BY GINA BIRCH
FORT MYERS LOCAL EXPERT
Whether on a first date or celebrating a long-term anniversary, a certain level of romance is almost always in order for a day or night out. While romantic to you may be a simple sunset, for others it could be something with a hint of adventure. Either way, the Fort Myers area certainly has it.
For a rustic and romantic adventure, plan a day trip or an overnight camping adventure to the isolated island of Cayo Costa. The beaches are nearly deserted most times, with strikingly beautiful water. There’s nothing like sleeping under the stars and waking up to the sound of the surf to spark a romantic fire.
From the beach to the countryside, train rides have a completely different type of romantic allure. For a popular date night, the Seminole Gulf Railway hosts the Murder Mystery Dinner Train. Your five-course dinner is prepared onboard as actors take to the aisles, asking for help in solving a murder; it resembles a real-life version of the board game "Clue," however, there is plenty of downtime to enjoy the scenery.
The Fort Myers area is full of natural beauty and lots of water. Something about that combination almost always lends itself to romance. But if you are looking for other unique ways to spend a day, night or weekend with your partner, one of these 10Best options is sure to strike the right chord.
The tropical setting of Sanibel is a natural place for romantics to go. To really explore the island and have some fun with your partner, rent bicycles, Segways or better yet, a surrey for two at Billy's Bike Rentals. Sit close to your date and share the peddling, while you explore the island. Billy's has all of the equipment you need including island maps to find your way back. Pedal to the Sanibel lighthouse, through Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge or to any of the numerous beaches for some sun. The surreys have room for bags so you can pack a picnic, or splurge at one of the fantastic local restaurants. Riding side by side is a leisurely and fun way to explore a beautiful island while getting to know each other even better.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Billy's Bike Rentals offer surreys for two, for a cozy, calorie burning tour of beautiful Sanibel Island; or if you're more adventurous, try a Segway.
Gina's expert tip: If you're staying on the island, "Billy" can deliver your bike.
Spend a romantic day kayaking through mangroves, palm trees and moss-covered oaks, on the Estero River. Rent individual kayaks here instead of a double, and paddle alongside each other. There are numerous beautiful sites to pull over for a picnic, the first one being the Koreshan State Historic Site. But try to hold out for the four and a half-mile paddle into the Estero Bay. Here you will find more private places to beach your boat. Another option for exploration is the historic Mound Key, sitting some thirty feet above sea level. Walkthrough the mangrove forest and sit atop the huge shell mound for an amazing view of the coasts of Bonita Springs and Fort Myers. The great outdoors, sunshine, water, a cooler filled with your favorite eats and your date; a perfect recipe for romance.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: A slow paddle down the picturesque Estero River gives couples a glimpse of old Florida while offering numerous private spots to picnic.
Gina's expert tip: Put camera's and cell phones in ziplock-type bags to avoid possible water intrusion.
Photo courtesy of Gina BIrch
It's hard to beat a sunset sail for a romance. Imagine a slow cruise on the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico as dolphins frolic and the sun slips away, turning the sky into a brilliant painting. All of this while listening to music, drinking cold beverages and eating snacks you probably should not. That's what Captiva Cruises offers you in their "Sunset Serenade Cruise". The boats leave from both McCarthy's Marina and South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island. There is a full bar on board and snacks are sold as well. Boat schedules vary depending on the time of year so be sure to call for reservations.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: For all around romance it is hard to beat catching a sunset on a boat with live music, cocktails and dolphins.
Gina's expert tip: The cruises sail from two different Marina's on Captiva Island so double check your reservation pick up location.
Chocolate is a great side dish to romantic affairs, but why not make it the main course with a class at the famous Norman Love Chocolate Salon. The world-renowned chocolatier and his staff offer chocolate and dessert making sessions where you can learn to make everything from truffles to traditional French macaroons. Among other things, Love is known for his beautiful molded candies and the decadent ganaches that go in them. Here you will learn some of his coveted secrets. The hairnet you'll be required to wear during class is not exactly sexy, however, sharing the delicious treats you made together, will surely make up for it.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Chocolate is sexy and learning to make decadent treats from the staff of the amazing Norman Love is a uniquely romantic activity.
Gina's expert tip: Before class, check out Love's gelato shop next to the chocolate salon.
When in Fort Myers Beach, parasailing is a must-do, and Paradise Parasail offers an adventure everyone is sure to love. Not only is being pulled through the air under a giant parachute exhilarating but it's also incredibly peaceful, floating above the water and enjoying the picturesque shoreline while holding hands with your date. Established in 1982, this is an experienced company that utilizes the latest technology to ensure a safe, savvy sail. A low towline affords participants spectacular views of the beach, and a near free-fall dip adds excitement to the flight. Flying side by side, it's a great time to whisper sweet nothings, where no one else can hear.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Floating in tandem above the Gulf of Mexico, next to your lover brings an odd combination of both peace and adventure.
Gina's expert tip: Even though you are in the air, expect a quick dip or two in the water.
Train rides through the countryside have a romantic allure for many. If that is you, book date night on the Seminole Gulf Railway, hosting the nightly Murder Mystery Dinner Train. Depending on the time of the year, you may even be able to catch the sunset as you cross the Caloosahatchee River. At times it appears as if you are floating on the water instead of traversing a track. During the course of your five-course meal, someone meets an unfortunate demise. Actors roam from car to car, revealing clues about the alleged murder in a dramatic style. At the end of the three and a half hour trip, you'll have a chance to guess the details of the crime, similar to the board game "Clue." Around Valentines Day, a strolling violinist is added to the line-up.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: This dinner train is a favorite date night, winding through the country with a five course meal and actors performing a murder mystery.
Gina's expert tip: Let them know in advance if you're celebrating a birthday or anniversary. Treatment is extra special.
Cabbage Key is a 100-acre island about twenty miles northwest of Fort Myers. If you don't have a boat, you'll have to take a water taxi from Pineland Marina on Pine Island. The island is lush with tropical foliage and the Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant is striking, sitting high atop an Indian shell mound. Built in the 1930s, the Inn has a popular open-air restaurant, with hardwood floors, an old piano and dollar bills covering the ceiling and walls. Cheeseburgers are popular as it is said that Cabbage Key was the inspiration for Jimmy Buffet's hit song, "Cheeseburger in Paradise". The island is intoxicatingly relaxing and has fascinating trails. While you can feel the romance of Cabbage Key on a day trip, you'll feel it times ten if you opt for an overnight stay at one of the seven private cottages.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Accessible only by boat, this island has lush trails, fun food and cozy cottages.
Gina's expert tip: Take a photo by the famous sign that reads; Conserve Water, Shower With a Friend
Photo courtesy of Gina Birch
If romance is on your agenda, you've got to catch a beach sunset. A spectacular spot for locals is on the northern end of Captiva Island, the last public access, just past the entrance to South Seas Resort. The water here is always clear, the shells are numerous, and a few shady pines. Beach erosion has formed natural seating for the nightly show. Pack a cooler full of your favorite snacks, but save a spot for dessert. Stop by the infamous Bubble Room, just blocks from the beach. The restaurant is known for many things, most notably their huge pieces of cake. Grab a slab of Red Velvet or Orange Crunch to go, and enjoy with a sunset champagne toast. A rule rarely followed by locals, but it's still wise to note, this is a county park with signs warning against alcohol consumption. Cheers.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: It's the northern most part of Captiva Island, the last public access point and one of the most beautiful spots to watch the sunset.
Gina's expert tip: Parking is limited. If full, use the lots at the entrance to South Seas Resort.
This stately resort is situated just before the Sanibel Island Causeway, on more than 80 acres. Romantic options range from a sunset dinner cruise to unique couples services at the beautiful spa. From the resort, stroll hand in hand through the mangroves, on a shady boardwalk, enjoying native plants and wildlife along the way to the spa. Book the Caloosa Experience, designed to improve mind, body, spirit and relationships. Couples are guided by candlelight into a private room for foot soaks. A spa therapist provides a variety of healing products and instructions on how to use them; then leaves you to your own creativity. Stay the night after your spa treatment in a room with a view of San Carlos Bay. Each room has a private balcony where you can watch the sunset in your robes and enjoy room service.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: This spa is not only beautiful but also offers some unique couples services for a relaxing and romantic day.
Gina's expert tip: Enjoy a free fitness workout before your reserved spa service.
If you want to really unplug, enjoy nature and your significant other, then Cayo Costa is the ticket. This barrier island has nine miles of beautiful beach, mangrove swamps and acres of shady pine trees. A fabulous spot for shelling, also keep your eyes open for wildlife including dolphins, manatees and an array of birds. For a one-of-a-kind getaway, rent a primitive cabin or pack a tent and spend the night; enjoy a brilliant sunset and falling asleep under the stars to the sounds of the gentle surf. Or simply pack a cooler and spend the day on the oftentimes deserted beach. The island is only accessible by boat, but if you don't have one, you can hop on a ferry at Tropic Star of Pine Island in Bokeelia. It's a good idea to reserve a seat.
Recommended for Romantic Things to Do because: Cayo Costa is a spectacular, unspoiled island with nearly deserted beaches, clear water, shady pines and rustic camp sites.
Gina's expert tip: It can get buggy in the summer months so pack protection.