My trip to Fort Myers, a smaller city on the southwestern coast of Florida, began with me racing into the Greyhound bus terminal, hoping desperately that there wouldn’t be a long line to print my tickets. I had just spent the last hour battling the infamous Miami traffic, and had arrived at the bus station only ten minutes before my bus was scheduled to leave.
But apart from one woman gazing at her fingernails behind the counter, I was the only one in the building. After I had my tickets in hand, I was welcomed onto the bus, which then immediately left. Well, this was a first. I was the only passenger on the entire bus! I was able to pretend that I had my own private chauffeur for another half hour, before we picked up about two dozen other passengers in Fort Lauderdale.
For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Florida, the entire middle portion of the state is made up of the Everglades. The marshy swamplands resemble fields, with reeds swaying in the breeze, from a distance. The land is flat and completely unchanging for the next 2 hours as you cross the state.
I kept a sharp and vigilant watch for alligators, but didn’t spot any. There are, however, plenty of interesting birds to see if you look for them, including herons, egrets, hawks, kingfishers, and cormorants diving into the water to catch fish.
After arriving, I headed over to my family’s house in Cape Coral, a suburb town outside Fort Myers.
My sisters and I ventured out to do some last minute Christmas shopping downtown. The downtown area was tiny, and lined with quaint and beachy little boutiques. However, we were not located in the vicinity of the beach but rather the harbor and marina.
My first impression of downtown was that it was impeccably clean, with a scrubbed fresh look. I also noted that the shops were not all that expensive, like in other such areas in many seaside towns. And, of course, I couldn’t help but compare it to Miami, and observe that people seemed more relaxed. I didn’t hear a single car honk. It was fairly easy to find parking, and when we did it was reasonably priced. People strolled down the sidewalks, and didn’t seem to mind waiting in line at a vegan soap shop that my sister recommended. It was staffed by one employee, who remarkably did not seem at all stressed by the long line, and continued to wrap people’s items slowly, chatting pleasantly to the customers.
After walking the entire downtown in about ten minutes, my sisters and I had a coffee, and set out to Bonita Springs, a town about 45 minutes away, located in between Fort Myers and Naples.
We decided to visit Lovers Key State Park, and soon found ourselves driving along the ocean. Not that we could see it – the view was blocked by towering beach houses.
We arrived at the park, which was $2 per person (on an honor system requesting that you drop the funds into a box). We immediately headed to the beach. Everyone had always told me that I needed to visit the beaches of the other side of Florida for how peaceful they are, and most famously, for their white sand. That was what I really wanted to see.
We walked onto the beach, which was mostly deserted, and onto the creamy white sand. I was delighted to find that it was velvety soft, like walking over a carpet of powdered sugar. I was also delighted to realize that my sisters and I could leave our purses on the shore without any fear of them being stolen.
We walked along the beach, waded in the cold ocean a bit, and took photos. A large heron seemed rather curious about us.
We then explored some of the trails in the park, which twisted through a thick forest. We heard the little crabs that live in the mangrove trees leaping into the water as we approached, but they were too well camouflaged for us to actually see any of them.
We headed back, and I was hoping to see the sun setting over the ocean (something that I have never seen, living on the east coast). No luck, however, as our view of the water was blocked by buildings.
The next day, we ventured over to Sanibel Island, probably one of the most famous spots on the western side of Florida.
Sanibel was much larger than I expected; it took us 45 minutes to drive to the other side, Captiva, which my parents had dubbed “the rich side.” Sanibel struck me as an idyllic beach town, refreshingly free of high rise buildings and commercialization. It seemed instead a peaceful, carefree sort of place, simplistic and timeless. The buildings were brightly colored, and the beachfront mansions were stunning.
We walked along Sanibel Island beach, which wasn’t so deserted as I had thought it would be (though this is probably due to it currently being Christmas vacation season). We drove the length of the island, through the thick and lush forests, to Captiva.
After that, everyone was pretty tired. If you’re planning to see the Captiva side of Sanibel when you visit, it can easily be an all day affair. Another tip – don’t come to Sanibel expecting to be able to get around on foot. A car or a bicycle (which seems like a quite popular method of transportation there) is definitely necessary.
Also on another note, we just missed the sunset over the ocean (again!) when leaving the island. And so, my hopes of seeing an ocean sunset yet again did not happen.
I then went back to spend some more time with my family before leaving. It was the last time that I would spend with them until I returned from Europe in May.
I took the latest bus back to Miami, after an eventful few days with my sisters and my family.
– A Greyhound bus round trip ticket from Miami to Fort Myers is $60 when booked online. If you buy your tickets at the bus station, they are more expensive.
– The drive from Miami to Fort Myers is about 2.5 hours, but on the bus the drive takes 4 hours.
– If you are planning to visit Sanibel without a car, and want to visit the Captiva side of the island, consider renting a car or a bicycle (a popular form of transportation on the island). But walking everywhere isn’t going to work.
Watch my video about Fort Myers!