many people visit Fort Myers, and it is an essential part of the city’s economy. Lots of retired people live there too.

Fort Myers has a diverse economy with a focus on tourism, real estate, healthcare and technology. In addition to growing veggies, fishing and making things like medical devices and electronic parts. Also growing flowers like chrysanthemums, azaleas and poinsettias is a big deal.

In Fort Myers, the average household earns about $71,739. But, around 16.82% of people live in poverty which means they do not have enough money for basic needs. For African Americans even more, about 26.98% are affected by poverty.

Fort Myers makes money mostly from businesses like stores, healthcare and places where people stay like hotels.

Attractions in Fort Myers Florida

There are a bunch of fun things to do in Fort Myers Florida. What’s cool is that even though it has fewer people than Cape Coral next door, Fort Myers is often seen as more lively. That is because Cape Coral focused more on selling lots of land without thinking about the whole community.

Fort Myers has special areas with old buildings and landmarks that are important. There are four historic districts called

  • Edison Park
  • Dean Park
  • Downtown Park
  • Seminole Park

Fort Myers also has lots of cool natural places to check out and it is close to awesome beaches. Plus, they have events happening all year round that people who live there and visitors really like.

1. Ford and Edison Estates

Ford and Edison Estates Fort Myers Florida
Ford and Edison Estates Fort Myers Florida

In Fort Myers, there are special places called the Ford and Edison Estates. These places keep safe the homes where two important people, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford used to spend their winters. These friends really liked Fort Myers, so they decided to have their winter homes there.

Thomas Edison came to Fort Myers in 1885 and bought 13 acres of land by the Caloosahatchee River. Back then, Fort Myers was not very developed and felt like a town on the frontier. Edison called his winter home the “Seminole Lodge.”

Later in 1916, Edison’s friend Henry Ford visited him many times and decided to buy land next door. Henry Ford named his winter home “The Mangoes.” Both the Edison and Ford Estates are well taken care of and they are interesting places to go and see.

2. Nature Attractions

Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Fort Myers has awesome things to do, especially in its beautiful natural spots. If you like water adventures, try kayaking and parasailing to enjoy the water and the area around it. Fort Myers has several parks and nature reserves, providing opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking, boating and bird watching.

  • For wildlife enthusiasts, a visit to the Shell Factory and Nature Park is a must. This family friendly attraction features a petting zoo, botanical gardens and a collection of over 350 species of animals. The park’s commitment to conservation and education makes it a delightful stop for families looking to combine entertainment with learning.
  • Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is a big area with over 3,500 acres of natural wetland. You can spot Florida’s wildlife, unique birds like the Roseate Spoonbill and many other species there. It is like a nature wonderland.
  • If you take a short drive, you will find the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It is a little bit far but worth it.
  • Manatee Park is perfect for seeing manatees especially in the cold months from December to March.
  • The Fort Myers River District is another cool place to explore.

3. Culture, Art and Entertainment

IMAG History & Science Center
IMAG History & Science Center

Fort Myers has a lively cultural scene with lots of cool stuff for everyone. The city offers a range of cultural and entertainment options including theaters, museums and art galleries.

  • The city also has the Florida Repertory Theatre, where you can see many different plays all year round. It is a great place for both people who love going to the theater a lot and those who are going for the first time. The theater gives you a real feel for how much Fort Myers loves the arts.
  • The Imaginarium Science Center located in downtown Fort Myers provides an interactive and educational experience for children. With exhibits ranging from marine life to the principles of physics, the center encourages hands on learning in a fun and engaging environment.
  • The Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center is in an old downtown building and has art shows and live performances. Artists from near and far get to show off their talents there.
  • The Barbara B. The Mann Performing Arts Hall hosts concerts, Broadway shows, and other performances, making it a well known venue.
  • The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium is a popular destination for learning about the natural history of the region.

Events and Festivals

In Fort Myers, there are lots of events and parties happening all year round that celebrate the city’s culture and togetherness. One special event is the Edison Festival of Light which honors Thomas Edison’s contributions to the city. There is a big parade, concerts and many fun activities for everyone including people who live there and visitors. The festival ends with an amazing fireworks show that lights up the sky with different colors.

The Caloosahatchee Folk Society organizes another exciting event, the Riverdale Music Festival. It happens every year and features local and nearby musicians playing different kinds of music like folk, bluegrass and Americana. It is a cool, laid back experience for people who love music and it takes place outdoors in a family friendly setting.

Spring Training ball game
Spring Training ball game

Another cool thing about Fort Myers is spring training. Two big baseball teams and their fans come here for some warm weather and to see the new players. With so much to do, it is clear why they call Fort Myers the “City of Palms,” and it is just as good as the bigger places in South Florida.


The city is accessible by road with Interstate 75 passing through the area. Fort Myers has a downtown area that’s easy for people to walk or ride bikes. But in other parts of the city, most people use cars or public transportation to get around. Cars are the main way folks travel in this area, and the average time it takes to get to work is a bit shorter than in other places. LeeTran is the bus service that connects Fort Myers to nearby cities. It has around 24 bus and trolley routes to help people get where they need to go.

Traffic in and around Fort Myers can get pretty busy, especially when people are going to the nearby islands and beaches. It gets even more crowded in the winter when more visitors come, making the area busier. Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is the major airport serving Fort Myers. Many airlines use it, so people in the area can easily catch flights to different places.


Fort Myers, hidden in the warm subtropical zone, has two main seasons: rainy and dry. The rainy season begins in late spring and gets stronger in the hot and humid summer. This mix of heat and humidity often leads to thunderstorms in the afternoons, happening almost every day in the summer. These storms bring heavy rain and lightning.

On June 1, the Atlantic hurricane season starts and people in Fort Myers get ready by stocking up on water and non perishable foods. This is because there might be power outages and some people might have to leave their homes. The hurricane season lasts until November 30. After that, the weather becomes drier, cooler and less humid. Even though it is colder in winter, it rarely gets cold enough to freeze.

Bottom Line

Fort Myers Florida is a wonderful place with a lot of interesting things. It has a long history, beautiful nature and a lot of fun things to do with family. You can enjoy yummy food and exciting events. This city on the Gulf Coast is diverse and charming. No matter if you want to relax on the beaches, explore downtown for culture or have family fun. Fort Myers has something for everyone with its rich history and beautiful architecture. So, if you are planning a trip, you must visit Fort Myers Florida for fantastic experiences under the sunny Florida sky.

Things to Do in Florida

Have a blast on a boat ride with Dolphin Tiki Cruise at Fort Myers Beach. Just relax and keep an eye out for dolphins. You can bring your own snacks and drinks for a fun time.

Go on a cool Shark and Wildlife Viewing Adventure in Key West. See dolphins, stingrays, turtles and birds. Watch sharks gather near the boat. They will give you snacks, drinks and cool sunglasses for this exciting cruise.

Celebrate the holidays in St. Augustine with a special Nights of Lights Boat Cruise. Choose a boat with a bar for adults or a family friendly one where you can bring your own drinks. Cruise around to see millions of twinkling lights at the Nights of Lights Festival. It is super fun.

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