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Driving distance: Four hours from downtown Orlando.
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David P. Hall_Photo Inc

Only a few hours drive drive through Florida’s historic ranching area of ​​Lee County, you’ll find a beautiful downtown that’s begging for your vacation buck. Named after a former fort built by Europeans to protect their greedy interests in the area from the “pesky” Seminoles, Fort Myers now serves as the gateway to Southwest Florida, offering easy access to nearby Bonita Springs, Miami, expat hotspot Cape Coral, and Naples. Northerners have flocked to the region since the late 1800s to enjoy its abundance of natural resources, islands, beaches, and fresh fish, and even Thomas Edison bought a property there in 1885 to rest and recuperate while trying his hand at sportfishing and drinking more than a few rum-based cocktails. The property is now the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, where you can explore 20 acres of botanical gardens and Edison’s old research laboratory.

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Photo by Jason Lindsey

Modern Fort Myers plays a sort of secondary role compared to neighboring Fort Myers Beach (its own community), but is experiencing something of a gold rush following the destruction left by Hurricane Ian in 2022. Millions of dollars are pouring into downtown with fashionable remodels of the historic buildings and the Fort Myers River District, which is replete with beautiful architecture, countless local shops, and more than a few trendy restaurants like the retro-inspired Ella Mae’s Diner, the taxidermy setting of The Lodge, or the delightful harborside dining experience that is Oxbow Bar and Grill (try the fish dip).

5 fun summer driving destinations in Florida: Fort Myers

Photo by Jason Lindsey

Bars like the aptly named Lucky Screw and The 86 Room will keep you going all night long, but don’t miss VooDoo Brewery if you want to enjoy some local craft beers along with a kimchi grilled cheese, which we ordered a second one of for the drive home.

If you have some time to spare, book a river cruise out on the water; the cute little tiki boats know where to get the best dolphin photos at sunset.

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