~ What began as a blessing of the shrimp boats more than 50 years ago has grown to a major beach-front celebration of shrimp in this quaint Old Florida beach town.
The main attraction at the the 2016 Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival, as it has been since 1959, are huge boiling pots of Gulf pink shrimp, which members of the Lions Club cook and serve.
This isn’t frozen shrimp or imported shrimp or farmed shrimp.
If you have any doubts, visit Shrimp Boat Lane in Fort Myers Beach and you will see the fleet that supplies it. (Shrimp for the festival is provided by the “Penny V” and the “Babe,” captained by Scott Cowles and Charlie Livingston.)
The Lions serve more than a thousand pounds of shrimp, fresh from local boats, at each year’s festival. Each $13 shrimp dinner is a half pound of steaming pink shrimp served with secret-recipe Lions cocktail sauce and cole slaw.
The 58th annual Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival kicks off with a two-mile-long parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the crowning of the shrimp queen at 1 p.m. at Lynn Halls Park on the main beach, near the pier, where more than 100 vendors will be set up to share their wares. The parade, in its 58th year, features Clydesdale horses, floats and bands. It starts at School Street and proceeds north on Estero Boulevard to the Matanzas Pass Bridge and the site of other festival events.
The fabulous “world famous” shrimp dinner will be served up the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club beginning at 10 a.m. on both days. (They serve the shrimp all day, until they run out.) You can buy your shrimp-dinner ticket online and avoid waiting in line.
During the week leading up to the festival, locals attend the Shrimp Ball and the Shrimp Festival Run for Kids.
All proceeds benefit the Lions charities.
Visit the official site for the 2015 Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival.
Here’s a guide to visiting Fort Myers Beach, one of Rambler’s favorite Florida towns.
Tips on traffic and parking:
- Saturday morning, the Matanzas Pass Bridge will close to traffic from 9 a.m. until noon, so to access the beach from San Carlos Boulevard, arrive before 8 a.m.
- During the parade, the only bridge open to Estero Island is from Bonita Springs, about 16 miles south.
- Saturday afternoon and Sunday, San Carlos Boulevard should be clear, organizers say. Traffic is always a problem — that comes with being an island — but it is less so on Sunday.
- Parking at the beach is always a challenge in season. There is a pay lot on the north part of the island, but one way to avoid the problem is to park away from the beach and take the trolley. (It’s 50 cents each way.)
- Here are parking options that are trolley stops: Park at the Summerlin Square at the corner of Summerlin and San Carlos Boulevard and ride the Lee Tran trolley to the beach. Get off at the first stop.
- If you come from the south, you can park at either Lovers Key State Park, which is well worth visiting in itself, or at the Santini Plaza, in the 7200 block Estero Boulevard, and take the trolley to the park.
- Here’s a route map. Trolleys run every 20 to 25 minutes.
Here’s a complete schedule of Florida seafood festivals.
Other things to do near Fort Myers Beach:
- Nearby Lovers Key State Park for paddling, beach and manatees.
- Manatee Park and kayaking the Orange River in Fort Myers
- Free trail maps for paddling the Calusa Blueway, which includes Fort Myers Beach
- Kayak trip to an archaeological island
- Koreshan Historic State Park preserves Florida quirky history.
- Barefoot Beach on southwest Florida’s wild side
- Corkscrew Swamp offers walk through exquisite cypress swamp
- Hiking and biking Naples Bird Rookery Swamp Trail
- Clam Pass Park, where you ride the tide in the inlet
Find a campground:
- Red Coconut RV Resort (2 miles) (Web site down; Call 239 463-7200)
- Gulf Air RV Resort (3 miles)
- Fort Myers Beach RV Resort (4 miles)
- Koreshan State Historic Site (8 miles)
- Fort Myers/Pine Island KOA (10 miles)
Find a room:
Hotels.com: Hotels in Fort Myers Beach