Southwest Florida’s famous vacation spots—Naples, Captiva Island, Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, and Pine Island Sound—have long escaped Florida’s busier east coast.
These areas also bore the brunt of the brutal wrath of Hurricane Ian on September 28, withstanding winds up to 150 miles per hour and storm surges up to 15 feet high in some areas. Across the state, at least 148 people were killed in the storm, mostly in coastal areas.
While the aftermath in Fort Myers Beach looked like a war zone, other areas have been luckier and are on the road to recovery, if not yet open for business.
If you’re interested in helping Southwest Florida’s economy after Ian, here’s how the recovery is going and your travel options in the months ahead.
Naples, about 30 miles south of Ian’s landing site in Cayo Costa, was hit by storm surges of up to 12 feet, but recovered relatively quickly.
“Everything seems pretty much back to normal,” said Paul Baines, executive director of the Collier County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The golf courses are all up and running and ready for the season.
Beirnes acknowledged that the storms got more intense further north, and those areas may be less advanced in terms of recovery. But in Collier County, 89 percent of his hotel rooms are open, and he says only two hotels remain unresolved.
One is the Ritz-Carlton Naples, about 10 miles north of downtown Naples. “They were on the beach and hit hard,” Beirns said. “They probably [opening in] spring or summer Another property that is currently closed is the La Playa Beach & Golf Resort, just a mile north of the Ritz-Carlton and right on the beach. It was about a week before the store opened.
“Everyone’s favorite restaurant is open,” he said of downtown Naples.
Lee County, home to Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Pine Island, Matlacha, and Cayo Costa State Park, was a target for Ian.
Although beaches are not technically closed, the Florida Department of Health in Lee County has issued a countywide preventive swimming advisory for all public beaches and pools. We are urging the public to stay out of the water as it may increase disease.
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island
Sanibel and Captiva Islands are currently closed to non-residents, but unrestricted access to Sanibel Island will begin January 2, according to Sanibel officials.
The causeway to Sanibel, which both islands rely on to get to and from the mainland, was swept away during the storm and a temporary causeway allowed residents, supplies and cleaning crews to move to and from the island. rice field.
Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau executive director Tamara Piggott said debris removal is very important and can become a roadblock when traffic increases. The mayor of Sanibel expects her 80% of the debris to be cleared by Dec. 23, she said.
Despite its limited customer base, the Tween Waters Resort & Spa on Captiva will open to all guests on December 17, according to its website.
Fort Myers Beach
This barrier island was destroyed by Ian and is in recovery mode. There is also a curfew for non-residents using the bridges inside and outside of Estero Island, where Fort Myers Beach is located.The northernmost bridge, the Matanzas Pass Bridge, has a curfew from 8pm to 6am The southern bridge over the Big Carlos Pass has a curfew from 8pm to 6am
Despite the setbacks, some spots are starting to open up.
For accommodations, Latitude 26 Waterfront Resort & Marina has three locations, but two on the waterfront are currently closed. Located two miles inland from the beach at 17863 San Carlos Blvd., it is open and offers bike rentals, a heated pool, and 26 rooms. The marina on site is still under repair.
The Pink Shell Beach Resort & Marina at the northern end of Fort Myers Beach, one of the island’s most famous resorts, is a good example of the challenges facing properties still standing.
Kacha Kuntz, a spokesperson for the resort, said in an email that the resort will open on December 19 with 43 units. Units will be sent to displaced persons, relief workers and construction workers. “We don’t have any amenities, so we don’t rent them out to resort guests,” she wrote.
“The resort has just restored all utilities in the last few weeks and has one building ready to accommodate the above guests. There is a real need for housing and we are part of the solution. I’m trying to become part.”
It’s a long road to full recovery. “We hope to have 60 more rooms available by the end of January,” Kunz wrote. We believe that in a year or two we will have a fully functioning resort again.”
Sun Palace Vacations offers investment homes in Fort Myers Beach. Before Ian, he had 130 properties, but in the storm he lost 40%. They plan to open eight to 12 homes after January 1st.
For now, the company is shifting its business model from weekly stays to extended stays for contractors, homeless homeowners or past guests who want to stay for a month or so, according to marketing director Valerie Moessner. It is said that
As for things to do, sailing charter company Copacet Sailing reopens on November 5th, offering a variety of 2-8 hour sails, including morning yoga sails, all-day outings and sunset sails.
Some restaurants are also open. Pink Shell has a lunch buffet for $14.99.
The Bayfront Bistro, located at 4761 Estero Blvd., is on the bay side of the island, has ample outdoor seating, and serves tuna tostadas (ahi tuna tossed with sweet garlic chili, wakame seaweed, sweet soybeans, wontons, wasabi, and ginger). ) and other items. , with bistro fries (cheddar, chives, bacon, pickled jalapenos, sour cream) and grilled cedar, blackened with a thick tropical pineapple salsa.
Another eatery on the bay side of the island is the Wahoo Willies Tiki Bar & Grill, which offers menu items such as blackened mahi sashimi, triple-tailed fish sandwiches, fried chicken sandwiches, and sriracha honey aioli. increase. They also have live music every day.
Located at 250 Old San Carlos Blvd., the Yucatan Beach Stand Bar & Grill offers a full bar, smoked wings, and street tacos.
Mainland Fort Myers
On the mainland of Fort Myers, Piggott said it was “almost back to normal,” predicting most shops and restaurants to open by January.
There are several properties (mostly large hotels) ready to receive guests, but the amenities are not the same.
A Marriott Signature hotel in downtown Fort Myers, the brand new Luminary is on the Caloosahachee River, flood-free and has 243 rooms.
Other large mainland hotels that are open include the Sanibel Harbor Marriott at the foot of the causeway leading to Sanibel Island and the Westin Cape Coral on the waterfront at the mouth of the Caloosahachie River.
The Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, just south of Fort Myers Beach on the mainland, is an example of how properties have adapted. The pool is operational, but Lazy River is closed until further notice.
Open attractions in Fort Myers include numerous breweries. Downtown Coastal Days features live music and 16 of his beers on tap, including Whitecap Winter Ale made with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. Millennial Brewing, also downtown, offers 14 beers on tap, including a fruity sour called Kiwi Lemonade and a pale lager, Spruce Bigelow.
A little further inland, Fort Myers Brewing Company pours dozens of beers, including Keg Nog Stout and Apple Strudel Ale. Also at Point Ybel Brewing Company are his 15 breweries, including a 14% ABV burley brewed with local black mangrove honey and aged for over two years in Irish whiskey casks. Wine included.
The Liszt distillery is also open, but tours and tastings are by appointment only.
Pine Island and Matlacha
If a waterfront getaway is a must, consider something at Pine Island Sound, a large bay between the barrier islands and the mainland.
Pine Island is open to the public. At the northern end of the island is Bokeelia, a small island, and Beach House Lodge Bokeelia is a rustic wooden lodge with five suites and up to 22 guests, located right on Charlotte’s Harbor and accepting reservations. I’m here.
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Just down a narrow sandy road is the quaint Cap’n Con’s Fish House, which serves a limited menu of burgers, fried shrimp, fish baskets and sandwiches.
The most popular item these days is grilled or fries with fries and coleslaw. Lazy Flamingo 3, a bar in the nearby marina, is also open.
Back on Pine Island, the famous Tarpon Lodge overlooking Pine Island Sound has around 20 seasonal rooms.
Another famous Pine Island Sound property accessible only by boat, Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant is also open. Both facilities have relationships with local inshore fishing guides who are familiar with the local ecosystem.
Fine Swine, a barbecue joint in the middle of the island, serves appetizers such as flash-fried pork belly in apple pie barbecue sauce, brisket and signature dishes.
Several bars have opened in St. James City and the southern tip of Pine Island. Froggy’s Bar & Grill and Low Key Tiki.
The quaint town of Matlacha is hit hard by Ian. A storm knocked out the bridge, but the temporary bridge is up and functioning and several spots are open. Serving the menu, the Italian restaurant Misselise said it serves most of the menu, but changes daily based on supply.