Fort Myers Beach is classic, Old Florida, and the islands of Sanibel and Captiva share a bit of off-shore isolation in a paradise all their own. Who hasn’t gone shelling here! The islands’ idyllic beaches are magnets for shells washing ashore from the Gulf of Mexico.
So where to stay? Fort Myers Beach features many mom-and-pop motels and cabins on the beach, and Sanibel has a wide assortment of resorts, hotels, cabins and small lodgings.
But we camp in our RV, so I rounded up this mix of public and private campgrounds for your consideration.
Camping on Fort Myers Beach
Red Coconut RV Resort. This is the only Fort Myers campground with sites directly on the beach, and the beach sites are charming. If you have trouble booking one of the 60 beachfront site, or don’t want to pay the premium price, the main campground is on the east side of Estero Boulevard has 106 sites, which are less desirable and tightly packed. All sites have hookups for electric, water, cable TV and Wi-FI. Pets are OK but cost an extra $3 per night. Beach sites are $92 to $112 per day in summer and $98 to $124 in winter. Interior sites are $72 in summer and $88 in winter.
Camping on Sanibel
Periwinkle Trailer Park. Campers have only one choice on the island, but it’s an attractive park with a good location, unusual amenities and a real Florida feel. The campground features an aviary that is home to raucous, colorful parrots and macaws as well as visiting ducks and wading birds. During season, a volunteer feeds the birds and talks about them during a free “bird show” at 10 a.m. The aviary has been developed over 30 years by owners Dick and Jerry Muench.
Periwinkle Trailer Park, 1119 Periwinkle Way. Winter rates are $55 a night.
Camping in Fort Myers
San Carlos RV Resort and Marina. Location, location, location. This waterfront RV park is at the foot of the Matanza Pass Bridge on a peninsula jutting out into Hurricane Bay with fabulous access for paddlers and boaters to the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, Matanzas Pass Preserve, San Carlos Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and Pine Island Sound. Not only that but you’re just a short hike across the bridge into the historic heart of Fort Myers Beach with its restaurants, taverns, Times Square tourist shops, the pier and Sunset Beach. The park has boat ramp/kayak launch, as well as dockage, and you can rent kayaks if you didn’t bring yours. Two-thirds of the 120 full hook-up sites are waterfront. Eight sites are set aside for tenters. The swimming pool and hot tub area also a nice touch. Rates run from $52-$91 in summer and bump up to $65-$119 for the winter season.
Camping in nearby Estero
Koreshan State Park. RV and tent camping is available in a natural setting inland at Koreshan State Historic Site, which is not a bad choice at all. The park sits on the Estero River with access to paddling, hiking and biking trails. This park is bustling with wildlife along the river, including 100 species of birds. From Koreshan, you can paddle just three miles downriver to Estero Bay. Cross the bay, and you’re at Lovers Key, or veer north and you’ll paddle into Mound Key Archeological State Park, then the Estero Bay Preserve State Park. Camping here, you will also be exposed to a wacky period of Florida history: Way back in the 19th Century, the park was home to a cult that moved here from Chicago: “The Koreshan Unity believed that the entire universe existed within a giant, hollow sphere.” Read more here. There are 60 campsites, all with electricity and water, a picnic table and fire ring. Twelve sites are designated tent camping only and are located next to the Estero River. Sites have a vegetation buffer between them for privacy. Sites are $26.00 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Includes water and electricity. Pets are OK. For reservations, call (800) 326-3521 (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.).
Camping upriver from Fort Myers
WP Franklin North Campground (Corps of Engineers). The campground is on an island in the middle of the Caloosahatchee River, about 16 miles east of Fort Myers. Almost every campsite is waterfront. (Only three of the 30 are not.) Every waterfront campsite has a gradual slope to the water, making it easy to launch a kayak, canoe or paddle board or fish from your site. All 30 sites, including eight boat sites, have electric and water hookups, a dump station, rest rooms with showers, a laundry and a playground.
W.P. Franklin North, 17850 North Franklin Lock Road, Alva, FL. Phone: (239) 694-8770. Reservations accepted up to 6 months in advance online at Recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. GPS: 26°43’27″N, 81°41’34″W
Caloosahatchee Regional Park Campground. This outstanding Lee County park 18 miles east of Fort Myers features 768 acres of pine flatwoods, scrub oak, cypress swamps, and oak hammocks along the Caloosahatchee River. Besides excellent paddling on the river and feeder creeks, there are more than 20 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails. The primitive campground is on the south side of the park near the river with 25 walk-in tent sites, along with equestrian sites for people with horses. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, a grill. Outdoor cold showers and water spigots are scattered about the campground, and the restroom features hot showers and flush toilets. Some sites are more desirable than others, so it would be worth scouting in advance. No Pets. $12 per night.