Note: The 2023 Shrimp Festival was cancelled due to the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. Plans for the 2024 festival have not been announced.
What began as a blessing of the shrimp boats 60 years ago has grown to a major beach-front celebration of shrimp in this quaint Old Florida beach town.
The main attraction at the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival is 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.
The Lions serve more than a thousand pounds of shrimp, fresh from local boats, at each year’s festival. Each $15 shrimp dinner is a half-pound of steaming pink shrimp served with secret-recipe Lions cocktail sauce and cole slaw.
The festival kicks off with a two-mile-long parade at 10 a.m. Saturday. The parade features 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.
After the parade, the action is at Lynn Halls Park on the main beach, near the pier, where more than 100 vendors will be set up to share their wares. (That’s where to buy the official T-shirt too.)
The fabulous “world famous” shrimp dinner will be served up by the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club beginning at 10 a.m. on both days. (They serve the shrimp all day, until they run out.)
On Sunday, events include the shrimp-eating contest at noon and the crowning of the shrimp queen at 1 p.m.
During the week leading up to the festival, locals attend the Shrimp Ball and the Shrimp Festival Run for Kids.
All proceeds from the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival benefit the Lions charities.
Visit the official site for the 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 for Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival
- 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. (Locals warn that traffic starts backing up even earlier.
- 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.
- 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 to the Shrimp Festival 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 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
Where to stay
Hotels.com: Hotels in Fort Myers Beach
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.