In September 2022, Hurricane Ian hit Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach, Cape Coral, and the islands of Sanibel and Captiva with Category 4 hurricane strength.
Severe impacts were felt in North Port, Punta Gorda, and Naples.
The causeway and the surrounding road that is the only way on or off Sanibel and Captiva had a large piece missing, and roads on both sides were buckled or washed away.
It could be 2023 or later before the repairs are made to allow tourists to this area.
Fort Myers Beach is called “Ground Zero of Devastation,” but the local sheriff and almost all buildings were ripped to shreds.
No estimates have been given for repairs because the recovery is still ongoing in October of 2022.
Florida : Safety by City
- Amelia Island
- Boca Raton
- Boynton Beach
- Cape Coral
- Cocoa Beach
- Coral Springs
- Daytona Beach
- Deerfield Beach
- Delray Beach
- Everglades City
- Fort Lauderdale
- Fort Myers
- Fort Pierce
- Fort Walton Beach
- Key Largo
- Key West
- Lake Buena Vista
- Lake City
- Lake Worth Beach
- Marco Island
- Miami Beach
- Miami Gardens
- Mount Dora
- New Smyrna Beach
- North Port
- Ormond Beach
- Palm Beach Gardens
- Palm Harbor
- Panama City Beach
- Pembroke Pines
- Pompano Beach
- Port St. Lucie
- Punta Gorda
- St. Augustine
- St. Petersburg
- Vero Beach
- West Palm Beach
- Winter Park
Fort Myers, Florida is one of the top beach destinations in the Sunshine State and even lured the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford here in the early 1900s.
It’s known as the “City of Palms” for its lush greenery that gives way to white, sandy beaches.
This city brings in thousands of “snowbirds” each winter from the cold northern states.
The layout of the city is worth explaining.
Fort Myers itself is a city of 86,000 people on the Caloosahatchee River.
Technically, there’s no oceanfront view in Fort Myers, the city.
The greater Fort Myers area has three-quarters of a million people and includes the cities of Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, and Sanibel Island.
You’ll find plenty of hotels, rental homes, and condos available here, from the low-end budget motels to hotel rooms that cost more than a mortgage payment a night.
Fort Myers is in Lee County, with great parks and waterways off the shore.
You can explore the history, do some unique shopping, eat fresh seafood until the sun rises, and get a taste of the nightlife.
Warnings & Dangers in Fort Myers
OVERALL RISK : LOW
Fort Myers has a low risk. It's a city that once made the "most dangerous" lists and now is ranked as one of the safest cities by U.S. News & World Report.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
LeeTran is the public bus system here, but you'll want to have a car of your own if you can swing it. Taxis and rideshares are also available. LeeTran goes from North Fort Myers on the north end to Bonita Springs on the south end. You can get to Fort Myers Beach, but not Sanibel or Pine islands. Any option comes with low risk, but be prepared for traffic - especially in the winter.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, with just six pickpockets reported in 2020. You should bring only what you need to the beach and avoid leaving your stuff unattended on the sand while you go in the water.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
There's a medium risk throughout the year for flooding and severe storm reasons, but during the hurricane season, the risk can quickly jump to high. As I'm writing this, Hurricane Ian is looming near the city, a lot of closures are happening, and an evacuation is imminent. The Fort Myers region is so surrounded by water that storm surge is a true catastrophic hazard.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with a robbery rate just under the national average. Seniors should take special safety precautions because they are more likely to be an easy target of would-be robbers.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with larger cities in Florida that would make better terror targets. This is a highly residential and relaxed area without a large section of the city that would have a major impact in the event of an attack.
SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM
Lee County has an extensive list of common scams in this area, so you should review that before visiting. If you know of a scam, call (239)258-3292. There's a medium risk here just because of how people prey on the elderly. Rental home scams are a risk too. The snowbirds who own property here have homes that are vacant for six months of the year. Scammers can identify those homes and post fake listings. A sure sign you're being scammed is someone who won't communicate with you outside of email and ask you to wire money to leave a deposit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women will love the shopping, spa, and outdoor activities here. There are certain hazards of being outdoors in the Florida heat, but there's nothing in the crime data that shows women are more at risk of being crime victims.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The 2021 Annual Water Quality Report shows full compliance by the water utility. The report even states, "In a matter of only a few decades, drinking water has become exponentially safer and more reliable than at any other point in human history." Should flooding happen during your visit, don't use the water until you check with the city about any boil orders or risks.
Safest Places to Visit in Fort Myers
The River District is one of the most popular places day and night in Fort Myers.
This charming section of town on the Caloosahatchee River has shopping, dining, and spa services.
Local events are held here often, and check out the farmer’s market for great fresh produce and products.
Did you know that investor Thomas Edison and car magnate Henry Ford were besties?
Thomas Edison first bought a house on the river in the late 1800s.
When his friend, Henry Ford, came to visit, Ford fell in love with the area and bought the property next door.
Now you can tour the Ford & Edison Winter Estates.
Florida loves its “sloughs” (pronounced “Slews”), and the Six-mile Cypress Slough Preserve is a great place to see a unique side of the outdoors.
I lived up the road in Sarasota, and the Red Bug Slough Preserve was within bicycle distance.
I rode through it for about two miles before the bugs started eating me alive.
Bring bug spray here.
While much of the Six-Mile Cypress Slough is on an elevated boardwalk, there are “Wet Tours” where you walk waist-deep in the water.
The hike is deemed “safe,” but you can ask why you shouldn’t be worried about alligators – I’m sure they’ve been asked many times.
North Shore Park is just across the river from Fort Myers and offers a great view of the river while enjoying fishing and sunbathing.
There is a marina here where you can get a boating lesson if you’d like.
Fort Myers also offers a Murder Mystery Dinner Train that runs five days a week and takes about three hours to complete the adventure.
This is an elegant dinner, so dress up for a fine dining experience.
The themes change throughout the year, and I’m super curious about the “Nutcracker’s Final Curtain” for the holiday season.
Any beach is going to be 30-45 minutes from Fort Myers.
Looking at the map, you’ll see island chains that aren’t always connected.
Captiva Cruises is a service that takes people to different islands for a day of exploring.
You can also kayak or boat yourself to other islands.
Places to Avoid in Fort Myers
Your biggest enemy in Fort Myers is going to be mosquitos, love bugs, and noseeums (little bugs that bite ankles, and you don’t “see them” until you’ve already been bitten).
Are there shady parts of town?
However, you won’t end up anywhere near those if you stick to the tourist spots or get lost.
The prices go up during “Season,” which is when the snowbirds arrive.
That happens between late October and Easter each year.
Traffic doubles, and elderly drivers go very slow (ok, that’s a bit judgmental, but I’ve lived in this region, so I know it’s true).
Summer is going to be very hot and humid with the water feeling like bathtub water.
In fact, it’s the warm water that allows tropical weather and hurricanes to form.
Hurricane season runs from June through November.
The tropics really heat up from mid-August through October.
You can see that leaves very little time that is a “good time” to visit here.
However, throughout the year, you’ll find a wide variety of things to do.
It’s just good to know what to expect in the crowds and weather.
If a hurricane is in the area, reschedule your trip.
Even now, with Hurricane Ian a few days away, the whole city is locking down, businesses are being boarded up, and many attractions are closing.
In a best-case scenario, the storm stays in the gulf, but you never want to take that risk.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Fort Myers
- Download the Atlas One app, and you’ll be among the first to use this crowdsourcing crime-fighting tool. The police will send out emergency alerts if a 911 incident is happening nearby, and people can offer tips, photos, and status information from their vantage points. You can also add new information as time goes on.
- Fort Myers Police also use crime mapping technology, so you can search for certain areas and various types of crime in a specific time frame. This is a great way to see crime trends closer to your travel dates.
- The pristine pictures of the southwest Florida beaches don’t always show the true story of what it’s like on the beach. An algae bloom called “Red Tide” happens, usually each year. The smell of the bloom is bad, but when it starts killing fish and those dead fish bake in the sun – Oof. The smell is awful. You can check the Red Tide Status on Leegov.com each day.
- If you’re visiting during hurricane season, you can watch a bunch of Hurricane Safety videos produced by the emergency management team for Lee County. Many people who don’t live in hurricane-prone areas don’t realize certain hurricane dangers. For example, storm surge is the biggest risk of all hurricanes, not the winds.
- It storms just about every day in Fort Myers in the summer. They aren’t “all-day, every-day” storms, but they can happen anytime in the afternoon and evening, generally lasting an hour or two at most. If you are at the beach or outdoors as a storm is brewing, go inside. Wait until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder before going back outside. Lightning, even from a distant storm, is still very dangerous.
- On the Fort Myers city website, you can sign up for various notifications. I’d recommend getting the City of Palms newsletter, which comes out monthly. You also want the city alerts.
- FL511.com is the best resource to track traffic in the state and Fort Myers area. There are live cameras and real-time updates about accidents or road closures. The stretch of I-75 between Fort Myers and Sarasota can cause massive delays if there’s an accident or wildfire. There isn’t an ideal detour route, so people end up sitting for hours on the road. You want to know ahead of time if there’s a detour as you drive.
- Florida requires fishing licenses, and there are separate ones for saltwater and freshwater. You must have the appropriate license for the water where you’ll be fishing. Download the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC) app, and you can learn about all the license options.
- There are alligators that live in Fort Myers as much as squirrels live in trees across the country. Unless a gator is posing a nuisance, you don’t need to report it. Seeing a gator in a body of water isn’t a concern, but seeing one walking down the street is worth calling the FWC. There was an incident in the summer of 2022 where a gator made its way to the Gulf. While the animals rarely live in salt water, they can get lost while searching for a mate. Any gator on the beach is worth calling FWC as well.
- Nearly 40% of thefts in Fort Myers are related to car break-ins. Police tell me the largest number of thefts happen in areas where thieves know doors are likely to be left unlocked. Do your part to stop crime trends in large parking lots by locking your door and keeping your belongings out of sight.
So... How Safe Is Fort Myers Really?
Fort Myers is safe for those who stay on main roads and avoid the more rundown areas.
The biggest challenges visitors will face include:
- Exposure to drug activity, as narcotics sales are a problem here.
- Traffic troubles due to a growing area and not enough infrastructure to keep up with the growth pace.
- Petty thefts happen when cars are left unlocked or with valuables in plain sight.
- Residents will call the police on cars parked illegally and have them towed.
- People in Florida drive very fast and, at times, recklessly. Never get distracted while driving, and keep your temper from turning into road rage.
You’re also likely to run into transients panhandling outside businesses and on street corners.
They might get aggressive but rarely pose a danger.
If you are heading to the beach, go early so you can avoid the traffic and find a good spot in the sand.
The later in the day it gets, the louder the music gets, and the people who are drinking can get rowdy.
The best way to enjoy Fort Myers is to be on “beach time,” which means never being in a rush and enjoying every second.
Use common sense and basic safety precautions, and you’ll be fine.
Bring sunscreen because the sun here can cause a burn, even on cloudy days, within an hour.
How Does Fort Myers Compare?
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- Visas - You need a U.S. Travel or Work Visa to enter the country. Visa Waivers are also available for certain countries but check with the U.S. State Department for the most current list.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here. Most places are going to take credit cards or mobile payment options. The buses do still take cash, but you'll need exact change. You can exchange currency at several banks in the area.
- Weather - The weather is what brings people here, with mild temperatures during the winter and lower humidity. Summers are going to be hot and humid with storms quite often, but they clear up quickly. Most people in Florida won't even wear a raincoat because the weather clears so fast. You'll want causal clothing with good walking shoes and your favorite flip-flops for the beach.
- Airports - Southwest Florida International Airport is on the southeast side of town. It's less than 30 minutes from downtown, but again, prepare for traffic and give yourself more time. That's the closest airport without having to drive to Miami or Tampa.
- Travel Insurance - Bring travel insurance and make sure you know what the hurricane cancelation policy is. You'll want insurance on your rental car because of the aggressive driving habits here.
Fort Myers Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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