The city of Fort Myers is located on the sunny southwest coast of Florida and is the perfect spot for a Southwest Florida vacation. This friendly city is an very accessible holiday destination serviced by the recently expanded Southwest Florida International Airport. More than 7.5 million people pass through its gates each year, coming from all over the world for the beautiful weather, world famous beaches and casual, easy-going lifestyle.
Fort Myers was the site of an actual military fort, built in 1850 to defend the local white settlers against the unhappy local Seminole Indians led by Chief Billy Bowlegs. The Seminoles were eventually persuaded to move west and did so in 1858. It lay empty until 1863 when a small detachment of Union soldiers occupied it and held it until the end of the Civil War.
Settlement gradually trickled into the area after the war, but it was not until the 1880s that a significant number of settlers made their way to the Fort Myers area. By 1885 when it was incorporated, Fort Myers was the second largest city (after Tampa) on the west coast of Florida. Settlement really took off after the extension of the Tamiami Trail (today’s Highway 41) over the Caloosahatchee River in 1924.
Today Fort Myers is the county seat of Lee County and is linked to Tampa further north and Fort Lauderdale and Miami on the eastern coast by Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 41. The population of the metropolitan area of Fort Myers stood at around 625,000 in 2008.
Fort Myers has a rich history and is the home to quite a number of museums, historical landmarks, and yearly celebrations. Visitors will find it very accommodating and easy to find a place to stay, with luxury resorts, budget-friendly inns, and hotels with internet service that cater specifically to the business traveler.
One of the most interesting places to visit is the Southwest Florida Museum of History which opened in 1982. The museum was created by transforming the old railroad passenger depot and surroundings lands on Peck and Monroe Streets. There is also a Downtown Walking Tour exploring the historic buildings of Fort Myers.
Florida is famous as a family-friendly place to visit, and Fort Myers is no exception. Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Imaginarium which features a hurricane simulator and many exciting hands-on and interactive exhibits for kids and adults of all ages. For the very littlest folks there is an early-childhood area.
With over 250,000 visitors each year, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates are the biggest tourist attractions in the city. In fact it is one of the top 10 most popular national historic sites in the United States. Visitors can explore the 15,000 square-foot museum which showcases Edison and Ford memorabilia. The site also features a 14 acre tropical garden and a guided tour through the homes and laboratory.
Like much of Florida, Fort Myers is dependent on the tourist trade for a large part of its economic activity. Many seniors make the trek to the area to spend the winter months, and others come for the beautiful beaches, boating and fishing, and year-round golfing on the many golf courses in the area.