Fort Myers Boating Guide

Written by Brandon Williams
December 17, 2021

Fort Myers is the county seat of Lee County, Florida, in the state’s Southwest region. This city is a significant tourist area offering several opportunities to explore local waterways. 

For example, the Caloosahatchee River connects Fort Myers with the Gulf of Mexico through the Charlotte Harbor. In addition, the tropical savanna climate of the area makes it possible to go boating all year long.

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Best Places to Go Boating in Fort Myers

Southwest Florida has many beautiful locations that are only accessible by boat, including laid-back settlements and long stretches of coastlines left to Mother Nature’s influence. These secluded locations offer plenty of areas for dolphins, birds, sea life, and other animals to play. Additionally, hundreds of islands are scattered throughout the Gulf waters. Many beautiful and secluded islands offer plenty of opportunities for boaters to enjoy some island hopping. Popular island-hopping stops include visiting the islands of Cayo Costa, Boca Grande, and Cabbage Key.

One of the best places to boating is 10,000 islands, located just south of Fort Myers and north of the Everglades. Though there are not actually 10,000 islands in this area of the Gulf, there are far more islands than one can explore in a single day. In addition, many of these islands are uninhabited, offering authentic wildernesses to explore and quiet beaches for picnics and relaxing.

The next best place to go boating in the Fort Myers area is Sanibel Island. This island is not far off the coast of Fort Myers and is famous for the beautiful and unique shells found on the beaches. This island is a shell collector’s dream destination as shells have been left behind on the beaches from the ocean’s tides. So if you are looking for unique shells like no other you have found before, a visit to Sanibel Island is a must.

Islands in Fort Myers

captiva island boat rental

Several islands are found throughout the waters of the Gulf, just off of the shores of Fort Myers. Many of these islands offer boating opportunities, nature waiting to be explored, and many other outdoor recreational activities, including hiking and biking. Two famous islands to explore are Sanibel and Captiva, which are connected by bridges and easily biked from Fort Myers. However, many drive and pay the $6 toll or take out a boat rental, and find a quiet spot to dock their boat. Nature lovers enjoy exploring Captiva, while shell collectors prefer the beaches of Sanibel.

Pine Island is a famous island in the area and one of the few barrier islands accessible via a bridge. Pine Island is the largest island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, is very long with a mix of things to do, and is one of the best fishing spots in the state. Cabbage Key is located just off the western edge of Pine Island and is primarily a wooded state park. However, some hidden gems on this island, such as The Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant, offer bungalow-style cottages and a mouth-watering menu.

Estero Island is home to Fort Myers Beach, located on the island’s northern edge. This island leads to Lover’s Key State Park, a popular place to explore and sport unique Florida wildlife and mangroves. Lover’s Key is a series of islands with lush greenery, white sandy beaches and is the perfect place to watch sunsets.

Other islands in the area include Gasparilla Island, Anna Maria Island, Amelia Island, and Marco Island.

Fishing in Fort Myers

grouper fishing fort myers

Florida is home to more than 200 native freshwater fish species and more than 500 native species of saltwater fish. The most common fish species in the Fort Myers area include snook, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and redfish. Also, trout, grouper, cobia, and snapper can be captured offshore. Fishing is allowed just about anywhere in Southwest Florida, and some top places to fish in the area include:

  • The Naples Pier & Fort Myers Beach Pier is a very popular spot offering a variety of fish, which thrive in the waters near this pier.
  • Blind Pass is a thin strip of water located between Sanibel and Captiva Island, which is a great place to fish for snook, redfish, and more.
  • Boca Grande Pass is another popular fishing spot just north of Fort Myers and is one of the best places for tarpon fishing globally.
  • 10,000 Islands is perfect for those who do not mind making a short trip south to Everglades City, which is the ideal spot to fish for hundreds of species of freshwater, brackish water, and saltwater fish.
  • Riverside Park is a beautiful community park offering easy access to the local waterways perfect for fishing from the shore, floating dock, or boat.
  • North Shore Park is nestled across from the Caloosahatchee Bridge, offering many opportunities for fishing.
  • Tarpon Street Pier offers easy access to the waters of the Caloosahatchee River, where you can fish for snook, trout, and tarpon.
  • Manatee Park is famous for manatees seeking warmer water during the winter, and several fish hang out near the park area.
  • Lakes Park has a freshwater lake perfect for bass fishing.
  • Billy Creek is a small tributary of the Caloosahatchee River and holds a significant amount of bass.
  • Midpoint Bridge is a must for fishing lovers and is a hot spot for trout and snook fishing.

Florida Boating Rules

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a set of boating laws enforced in Florida. These laws are found in Ch. 327 and Ch. 328 of the Florida Statutes. In addition, information about boating laws is included in all certified boating safety courses taught in Florida.

Though there is no minimum age to operate a boat, personal watercraft regulations are age-specific. For example, according to the rules, “anyone intending to rent and drive a boat born on or after January 1, 1988, must complete an approved boating safety course.” This course is available online and does not require renewal. When operating a boat, you must carry the course completion card and a photo ID with you at all times.

For more information about boating laws, rules, and regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website.

Florida Fishing Regulations

Those who want to take native and nonnative freshwater fish from Florida waterways must have a fishing license. Annual and multi-annual fishing licenses are available for residents of Florida. Additionally, yearly and multi-day fishing licenses are available for non-residents.

There are also regulations on what type of fish and how much of the fish you can legally catch in Florida waters. For example, no person shall kill or possess a shoal bass on the Chipola River and its tributaries. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website for more details about regulations regarding fishing and the different species.

One of the best ways to explore Fort Myers by boat is with a captained or bareboat rental from Boatsetter! With Boatsetter, you have a wide variety of boats the choose from in Fort Myers for any occasion. 

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