Fort Myers Beach on the Flip Side

By: Chelle Koster Walton

Diamondhead Beach Resort provides a homebase for vacationers wanting to experience both the laid back beach vacation and the sophisticated indulgence of a resort.

Midas must have touched this guy. He and his ride had been turned to gold and were posing as a statue of a motorcyclist. His tip bucket read "Gas Money." The air itself was tinted golden as the sun dipped lower, tantalizingly scented with pizza, French fries, and - the local specialty - steamed Florida Gulf shrimp. Middle school students made tinkling, bubbly sounds out of steel drums. Crowds in shorts and T-shirts slapped flip-flops along colored brick pavers and onto the fishing pier that anchors Fort Myers Beach's Times Square.

As the sun melted into a puddle of liquid sunshine on the cellophane-smooth Gulf of Mexico, folks settled into sidewalk tables for an afterglow cocktail and a nibble. We did the same, taking plastic chairs beneath a market umbrella and watching the parade of diverse humanity as we sipped beers and snacked on jalapeño poppers. Some headed for the beach marts and ice cream shops. Others followed the lively sounds of island music and youthful carousing to the beach bars that huddle around Times Square and reiterate the town's reputation for letting loose.

As dusk turned to nightfall, we slipped away from the spirited, boisterous scene and headed to a quiet dinner table for two in Chloë's restaurant, at the flip-side sanctuary of DiamondHead Beach Resort.

Situated at the juncture of this beach town's somewhat schizophrenic tendencies, DiamondHead rises like a bookmark between the frivolity and the sophisticated beach indulgence that are both Fort Myers Beach. The majestic resort casts upon the whole scene something of a Midas touch.

Fort Myers Beach is best enjoyed on foot and even better when you have a luxury haven to which to retreat once you've made the scene at Times Square. DiamondHead is just close enough, just far enough away from the effervescent social setting. It adds exactly the right ratio of extravagance and convenience with its one-bedroom suites decorated in the latest designer fashion and equipped with kitchens. The 12-story resort perches at the very brink of the velvety full skirt of white sands as the beach begins the half-moon swoop that gave Fort Myers Beach its original name, Crescent Beach.

Back then, a bootlegging crowd invented the town's dual reputation for wild abandon and appreciation for the finer things in life. Today, DiamondHead and other new resorts of its ilk set the tone for easy refinement. It's the kind of place you'd never have to leave, if you were intent upon hiding away from the world in your own private realm of beach, watersports, pool and self-indulgence.

We began our hedonistic indulging that afternoon, before sunset, with a settle-the-road-dust cocktail pool- and beach-side at open-air Cabana's Beach Bar & Grill. Here the bartenders are friendly and you can watch the beach bustle with cool detachment. At sea level, visitors experience all Fort Myers Beach has to offer, from going horizontal under the toasty sun to racing a jet ski through salt-frothy waves. Fort Myers Beach is known far and wide as a water-sporty kind of place.

Cabana's Grill offers a range of munchies that go perfectly with sun and surf. And with families. Daily activities around the beachfront pool - bingo, crafts, ice cream and the likes - also keep families engaged and interacting.

For a more sophisticated dining experience, Chloë's Steak and Seafood Restaurant overlooks the Gulf from the second floor in an intimate, warm candlelit mood. We dined gloriously on scallops, tuna and pink Gulf shrimp - coveted culinary gifts from the sea. We indulged in a cloud-like cake, after promising myself I'd work it off in the resort's fitness center. But instead, we headed back out into the revelry of Fort Myers Beach, just steps from our haven, happy in the knowledge that plush accommodations awaited our return. And tomorrow loomed with the promise of a poolside massage (available seasonally and by appointment only). Perhaps we'd work in a parasail ride or deep-sea fishing excursion. Or perhaps nothing but precious relaxation until sunset took us to Chloë's Lounge.

That's Fort Myers Beach for you: the yin and yang of beach vacationing. The festive and the clandestine. The active and the laid-back. The classic and the classy. Delightful contradictions, like a gilded biker dude.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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